The Importance of Self-Care

Why Everyone Needs Self-Care   

May is the month to officially celebrate mothers but it is also a month that observes Mental Health Awareness and Women’s Health Month. With the most recent celebration of Mother’s Day, I have been reflecting on the impact caregiving and parenting has had on my own physical and mental health. Balancing the demands of motherhood and work can often leave me feeling there is little time left for my own needs. However, my career as a physical therapist has helped me to understand the value of health and wellness and ultimately the importance of self-care.  

What is Self-Care? 

Self-care refers to the actions and practices we take to care for ourselves, physically, mentally, and emotionally to maintain our own health and wellness. I have worked with many wonderful patients over the years who have not only struggled physically but emotionally; they have put all of their energy into caring for others and/or working very demanding jobs to provide for their families. Many of these patients recognize that stress is a large factor in their headache, neck, jaw, and back pain (just to name a few). So how does stress really impact our bodies?  


What Can Stress Do to Our Body? 

Stress is a natural physical and mental reaction to life experiences. Everyone experiences stress and in the short term, it can be beneficial to your health and can help you cope with potentially serious situations. Your body responds to stress by releasing hormones that increase your heart rate, breathing rates, and ready your muscles to respond (aka the “fight-or-flight” response).  

Problems start to occur when stress becomes chronic, and levels stay elevated far longer than necessary. Chronic stress can impact the central nervous, endocrine, respiratory, cardiovascular, digestive, reproductive, immune, and muscular systems of your body. Common symptoms of chronic stress include (but are not limited to) the following:  

  • Increased levels of pain including headaches, muscle tension, and joint pain 
  • Upset stomach, increased heartburn, constipation, diarrhea, and nausea
  • Low energy and insomnia
  • Mood changes including depression, anxiety, and irritability
  • Fertility struggles

Self-Care Tips 

The following are documented ways to combat stress and provide self-care to improve your own physical and mental well-being:  

  1. Exercise Regularly: Exercise has numerous physical and mental health benefits. It can reduce stress, improve mood, and increase energy levels. Find a form of exercise that you enjoy!  Whether it’s walking, running, yoga, or weightlifting, aim to do it for at least 30 minutes a day. 
  2. Prioritize Sleep: Getting enough sleep is crucial for our physical and mental health. It’s recommended that adults get 7-9 hours of sleep per night. Create a relaxing bedtime routine, avoid caffeine and electronic devices before bed, and make sure your bedroom is cool and comfortable. 
  3. Stay hydrated and eat nutritious foods: It’s easy to forget to take care of your own nutrition when you’re focused on your family or others. Make sure to drink plenty of water and eat nutritious foods to keep your energy levels up and your body functioning properly.  
  4. Practice Mindfulness: Mindfulness is the practice of being present and fully engaged in the current moment. It can help reduce stress and anxiety, improve focus, and increase feelings of well-being. Try incorporating mindfulness into your daily routine by taking a few minutes to breathe deeply with diaphragmatic breathing or meditating.  
  5. Take Breaks: It’s easy to get caught up in work, caring for your family, or other responsibilities and neglect taking breaks, but taking breaks is essential for recharging and avoiding burnout. Take short breaks throughout the day to stretch, walk around or simply relax. 
  6. Connect with Others: Humans are social beings and connecting with others is vital for our emotional well-being. Make time to connect with friends and family, whether it is through a phone call, video chat, or in-person visit. Joining a group or community with similar interests can also provide a sense of belonging and support.  

How Can Hulst Jepsen Physical Therapy Help?  

Many of us already know what we should be doing to manage our stress, but the more difficult task is taking the time and actually incorporating these practices into our daily lives. We can’t always do it on our own. Hulst Jepsen PTs/PTAs/ATCs and Personal Trainers are trained and skilled in helping individuals with the physical component of self-care which can lead to the improvement of your mental well-being. We can be your self-care advocates and teach you how to equip your body with the tools you need to better handle the stress that comes your way and ultimately, to better care for the important people in your life. How do we do this?   

  • We take the time to understand what your needs are, even when you may be struggling to identify what you need yourself. 
  • We give you guidance to set realistic expectations for yourself. 
  • We establish a plan, and we make it specific to your needs. 

If you are ready to take additional steps to improve your physical well-being and need more guidance, please don’t hesitate to call 616.256.8679 to request an appointment or ask about our personal training services. You can also contact any one of 22 clinics and schedule a free consultation with one of our many skilled and knowledgeable therapists. We want to be your self-care advocate and would be happy to assist you on your journey to being a healthier and happier you!  




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Mari Hillary, DPT