Who Do Self-Care Practices Benefit?

Medically reviewed by April Brewer
Updated February 21, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Taking action to preserve your health and well-being, frequently referred to as self-care, can help you cultivate a sense of healthy living, guard your immune system, increase endorphin production, and help you manage relationships. People who practice regular self-care using meditation, exercise, and other means often have lower stress levels and may be less likely to develop heart disease. When you notice your general well-being improving on a regular basis, whether that means you are better rested, nourished, mentally clear, physically fit, content, or calm, it can help you function in daily life. Self-care practices may be particularly beneficial for those with stressful jobs, such as caretakers and healthcare providers. Online or in-person therapy can be a vital part of self-care that can provide you with the support you deserve.

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Benefits of healthy living with self-care

Self-care can be defined as the ability to care for oneself through awareness, self-control, and self-reliance to achieve or promote optimal health and well-being

Studies have suggested that having a strong sense of purpose can be associated with positive health outcomes. Thus, aiming to have a healthy life by eating well and practicing habits that benefit your health can promote longevity. Furthermore, practicing self-care activities, such as regular exercise and mindfulness meditation, can reduce stress and lower your risk of developing cardiovascular disease or other immune stressor illnesses.

In addition to improving your quality of life, self-care can have a ripple effect on those around you. It may have the potential to benefit your relationships by calming the nervous and immune systems, potentially allowing you to be more receptive to others’ needs. Self-care can help you recharge your batteries and honor your own needs. For these reasons, self-care can be a crucial part of a person’s daily routine. 

While stress and exhaustion can be components of any career, certain jobs tend to lead to burnout, which can refer to a syndrome resulting from chronic work-related stress. For example, people who work in the healthcare field are often under immense stress to perform their jobs, often for long shifts that can be physically and emotionally challenging. 

We all can benefit from self-care, but the following types of people may especially benefit from this practice.

Self-care for caretakers

Helping or looking after others as a caretaker can be a rewarding experience, but it can also be a stressful and thankless job. 

Caretakers can experience burnout at high rates. When spending time with individuals who need your support and energy, you may want to remind yourself that helping them can become difficult if you neglect your own needs. While you may be focused on an action plan to care for your client, try to set aside some time to do the same for yourself.  You can practice self-care by using essential oils or deep breathing exercises to practice grounding throughout the day. As a caretaker, it can help to engage in leisure activities when you are not on the job to decompress. 

When you do not practice self-care, it can impact your quality of life and have a potentially negative effect on those you care for, including family members and pets. Caring for the elderly or people with physical impairments can be psychologically and physically demanding, and your mental health may feel the effects. If you are concerned that you are experiencing burnout and self-care does not seem to be enough, consider speaking with a licensed therapist who can offer the support and guidance you deserve.

Self-care can reduce stress

Self-care can be a great tool for stress management. It can be important to remember that self-care is generally a unique and personal undertaking. Whether you take a bubble bath with essential oils, go on a long walk, listen to your favorite music, or take part in any activity that is healthy and comfortable for you, you may experience positive benefits from these self-care behaviors.  When you are feeling stressed, you might think about some of the self-care techniques that work for you and write them down. During your day-to-day life, you can practice these self-care methods, and you may notice reduced anxiety symptoms. 

As a caregiver, you may feel guilty about practicing self-care because you may believe it takes away from the time you need to devote to caregiving. Try to release these feelings of guilt, as they may prevent you from practicing self-care. If you become neglectful of yourself, you may limit your ability to be present and available for others. 

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Self-care can prevent resentment

Self-care can also benefit your relationships. This may seem counter-intuitive, as self-care can involve putting yourself first. If you neglect yourself, you may become resentful of the people you are caring for due to a workplace syndrome known as caregiver burnout. This can happen to caregivers who are under extreme stress and is usually characterized by mental, physical, and emotional exhaustion that can lead to a loss of compassion and empathy. One major cause of this burnout may be the caregivers not taking the time to care for themselves. 

