Take care of your mind and body: Reduce stress and prevent illness

Research states time and time again that the way you take care of yourself is related to how long you live and how happy you are. Those who take care of their physical and mental health needs are much happier. Stress seems to be the most common cause of ill health in modern society. This article will address ways to combat your stress levels therefore helping you prevent some types of illnesses and/or reducing the damaging effects of existing illnesses and help you live a happier life.

You need to familiarize yourself to your individual signs of stress. If you know what happens to you when you get stressed out, then in time you will become sensitive to these signs and you will be able to get help for yourself sooner rather than later when these signs appear. It is also important to know what makes you stressed out so you can better learn how to deal with those stresses or learn how to avoid them. Everybody is different. What may be a red flag for you, may not be one for someone else and vice versa. Also, some things that stress you out today may not stress you out other days. We will address ways for you to take care of yourself and how to live happier today.


Do make a choice today to start taking care of yourself

How many times have you said to yourself - “I need to put myself first”? There is no better time than right now, this is the day to start doing something about it. So many times we make New Years resolutions or wait until the next month to start on a goal for ourselves, all to see so many other things get in the way. Today, make a pact with yourself and tell a friend or a loved one that you are starting to take care of you from today onwards! Create a list of warning signs of stress (for example, getting angry, headaches etc.), create another list of situations and/or persons that stress you out. Review these lists and brainstorm ideas on how to deal with the stressful situations and/or persons. This will help you move towards creating a plan to deal with these stressors.

Do take care of your body

Learn how to take better care of your physical body through better nutrition, exercise, and sleep. When it comes to nutrition, make healthier choices. Add more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and low fat dairy products in your daily food choices. Limit the amount of processed foods that you eat. Start keeping a food diary to track to see what you are eating. With exercise, remember any physical activity that raises your heart rate counts (e.g., walking, household chores, sex, etc).

Make a pact to do some amount of physical activity everyday. Create a chart that breaks down your day, see what you are doing every hour on the hour to see where you can find extra time to add or cut something out. For sleep, research to see how much sleep a person your age should be getting, make sure your bedroom is a quiet, dark and a relaxing environment which is neither too hot or cold. Create a relaxing bedtime routine, such as reading, taking a bath, having a warm cup of tea, find what works for you!

Do take care of your mind

We always hear about taking care of your body, but what about your mind? Our mind needs a break just as our bodies do. Sometimes people can get so caught up in their thoughts and feelings and just day to day living, that they don't realize they are not taking time to really listen to themselves, or “hear” the messages their mind is saying to them. It is important to take time out, even as little as five minutes, and reflect on the day and your life. Tell yourself an affirmation, say something positive to yourself!

Do find things you have done well

Create a list of things you have accomplished, no matter how big or small, aim to add one item to this list each day with creating short term and long term goals. Goals keep us focused and moving forward. Don’t focus on what brings you down, focus on what will help you and what you can achieve. Find ways to reach those goals.

Do say more positive statements

Say positive statements to yourself, work on changing thoughts if they are negative, stop being hard on yourself, become your own cheerleader! Work on doing things that bring about positive feelings, whether it is doing something, talking to someone going somewhere, etc. If it makes you happy, do it! Pick up a book on positive thinking, go on Pinterest to see quotes and affirmations that people are pinning, Google positive statements and start saying them daily to yourself. We can either see the cup as half empty or half full, lets see it more positively.


Do not criticize yourself

Criticism never changes a thing. Refuse to criticize yourself. Accept yourself for who you are. If you feel you can improve upon something, then work on changing it. Don’t criticize since you will be in the same place and create a “deeper hole of despair” that will be more difficult to get out of. It takes practice to stop listening to that “bad voice” and too stop saying these things, but catch yourself when you say a negative statement and replace it with a positive one, or just say “I am trying my best” With practice, you will get better.

Do not forget to be aware of negative feelings

Acknowledge the negative feelings and work towards changing them. Accept that they are there and start moving forward. Work on positive feelings and find ways to bring them about. If you are having difficulty getting past a lot of negativity, seek help. Seek a psychologist out to gain more direction on how to move forward.

Do not do it alone

Be able to ask for help. Identify who or what you can depend upon. Create a list of these people or things that can help you or distract you. For example, write down the name of loved ones, a friend, if reading helps you escape, write reading on your list, Netflix, anything can go on this list. Find ways to support yourself, reach out to family, friends, and co-workers. Allow others to support you and help you. Delegate items to others if you can. Take breaks. If you feel you need more help or more direction, seek professional help from a psychologist.

Do not keep utilizing unhealthy coping skills

Things like smoking, overeating, over consumption of caffeine, drinking in excess etc.. these unhealthy coping skills are bad habits and are bad responses to stress. Many of the times it is these things that lead to illnesses or exacerbate existing illnesses. First figure out if you are utilizing these unhealthy coping skills and then devise a plan to stop or decrease their use. Again, if you feel you need more help or if you feel out of control in any of these areas, seek professional help from a psychologist.

Do not give up

Some days will be easier to follow the advice listed here and other days not so much. Learning new skills always takes time and practice! The more you keep reminding yourself you are trying to improve upon your life and trying to prevent future illnesses, the easier it will get.

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Start to take care of yourself today. So many times you put yourself last on the list, don't wait until tomorrow, it is so easy to put things off especially if they concern yourself. Think about what makes you happy, has made you happy in the past and may make you happy in the future. Work towards getting those things. When you take care of your stress level, you are helping to prevent so many illnesses and/or reducing the damage of existing illnesses. Be gentle with yourself, say kind words, and be patient with yourself. Everyday try to improve on something in your life. By the end of finishing this article, make a pledge to start taking care of your physical body and your mind today!

If you do feel like you need more direction or need help devising a more concrete plan on how to move in a more positive direction, or are in distress, please seek professional help from a psychologist.

More expert advice about Health Psychology

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Dr. Vicki BolinaLicensed Psychologist

You can enter psychotherapy for a variety of reasons, all of which I can help you through - reduce emotional distress in order to regain a sense of fulfillment in life and/or restore the ability to function in daily activities, improve relations...

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