- In times of stress, basic self-care is essential to your well-being and recovery.
- Daily exercise, healthy eating, good sleep, and stress management enhance productivity, strengthen resilience, and provide long-term health benefits.
- Using alcohol and other substances can mask unresolved emotions and thoughts rather than address them.
- Choosing healthy coping strategies can help you actively work towards processing and healing, paving the way for genuine emotional growth and well-being.
Are there lifestyle changes I can make to improve my mental health?
Engaging in basic self-care activities is an essential practice for safeguarding your physical and mental well-being—particularly in times of stress. Self-care plays a crucial role in building resilience, a characteristic needed in this line of work. Healing takes time. So, try to be patient with yourself and avoid self-judgment. Implementing the self-care strategies outlined below can help you recover and navigate your journey toward well-being.
The benefits of self-care for your physical and mental well-being
- Enhances your focus, productivity, decision-making, and overall performance
- Strengthens your resilience, allowing you to bounce back from challenges
- Provides long-term health benefits through exercise, healthy eating, and stress management
- Can bring you joy, fulfillment, and a sense of purpose
- Has a positive ripple effect on relationships, helping you to be emotionally balanced, present, and able to offer support to others
Primary ways to practice self-care
The following content covers basic self-care strategies, including sleep, diet, physical activity, and avoiding the use of alcohol or other substances.
Adequate sleep (7-9 hours per night) is important, even if you don’t believe you have symptoms of stress.
Why is sleep important for your recovery?
- Sleep helps your body restore and repair itself. During sleep, the body undergoes a physiological process that promotes healing and rejuvenation.
- Sleep helps regulate mood, process emotions, and consolidate memories. This improves emotional resilience and helps in coping with stress and trauma.
- Sleep helps the brain make sense of and process traumatic events. Quality sleep enhances memory formation and retrieval, which is important for recovery.
- Sleep acts as a natural stress reliever, helping reduce levels of stress hormones and promoting a state of relaxation. Sleep helps regulate the body’s stress response leading to improved emotional well-being.
- Sleep boosts energy levels and your ability to focus and make decisions. Importantly, adequate sleep reduces the risk of developing mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression.
After aiding in cardiac arrest resuscitation and recovery, some people may struggle to fall asleep and stay asleep. If that sounds like you, here are some tips for sleeping:
- Keep your room cool, if possible.
- Avoid caffeinated drinks after dinner.
- Leave a 3-4 hour gap between exercising and bedtime.
- Remove distractions like cell phones, blinking lights, and TVs.
- Make your room as dark as possible.
- Try to have a consistent bedtime.
Nourishing your body through a balanced diet is a critical part of self-care after aiding in a traumatic event. Food fuels our minds and our bodies. Your diet can influence mood swings, thoughts, and energy levels.
Why is a healthy diet important to your recovery? The food we eat can impact our mood, thoughts, and energy levels. A balanced diet helps your body function at an optimal level. Nutrient-rich foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats, can support your emotional well-being and stabilize mood swings.
Remember, prioritizing a balanced diet supports physical and mental well-being, providing your body with the necessary fuel for healing. Here are some tips for maintaining a balanced diet:
- Start with breakfast each day.
- Avoid fried food, refined starches, and sugars.
- Limit processed foods.
- Drink lots of water.
- Snack on healthy options like fruits and vegetables.
You don’t have to be an athlete to experience the positive effects of physical activity. Engaging in various forms of exercise is highly beneficial, especially after a traumatic event.
Peer-reviewed research consistently demonstrates that physical activity and exercise effectively reduce stress by providing a break from daily routines. Whether it’s cardiovascular training, yoga, or simply going for a leisurely walk, exercise can effectively release endorphins, which act as a natural stress reliever. Regular exercise improves sleep, which is crucial for coping with acute stress. Plus, focusing on your body and its sensations during movement supports the recovery of your nervous system.
Strive to be physically active for at least 30 minutes each day, or alternatively, break it down into three 10-minute sessions. Choose activities that involve rhythmic movements that engage both your arms and legs such as walking, running, swimming, hiking, or dancing.
Rather than viewing exercise as just another item on your to-do list, seek out activities that genuinely interest and inspire you. Finding something that sparks your curiosity and joy will help you to engage in it regularly. Remember, any form of physical activity can play a significant role in your healing process and overall well-being.
Alcohol and other substances
Coping with difficult emotions and questioning oneself after a traumatic event can lead to the temptation of self-medication with alcohol or other substances. However, it’s important to understand that self-medication is not a conscious or rational choice.
While they may provide temporary relief, alcohol, and other substances can mask unresolved emotions and thoughts rather than address them. In addition, they can increase symptoms of stress—isolation, anger, depression, or emotional numbness. It’s important to approach substance use with moderation and mindfulness.
Helping you cope and support your long-term well-being
Basic self-care is essential to your well-being today and into the future. Good nutrition, exercise, sleep, and stress management provide a pathway for emotional growth, healing, and life-long health benefits. Choosing healthy coping strategies can help you actively work to process and heal, paving the way for genuine emotional growth and well-being.
Thank you to our contributors
Paul Snobelen & Jennifer Chap
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