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The New Year: Resolutions & Self-Care

With the New Year quickly approaching, we are again faced with New Year’s Resolutions. More often than not, we fall back on tried and true resolutions: starting a diet, going back to school, reading more, etc. When jotting down your resolutions this year, pause to consider how the New Year could include more self-care. There are alternative methods of wellness including meditation, mindfulness and touch therapy, all of which can meet this task with astounding results. New research has found increasingly proven benefits of touch therapy in combating stress-related anxiety and fatigue, and easing the body and mind.

How Stress Harms the Body and Mind

Not even the most thorough of break-downs could accurately portray the debilitating effects of stress on the body and mind. People experience the effects of stress and anxiety quite differently. The most common indicators of stress include aching muscles and frequent headaches, which are often attributed to other factors and ignored.

When the body is constantly under a state of stress, it begins to wear away at the cardiovascular and respiratory systems by affecting breathing and heart rate. Breath-intake becomes short and restricted, and a chronically-increased heart rate could lead to hypertension, a stroke or even a heart attack.

The digestive system may also begin acting up, introducing acid reflux into the system, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting. The muscles become tensed up, prone to aches and perpetually fatigued.

Even the immune system experiences the brunt of stress: people under chronic stress are more vulnerable to catching colds, viruses and the flu.

The negative effects of stress and anxiety are not limited to the body alone. Stress can lead to depression and anxiety, which may gradually evolve into clinical mental disorders and lead to a chronically fatigued, tumultuous state of mind. People suffering from depression often experience an inability to empathize broadly, to engage actively in life and to feel positive, productive or content. They also cite insomnia, irritability and isolation as common symptoms.

Keeping in mind all of possible impacts stress can wreck on the body, the science behind touch therapy becomes all the more logical and appealing. Sometimes the body needs to feel a warm, soothing touch to ease back into its normal functioning.

Fight Stress with Self-Care, Including Touch Therapy

Self-care is often as simple as to making time for yourself. Methods include exercise, meditation, massage, mindfulness practice, writing/journaling and even coloring. Additionally, reminding your self to take a day off, cook a favorite meal, or catching up with friends and family may help as well. Self-care boils down to simply reminding yourself of your own value and worth.

When people need a more intimate connection with another human being, they can turn to touch therapy or cuddling. Touch therapy proves to be a pioneering phenomenon. It combines the immersive comforts of physical touch through a therapeutic cuddling session with the benefits of a one-on-one mindful connection in a safe, judgment-free space.

Humans instinctively find comfort in touch and reassurance: we hold hands during times of fear or happiness, we embrace the bereaved or joyous, and we sometimes communicate entirely through touch and physical contact. It is for this reason that touch therapy is an excellent way to alleviate stress, anxiety and general feelings of discontent and loneliness. The effects are both physical and psychological.

Our skin is the largest organ of our body and is very responsive and sensitive. Even a gentle touch releases the hormone “oxytocin,” the feel-good hormone, which helps relieve stress, lessen anxiety and depression, and creates a sense of happiness and well-being.

The benefits of physical touch include lowered blood pressure, improved self-esteem and mood and reduced stress. Studies show the giving or receiving of affection in ways such as hugging, cuddling and holding hands can help us feel better, relieve physical pain and instill a sense of calm.

How to Break Free from the Resolution/Failure Pattern

There’s no better time to be encouraged to make a positive change for your personal wellness than now. We have all of these ideas and visions of how we will better our mental and physical health, however, often the reality and stress of everyday life pushes us right back to where we started.

Here are a few ways to break out of this pattern:

Failure is Only Found in Giving Up

If you haven’t given up, then you haven’t failed. Self-improvement is more difficult than most want to admit. Ups and downs are normal- the important thing is to keep going in the right direction regardless of setbacks.

Stop Black and White Thinking

Life isn’t always black and white, and if our progress is evaluated within such constraints, you’ll no doubt wind up with two contradictory assessments of your progress. In order to avoid this pitfall, keep a small journal of your progress. It can be as simple as putting a check mark every day you walk, refrain from processed foods, or any other goal that’s important to you. When black and white thinking rears its ugly head, go to your journal- you’ll have proof to counter back.

Small Steps

Regardless of your intentions, if you try to do too much at once, you’ll no doubt become overwhelmed and quit. Pick one thing most important to you that will positively impact your health and wellness. Once you master that one, making it part of a healthy life change, move on to another, then another.

The bottom line is: you have the tools to accomplish your resolutions this year. Here’s to a stronger, healthier you, mind, body and soul, in the New Year and years to come!

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