Burnout often occurs when caregiving falls on only one person who is limited by financial or physical resources. While you may be showing signs of bitterness and loss of empathy with the person you care for, you may also pass these feelings on to your family and friends. 

If you notice that you are feeling resentful, you might take time for introspection and emotional management. For the health of your relationships with yourself and others, it can be crucial to take care of yourself. It can be helpful to have conversations with loved ones when you have a conflict and let them know you may need support in finding the time to care for yourself. Open communication will likely help with feelings of resentment. When you take the time to care for yourself and meet your needs, you can be more present and caring in your relationships.

Self-care for healthcare professionals

Professions in the healthcare field usually require a complete commitment to caring for patients, often at the expense of your own mental and physical needs. If you are a healthcare provider, practicing self-care can be essential. When you have a high-stress job and spend all your energy nurturing others, you may neglect to care for yourself in a holistic manner that meets all your needs. Research shows that the level of burnout in doctors and therapists may be at a critical level, and these figures have likely only increased after the recent pandemic. 

Mental Health America (MHA) is a community-based nonprofit based in the United States that often spreads awareness about mental illness and the importance of taking care of your mental health. In 2020, MHA conducted a survey among healthcare workers to listen to their stories and offer resources to support their mental health needs. Responses were gathered from over 1,000 healthcare workers who reported the following:

  • 93% of the survey participants stated they were currently experiencing stress, 86% reported anxiety, and 76% reported exhaustion.

  • 38% of the healthcare workers felt they were not getting enough emotional support, with a higher percentage of nurses generally stating their emotional support was inadequate. 

  • Most survey participants reported feeling emotionally and physically exhausted. 82% stated they were experiencing emotional exhaustion, 70% reported they were having trouble sleeping, and 63% were living with work-related dread. 

  • Physical symptoms related to burnout in this survey group included loss of appetite, stomachache, headaches, and sleep problems.

If you are a medical professional reading this, you might be thinking, “I do not have time to take care of myself. I’m working 12-hour overnight shifts.” This can be understandable. However, you may find that by making time to take care of yourself, you will likely feel less exhaustion and more peace of mind. When you are not working, try to engage in leisure activities that you enjoy. You work hard, and you deserve to have fun. Hobbies can help your mind and body feel relaxed and rejuvenated.

The following may be simple self-care techniques to try:

  • Establish a regular sleep routine
  • Spend time outdoors
  • Moderate social media to reduce anxiety
  • Organize your home and life
  • Take a “no technology” day
  • Practice deep breathing exercises to create more energy
  • Wear comfortable clothes that make you feel good
  • Pamper yourself (put on some lotion, get a haircut, do a foot bath, etc.)
  • Work toward acceptance (of self, others, and your situation)
  • Read your favorite book
  • Try out a new hobby
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Therapy as a form of self-care

While caring for yourself can be incredibly important, there may be times when you need to reach out for professional support. A licensed therapist can help you develop strategies to build resilience against the negative effects of stress. Furthermore, mental health support can provide insight and clarity when facing life’s challenges.

Benefits of online therapy

Whether you’re a caregiver, healthcare worker, or have other demanding responsibilities, your schedule is most likely full, and it may be challenging to schedule therapy sessions due to commute times and general inconvenience. Online therapy can be a convenient option that empowers you to get the support you deserve from the comfort of your own home at a time that fits your schedule, even if that time is outside of typical office hours.

Effectiveness of online therapy

A 2016 study investigating the effectiveness of a web-based stress management intervention for employees found that the intervention was generally “proven effective in reducing stress in employees in the long term.” The study further suggested that “internet-based stress management interventions should be further pursued as a valuable alternative to face-to-face interventions.”

Takeaway

Self-care practices can benefit anyone and everyone, but they may be especially helpful for healthcare workers, caretakers, and others with demanding jobs and responsibilities. It can be crucial to take care of your physical and mental well-being so that you can effectively care for others. Self-care can involve eating a healthy diet, exercising, getting plenty of sleep, spending time with loved ones, and engaging in hobbies. Therapy can also be an excellent addition to your self-care routine.

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