Consider your age now. (Personally, I am in my early thirties). Now ponder how fast the life you've already lived has gone by. It goes quick, eh? Too quick. Startlingly so.
We don't have much time here on earth, to both revel in all of it, as well as do/see/experience all which we long to. Therefore, its crucial to be mindful every single day of what is truly the most important. To make every minute count. To allot your time to that which is most meaningful.
Sometimes this involves making choices. Feeling pulled in two directions (by say, work and home, or by one person in your life between another). In order to see with clarity and make the choices which most fulfill your soul though, its of paramount importance to keep at the forefront of your mind, what are the few, small handful of key components of your life that make it the richest.
Those key components which are not easily replaceable.
Those which fill your soul and heart.
That which makes your being sing with joy.
Those which energize you, which make time fall away when you are partaking or involved in such.
That which gives your life its greatest meaning, purpose, direction.
Lack of self care muddies these waters. It makes one far less able to see through all the clutter. Lack of self care results in blurred boundaries. It can result in making the wrong choices, prioritizing the wrong things. Lack of self care also results in feeling crappy, run down, even depressed. It makes you less efficient or motivated at work, less focused on your education, less present in your relationships. It can even keep you complacent in what are bad life situations.
Self care is a crucial aspect to your life. Think about it: without your health, this diminishes numerous parts of your life, in both small ways and bit. Reverberating out and messing up numerous other things going on in your world.
I will first explain the different veins of health, how caring for each of these with vigilance and attentive, active focus makes your life way better, numerous times over. And the ways in which not caring for yourself in these regards can destroy your life.
First off, there are several different aspects of health:
--Relationships in our life
The first, physical/diet/exercise related health. Most people have been hearing it for years in one way or another. The importance of eating well and exercising. Of taking care of your body. When you eat crappy food, you feel crappy.
For instance, eating sugar gives you a surge of energy, however, then leading to a quick and hard crash thereafter. Followed by exhaustion, often times bad skin, and a plethora of health issues down the road (to name a few: obesity, diabetes, mood swings, heart problems, hemorrhoids. The problems are all over the map). (For more on this, just go to Amazon.com and look up books about sugar. You will happen on a lot to be alarmed about).
Drinking a lot of alcohol leads to dry skin, depression, premature aging, as well as potential addiction.
Eating grains/wheat leads to multiple sclerosis, neurological issues, depression, having a gut around your middle, and more. (For more on this, see the book "Wheat Belly" by Dr. William Davis).
Most people spend their days in a perpetual semi state of dehydration, with no idea of such. This leads to lower energy, feeling sluggish, your bodies systems not functioning efficiently, your digestion having issues, etc.
If you eat shitty, or don't eat enough, or eat way too much, or do not drink enough plain, legit water, you feel bad. And your body malfunctions. With lack of energy, mood swings, headaches, your body not functioning well, and even getting diseases down the road.
Its of paramount importance to eat well, as well as to move 4-5 times a week for at least 30 minutes. Exercising not only helps with weight maintenance, as well as prevention of heart disease and all sorts of other illnesses, it also combats mild to moderate depression.
If you don't take good, vigilant care of your physical health, it messes up the rest of your life in more than one way. You feel it.
The second one, emotional/mental health. When this is neglected, it affects your entire life. If you feel lonely, depressed, unfulfilled, aimless, sad, angry, you name the negative, heavy emotional, this permeates out from your whole self (people at work and in social situations will pick up on this).
Of course, everyone feels this way from time to time. That is a normal part of the human experience, and even a healthy one. We all feel bad sometimes. That is totally ok and even at time, a necessary thing (in order to help guide us toward that which is better for us). What I am talking about here instead, is having perpetually poor mental/emotional health regularly.
Those who are not healthy emotionally/mentally, others pick up on it and keep their distance. This can result in being less likely to get offered jobs in the first place, less likely to receive promotions at work, as well as less likely to make friendly connections both at work and outside of. Further, those who have poor emotional health are likely either: to drive away the healthy people in their lives and/or, to choose emotionally unhealthy people for their relationships. We tend to gravitate towards whom we are like, as well as attract those similar to ourselves. Emotionally healthy people do not tend to want to spend time around people who are toxic or chronically emotionally unhealthy/harmful.
If you are in a bad state emotionally, this will affect all your relationships. Both, the ones you attract, as well as the ones you choose. It will also poison the positive relationships in your life, driving them away from you over time if you are constantly in a toxic state.
And lastly, emotional health is related to physical health. There is a direct and distinct connection between them. If you feel depressed, mad, unmotivated, whatever the bad mental health state may be, this does lead to physical reflections of such. Hair can fall out when people are very stressed. You can develop ulcers. Have more stomach issues. Heart attack. Anxiety and dizziness. Sleepless nights. The list goes on.
