Self-care: the choice that’s often no choice at all
Very few would argue that we’re living through the worst mental health crisis of modern times, or that shrinking real terms public health budgets are only likely to see that situation get worse in the coming years, rather than better.
The statistics bear this out, too.
According to recent data, nearly half of all UK workers are experiencing critical burnout, a sixth of all UK families are now in ‘serious’ financial difficulty, one in five people now provide a significant level of care for a loved one, more than 15 million people live with a chronic or long-term mental health issue, and around more than 5 million people are responsible for a child under the age of 18.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
What this all boils down to is that there are an awful lot of people in this country who are battling their own personal challenges whilst also providing a considerable level of care for someone else.
So, what does all this mean? At a simple level it demonstrates that we are increasingly becoming a society that, in individual terms, has a growing responsibility for other people. In short, we’re fast transforming from individuals with responsibility for care into a care-based society.
That perhaps shouldn’t come as a surprise: medical care and diagnostics have improved immeasurably – particularly over the Baby Boomer, Gen X, Gen Y and Gen Z generations.
The result is that we live longer, and as a result we’re seeing a rapid rise in the prevalence of age-related conditions around mobility, dementia, terminal illness (that would previously have gone undiagnosed) and end-of-life that require greater financial and resource investment by public health bodies.
The problem goes deeper than that, though, because as involuntary carers we are not only often ill-equipped for the job, but the statistics also reveal that we are carers who are often battling our own existing and serious wellbeing issues.
The era of Hobson’s Choice
The increasing demand for part- or full-time care to be provided from within the family when we’re already stretched emotionally is only part of the story.
Society is now busier than it has ever been. The demands on our time, whether at work or at home, have grown exponentially, and this frenetic lifestyle isn’t limited solely to the working week.
If anything, in fact, we’re often busier at weekends – grocery shopping, social meetups, shuttling kids to classes and sports, getting jobs around the house done. Every day is a whirlwind of activity that may, if we’re lucky, be rewarded with an hour or so in front of the TV or curled up with a book.
If you sat down and worked out, how much time, I wonder, can you honestly say is given over to yourself and your own wellbeing? How often do you think about your own needs and put them first?
The answer, I suspect, is that your own emotional and physical welfare features well down your list of priorities, and almost certainly below the needs and demands of the other people in your life for whom you provide care or support.
The truth is that the choice between prioritising your own care and the care of others is a case of Hobson’s Choice – where the choice isn’t a choice at all.
Most of us are naturally inclined to put the needs of others before our own. Yet self-care is such a hugely important part of being able to provide support for others: until we fulfil our own emotional and physical health needs, it’s impossible to care properly for anyone else.
As the old saying goes, it’s impossible for pour from an empty cup.
11 reasons why you should prioritise self-care – and how acupuncture can help you to achieve better mental and physical health
There are many health and wellbeing benefits to improving your self-care routine. Practising self-care allows you to:
- Maintain good physical health. It involves taking care of your body through activities such as regular exercise, eating well, getting enough sleep, and avoiding harmful behaviours such as smoking and excessive drinking.
- Improve mental and emotional wellbeing. It involves taking time to engage in activities that bring you joy and relaxation, managing stress, and seeking help when needed.
- Reduce feelings of anxiety, depression, and stress. It can improve your mood and increase feelings of self-esteem and self-worth.
- Prevent burnout. This is especially true in professions that involve high levels of stress or emotional investment.
- Improve your relationships with others. When you feel well-rested, energized, and mentally healthy, you are better able to connect with others and build strong, supportive relationships.
- Show yourself love and compassion. By taking the time to care for yourself, you are acknowledging your own needs and prioritizing your own wellbeing.
- Build healthy habits and coping mechanisms. Finding routines and good practice around your lifestyle that you incorporate fully into your daily existence will serve you well throughout your life.
- Improve productivity and focus. When you take care of yourself, you have more energy and mental clarity to tackle tasks and achieve your goals.
- Become more resilient in the face of challenges and setbacks. When you have a strong foundation of self-care habits, you are better equipped to handle stress and adversity.
- Better understand your own needs and priorities. By taking the time to reflect on what makes you feel good and what drains your energy, you can make more intentional choices about how you spend your time and resources.
- Resist societal pressures and expectations. In a world that often values productivity and achievement above all else, taking time for yourself can be a powerful act of self-love and self-acceptance.
So how can acupuncture support you in establishing good self-care habits?
Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese medicine practice that involves the painless insertion of superfine needles into specific points on the body.
This technique has been used for thousands of years to treat a variety of physical and mental health conditions and can also be used to support good self-care habits.
Here are some ways that acupuncture can help support good self-care:
- Stress Reduction: Acupuncture can help reduce stress and promote relaxation by stimulating the release of endorphins, which are natural painkillers and mood enhancers. By reducing stress, acupuncture can help improve sleep, boost energy levels, and enhance overall well-being.
- Pain Management: Acupuncture has been shown to be effective in managing chronic pain, such as back pain, neck pain, and headaches. By stimulating the nervous system and increasing blood flow to affected areas, acupuncture can help reduce inflammation, improve mobility, and alleviate pain.
- Improved Digestion: Acupuncture can help improve digestion by regulating the digestive system and reducing inflammation in the gut. This can be especially helpful for those with conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or acid reflux.
- Boosted Immune System: Acupuncture can help boost the immune system by stimulating the body’s natural defence mechanisms. This can help reduce the frequency and severity of illnesses and infections and improve overall health and well-being.
- Emotional Balance: Acupuncture can help promote emotional balance by regulating the nervous system and promoting the release of feel-good hormones such as serotonin and dopamine. This can help reduce feelings of anxiety and depression and improve mood and overall emotional well-being.
If you’d like to know more about how acupuncture can help you to deal with the rigours of daily life and support your emotional and physical wellbeing, please get in touch – we’d love to tell you more!