Self-Care versus Healthy Habits

When it comes to taking care of yourself, food is not the only way to establish a healthy lifestyle. Your overall health is a combination of physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional well-being. As Registered Dietitians, our goal is help you create the best possible version of yourself. That is why we often talk about self-care and healthy habits. Healthy habits we can view as being tied to your overall physical health, while self-care is often the things that we do for ourselves in order to bring joy back and balance back into our lives.

We typically live stressful, busy lives, and this stress releases a hormone called cortisol in our bodies. During stressful situations, the body may also start to signal a need for more energy to get through the ‘emergency’, causing an increase in your appetite hormone (ghrelin), and a decrease in your fullness hormone (leptin). Our goal is to shut down the stress mechanism as soon as possible to bring down overall cortisol levels and help regulate appetite hormones normally. Your actions—whether they are related to physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual health—will impact this stress response.

Take a look at our fictional client, Bill. His goal is to reduce his blood pressure; therefore, he has chosen to exercise regularly, eat balanced, watch his salt intake, and manage his stress levels. Bill’s working hard at incorporating a lot of healthy habits. But the problem is, Bill doesn’t really like to go to the gym, but he does it because it helps his energy level and he feels better after. Vegetables are definitely not his first choice for a tasty snack, but he notices when he eats them, his cravings have significantly improved.  He misses some of his favourite processed foods, but he’s noticed his taste buds slowly changing.  Healthy habits do not always bring us joy. Let’s be honest, they’re often not even fun! But they are contributing to your health, energy, vitality, and longevity of life.

What Bill does love is fishing. Being in a boat on a calm lake is the place that he is most at peace. Practicing hockey drills with his son also brings him a lot of joy, and he enjoys doing some woodworking in his shop when he gets a free minute. These are elements of self-care that are not necessarily health-related habits, but they work wonders on his mental and emotional health. His blood pressure will likely be at its lowest out on the lake, and the quality time with his son can actually release endorphins in his brain.

Think about this for yourself—what helps contribute to your health and what brings you joy and peace? Some habits or activities may contribute to both your health and your self-care at the same time. The point is not to be self-centered and selfish. The point is to be the best version of yourself, benefiting all the relationships in your life. We cannot always control what life throws at us, but we can control our response to life. Joy is a choice. Choosing to find it and to take of our physical body is a huge step towards improving quality of life.

To learn more about finding balance, check out our resource on My Viva Plan.

By Raina Beugelink – Registered Dietitian/Nutrition