When your soul/mind/heart are distressed, your body knows, and shows it.
Social health. Everyone should have at least one person in their life to whom they can closely confide in. To whom they can go to for emotional support, love, care, and listening. On whom they feel they can lean. If you do not have this, that is a very dangerous thing in terms of ones mental wellbeing in the greater whole of their life.
Having high quality social interactions, and regularly, helps us to de-stress. Offering a respite from the stressors and distractions of daily routine. Having good social outlets can help us learn about ourselves, reflecting on our own lives, choices, and routines when seeing how others might live. It offers us a sounding board, a means of support, as well as just general joy.
Its crucial to have at least one person with whom you have this, though ideally a small handful. This will add much satisfaction and richness to your life. As well as relevant insights, inspiration, and further knowledge. Its not negotiable to have this, its necessary to being healthy.
Check out this short and sweet article (a small compelling list) on 15 reasons why positive social connections are crucial and great for your health.
Sleep: without enough, be prepared to have some major issues.
Nowadays, people brush this off, treating it as low priority and even optional. It isn't.
Not getting enough sleep hurts your cognitive process- it literally dumbs you down. It impairs attention, alertness, concentration, resoning, and problem solving, in a very bad way. Sleep deprivation puts you at high risk for heart disease, stroke, irregular heartbreat, diabetes, high blood pressure, and more. It also kills sex drive, being exhausted. Though that's unsurprising.
People who do not sleep enough tend more towards being depressed than those who do sleep enough. Lack of sleep prematurely ages your skin, and makes you look older faster. It can also make you gain weight. And it impairs your judgement.
As you can see, not getting enough sleep majorly f*cks your mind and body up. Get those 7-8 hours every night to feel great.
Work/life balance. Something the US is generally pretty awful at. In my experience living overseas, I found Europe to be signifigantly better in this arena, where employees are given 5-6 weeks of vacation starting out. Compared to the US with their paltry 10 days.
What's funny is that the US seems to think more vacation days equals less productive, when in fact the data speaks to the very opposite. People who take time off (at least a few days) every 3 months or so are signifigantly more productive and motivated at their jobs than those who took less. Its not a huge secret that the majority of the US is overworked, and it shows. We are also hugely fat, exhausted, and stressed out.
To me, this is glaring evidence that we are not living in a way conducive to how we are meant to be living as humans. Instead, we are living numerous ways (including how overworked and overstressed we are) that are contradictory, and even downright damaging to both our emotional as well as physical wellbeing's.
Work is important. Its how we pay for the rest of our life. Its also a source of much meaning and fulfillment for many people who deeply enjoy their jobs and the cause for which they work. Its very easy to forget though, that there is SO much beyond life at work. Endless places to visit around the world, foods to taste, people to meet, experiences to be had, even other work to dabble in and experiment with.
People often claim overworking because "there is so much to get done," and "I have way more to do." There will always be more to do. Always. The key is knowing when to stop for the day. Doing the best you can, in a reasonable time frame, and then drawing that line to protect the rest of your life outside of work equally, as well as to protect yourself (meaning, your own emotional and physical health- such as deciding to put a priority on exercising, your relationships outside of work, as well as personal passions). Work will ever be calling. Most people, if they stayed until "everything was done," could be sitting at their desks all night and through until the morning. Therefore, this is not a logical nor healthy approach to overworking ("I have more to do").
In this blink-of-an-eye life here on earth that each of us have, be careful not to get sucked into a narrow, tunnel vision, one-track way of living for years and years. This is a majorly missed opportunity, with all the riches of the universe out there, awaiting your exploration.
Here is a great article from Forbes about building a better work-life balance.
Boundaries. Another crucial aspect to health, which a lot of people have nearly no clue about, or if they do, very much struggle with it.
Think of a boundary like a fence around yourself. We have physical boundaries, as well as mental and emotional boundaries. There are also boundaries such as, around how we allocate our time.
It is up to you to set these boundaries with other people, because they will continually attempt to be violated by others (both intentionally, as well as non intentionally). It is up to you to draw that line between you and others (because they certainly wont) and to say no sometimes and when needed. It is up to you to decide what fits in alignment with your own values regarding your own health, your own time, your relationships, and your life needs. And when people say things to you, or make requests of you that violate your personal boundaries with regards to your personal time, your life values, etc, to speak up and say no, to draw that boundary.
People frequently need to draw firm boundary lines with their bosses, who may demand and ask for too much (which, if the employee gives in to, can result in detriment to their health, life outside of work, etc). People also often need to draw firm boundary lines with other people in their lives. Maybe a toxic family member, or a difficult and especially demanding colleague, or a toxic ex, or a shitty sibling, you name it.
