• Claudia Stangarone

Self-care when the time gets rough

Have you ever considered that, although food, shelter and clothing are must haves to survive, physical, mental, and emotional health are still not considered fundamental for us to truly thrive?

For example, when you experience deep emotions such as angst, grief, anger or frustration, what do you do? Ignore them? If you do, that wouldn’t surprise me. Societal norms quietly imposed a culture where sacrificing mental and physical health for a cause is almost celebrated. The result is that often, going down that path, we respond with the so-called flight/fight/freeze response.

In flight/fight/freeze responses, or limbic reactions, cortisol (the stress hormone) is released into our bloodstream, heart and breathing rates increase, muscles are tensed, our field of vision narrowed to focus on where we believe the danger lies, and we become more alert as we prepare to react. This type of reaction is great for a few moments in order to ensure our survival for another day. However, kept up over an extended period of time this is clearly not sustainable emotionally and physically.

More broadly, constantly depleting our mental and physical reserves and reacting from a place of fear or anxiety does not help us to shift our culture and economy from draining to rebalancing and therefore we are not only going against ourselves in the present but also against what we are leaving for the future.

As usual there is always another way. When we take the time for self-care, we end up operating from a place where our reserves are full and eventually it allows us to resist, rather than adapt, during those challenging moments.

But what does self-care mean? In a way is the intentional engagement in life choices that support your physical, emotional, social and mental well-being. We frequently hear about eat a healthy balanced diet, regularly getting a good night’s sleep and get plenty of exercise. Sometimes even a single activity can support or nourish more than one of these elements simultaneously. In other words, practicing self-care on a long run triggers a mechanism that enables lower levels of limbic reactivity and cortisol, whatever life throws at you.

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