Last week’s blog post called The Science of Planning was about all about understanding what your brain needs in order to plan. This week we are still learning science-y things and talking about taking care of ourselves and managing our self-care! 


Thriving, Not Just Surviving

How Science Supports Self-Care


In our fast-paced world, self-care often takes a backseat to our endless to-do lists. But research shows that neglecting self-care can have serious consequences for our health and well-being. Let’s dive into the science behind self-care and explore practical ways to make it a priority.


Why Self-Care Matters: The Scientific Evidence


The foundation or purpose of self care has never been equal to how luxurious the spa is during your massage. The self-care portion of that previous sentence is massage. Body work will always be a fantastic option for self-care for those who enjoy it and are open to that option. The luxury part is completely subjective and an added bonus, again for those who enjoy and are open to it. That distinction is vital, as so many refrain from self-care because we don’t think we can afford it, or even deserve it.

Please stop thinking that way my friend. You totally deserve self-care. We ALL do. And…it’s affordable.

Self-Care matters and here is why. It helps with:

1. Stress Reduction
Chronic stress is a major health concern, linked to numerous physical and mental health issues. A study published in the journal “Health Psychology” found that engaging in self-care activities can significantly reduce stress levels and improve overall well-being (Smyth et al., 2018).

2. Improved Mental Health
Research in the “Journal of Clinical Psychology” demonstrates that regular self-care practices are associated with lower levels of anxiety and depression (Neff & Germer, 2013). These practices help activate the body’s relaxation response, countering the effects of chronic stress.

3. Enhanced Physical Health
A meta-analysis in the “American Journal of Health Promotion” showed that individuals who prioritize self-care through regular exercise and proper nutrition have lower risks of chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and certain cancers (Warburton & Bredin, 2017).

4. Increased Productivity
Contrary to the belief that self-care takes away from work time, a study in the “Journal of Occupational Health Psychology” found that employees who engaged in regular self-care activities reported higher job satisfaction and productivity (Fritz et al., 2011).


The Consequences of Neglecting Self-Care


When we fail to prioritize self-care, the effects can be far-reaching. Some of the consequences experienced because of a lack of self-care are:

1. Burnout
A study in the “Journal of Applied Psychology” revealed that individuals who consistently neglect self-care are at a higher risk of experiencing burnout, characterized by emotional exhaustion, cynicism, and reduced professional efficacy (Maslach et al., 2001).

2. Compromised Immune Function
Research published in “Psychological Science” shows that chronic stress from neglecting self-care can suppress immune function, making us more susceptible to illnesses (Cohen et al., 2012).

3. Deteriorating Mental Health
The “Journal of Counseling Psychology” reports that a lack of self-care is strongly associated with increased symptoms of anxiety and depression (Myers et al., 2012).

4. Reduced Cognitive Function
A study in “Nature Reviews Neuroscience” found that chronic stress and lack of self-care can impair memory, decision-making, and attention span (McEwen, 2012).

Actionable Steps to Support Self-Care


Now that we understand the importance of self-care, let’s look at some evidence-based and affordable strategies to incorporate it into our lives:

1. Practice Mindfulness Meditation
Sit with yourself and quiet your mind. A meta-analysis in the “Journal of Psychosomatic Research” found that mindfulness meditation can significantly reduce stress and anxiety (Goyal et al., 2014). Start with just 5-10 minutes a day using apps like Headspace or Calm. You can also find playlists on Spotify or YouTube for some meditation music and experiences.

2. Prioritize Sleep
I get that this can be hard to do. I have said in the past, “I’ll sleep when I am dead.” While that is true, you might be there quicker than you’d like if you don’t get your rest. Lots of body functions reset during the evening that are vital to your overall health. The National Sleep Foundation recommends 7-9 hours of sleep for adults. Establish a consistent sleep schedule and create a relaxing bedtime routine to improve sleep quality.

3. Exercise Regularly
Get your body moving. The World Health Organization recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity per week. Find an activity you enjoy, whether it’s walking, swimming, or dancing. Also, if you don’t know where to begin: Look up chair yoga on YouTube and start there.

4. Practice Gratitude
Get those journals out! A study in the “Journal of Personality and Social Psychology” found that keeping a gratitude journal can increase well-being and life satisfaction (Emmons & McCullough, 2003). Try writing down three things you’re grateful for each day.

5. Set Boundaries
Remember that no is a complete sentence. Research in the “Journal of Occupational Health Psychology” shows that setting clear work-life boundaries can reduce stress and improve well-being (Kossek et al., 2012). Learn to say no to non-essential commitments and protect your personal time.

6. Engage in Social Connection
Schedule yourself some “play” time with friends or family. Whether it’s your favorite activity or trying something new, doing it with old or new friends can add so much wellness to your life. A review in the “Annual Review of Psychology” highlights the importance of social relationships for mental and physical health (Holt-Lunstad, 2018). Make time for meaningful interactions with friends and family.


The science is clear: self-care is not a luxury, but a necessity for our overall health and well-being. By understanding its importance and implementing these evidence-based strategies, we can cultivate a lifestyle that prioritizes our physical, mental, and emotional health. Remember, self-care is a personal journey, so experiment with different practices to find what works best for you. Your future self will thank you for the investment you make today.



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