There will be people who will try to touch you in ways that don't feel good, who will say things to you that hurt or violate a value of yours, who will make demands on your time that are too much, who will attempt to take things from you (whether tangible, physical things, or emotional).
Having solid boundaries means being armed with the courage to say no, even when its scary.
Important note here: often times, when drawing that line of your boundaries with others, said others will get pissed. Do not let this deter you. It doesn't mean the choice you made is wrong. People tend to get petulant and irritated when told no. People want what they want, when they want it. Generally, they aren't thinking of your needs- they are annoyed because you have said no to something they feel that they need (or more likely, wanted).
In order to protect yourself though, you will need to stand strong in the face of their frustrations/anger when this does occur.
As someone with strong boundaries (you), its up to you to safeguard yourself and the treasures of your life, against boundary violators. If you are unable to do this, it will result in a lot of stress and strife in your life.
An interesting article from mindbodygreen.com on 6 steps for setting good boundaries.
And finally, the relationships in your life. This goes for familial, friends, and romantic partners. All of which are a choice you make to have in your life. (Yes, even family. Because while its true, you cannot chose your family, you absolutely choose to whom you are close with, and who you have in your life).
All of these connections have a major impact on your emotional wellbeing, and as a result (since the two are interconnected), your physical health. As well as on the decisions you make- the people with whom we have close ties have heavy influence on us, with regards to our health, our personal habits, the ways we think and act, as well as on our overall life satisfaction. So, choose those people carefully. We become like the people with whom we spend the most time. Remember that.
Frequently, you may love someone who isn't great for you. This can be a toxic or emotionally unhealthy parent, a sibling, a crappy friend, or an ill-fitting/stressful/bad romantic relationship. Many of us love someone who isn't good for us. Love is not necessarily incidence that this is someone you should have in your life. This is also a crucial one not to forget.
People often either inspire you, or drain you. They are often either good, healthy, uplifting presences, or draining, stagnating, or not especially inspiring or uplifting ones.
Choose mindfully and with eyes wide open, regarding with whom you surround yourself.
Important note: even if someone you love isn't such a great person for you, this doesn't necessarily mean needing to axe them from your life entirely. There are many variants in between. You can love someone, talk to them on occasion, have fun with them once in a while, while keeping a decent/safe amount of distance between you and that person. Or, if someone is downright harmful and too toxic, as an extreme last resort, potentially removing them from your life entirely. Often times though, that extreme ending isn't necessary.
Look at how the people with whom you are close make you feel the vast majority of the time. Is it positive, joyous, inspired, challenged in a good way, thought-provoked, loved, supported? Or, is it disrespected, stressed out, drained, distrustful of them, put down, not especially good around said person? If its the latter, might be time to consider either some major distance between you and this person (loved one or not), or cutting them out entirely.
Choose the keep those close who uplift you, who bring joy, meaning, inspiration, and good to your life. Axe out, or keep to a bare minimal, the negative and not so good ones. This will make your life far happier, more productive, and healthier.
In conclusion, these are a handful of the main pillars of self care and how, when neglected or treated messily and without careful intent, they can wreck your life.
Do not neglect, ignore, nor toss aside making self care a priority. Its the bedrock, the foundation, the frame of a healthy, productive, happy life. When acting vigilantly with regards to self care, you will feel better, function at your most efficiently, think clearly, and get the very most out of your life as you move through it day to day.
Sometimes, self care is easy. Other times, it isn't. Sometimes it means saying no, even when you feel intimidated or stressed out at the reaction. Sometimes it means turning down something delicious which you want to eat, knowing its harmful to your health. Sometimes it means hauling your butt out of bed for the gym, even when you totally don't want to. And other times, it means skipping the gym and sleeping instead, needing that extra sleep this time around.
Sometimes it means having the painful realization that someone in your life for whom you care, isn't actually very good for you. And then with this awareness, going about drawing firmer lines with this person, or even adding some major distance between the two of you. Other times, it means seeking out a new, healthy connection. Sometimes, being healthy means having a difficult conversation. Other times it means taking some alone time for yourself, even if it might disappoint someone you love in the moment.
It can also mean turning off your cell phone when not at work and being fully present with your loved ones at home, in order to prioritize quality time with these people and keeping those connections strong (as well as, to recharge yourself, to take a breather from work- which one should do every single day).
Sometimes, it means making the terrifying decision of quitting something that you know in your soul isn't good for you (whether it be an ill-fitting job, relationship, personal habit, or other). It might mean skipping takeout tonight and instead, hoofing it to the store for some fresh produce and vegetables to prepare.
Health is a multi-faceted thing that has many components, entailing a plethora of decisions throughout the course of your day. Make having awareness of these daily decisions a high priority in your life. In fact, it should be among the very highest. Your well functioning body, emotionally healthy mind, and happiness that results from such, will thank you for it, many times over.