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CONSULT January 2020

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To ensure health, young adults should seek self-care mindset

Published on Wednesday, January 1, 2020

By: Ruth Cummins

When a mother tells her millennial child, “Take care of yourself,” eating a healthy diet and getting enough sleep and exercise might seem to be enough.

But for true self-care, young adults in the “Millennial” age group of about 23-38 must also take care of their mental and emotional health.

That can be a tall order for a population that’s big on technology, but perhaps not so big on routine preventive care and consistently good decision-making on health issues.

Portrait fo Danny Burgess.jpg

“A lot of times, Millennials will talk to me and say that when they’re overwhelmed or stressed, they will watch Netflix for two or three hours, or thumb through Facebook on their phones,” said Dr. Danny Burgess, an associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Mississippi Medical Center and director of the Center for Integrative Health. “There’s nothing wrong with disengaging, but it’s a passive coping behavior.

“With self-care, you need to recognize what your body needs, and you need to be intentional about it.”

Taking good care of your body at any age is a key to good health, but in young adults, getting into a mindset of self-care might be necessary to achieve health goals.

“Self-care has to do with your physical body, your emotions and your spiritual, social and leisure time needs,” Burgess said. “I want my patients to think of care in all of those areas, and then ask themselves, ‘What is it that works for me, and how can I intentionally incorporate that into my life?’

“For some people, it might be going to yoga or going for a run; for some, it might be journaling. It’s not just going home and crashing on the couch. You deliberately engage in activities that are good for you.”


Millennials would do well to practice boundaries between their work and their personal life, said Dr. Daniel Williams, Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior division chief and associate director of the Office of Well-being.

“This balance may be slightly different for different people and different jobs, but having a way to separate yourself from work is important,” Williams said. “Consider some boundaries such as not answering the phone or texts during dinner, or not checking work emails after hours unless it’s a true emergency.”

He said the biggest hurdle to Millennials practicing self-care is the guilt they might feel. However, “self-care is not selfish,” he said.

“Taking time for yourself isn’t a selfish thing to do. That might be treating yourself to a nice dinner or taking a bubble bath or just cocooning in your bed. You’re not doing something at the expense of someone else, but instead, taking care of yourself so that you can be productive in life and in relationships.”

Even small, quick actions can contribute to self-care, Williams said.

“Learn fast-acting ways to relax. Practicing mindfulness, deep breathing or meditation that can be done in several-minute blocks and can significantly improve how you feel. Taking a few minutes between meetings, at lunch or when you get home from work, to center your thoughts and bodily responses can make a surprising difference.”

And Williams suggests if running or a yoga class seem impossible to fit into a schedule, one can still move toward fitness – at the office.

“A good first step is to take a few minutes at work to get up out of your chair and move your body in a gentle way,” he said. “Stretch your muscles to let your body get out of your usual computer posture. Walk down the hall and get a drink from the water fountain. Maybe even take the stairs to your next meeting.”

Self-care in Millennials, Burgess said, “is not always well-modeled for us. It’s always, ‘How are you helping other people?’ or ‘Are you working as hard as you can?’

“There’s not enough emphasis on the balance. You need to pause and be deliberate about your self-care and not feel guilty.”

Burgess advises Millennials to plan self-care into their schedules, just like a doctor’s appointment.

“You need to say that on Wednesday at a certain time, I’m going to read a book. That’s you planning and being deliberate about your self-care, and making it as much of a priority as going to a doctor’s appointment.

“Treat it as if it’s just as important.”

He said Millennials should reschedule their self-care if they have to delay it.

“If your bath time gets interrupted, reschedule your bubble bath to tomorrow. Make sure you keep your self-care behaviors as a priority and not something easily canceled or dismissed.

“You want to feel good about those behaviors, and feel good about yourself and taking care of yourself.”

“it’s natural for our time and attention to focus on our problems, worries and concerns,” Williams said. “Sometimes, this means that we don’t take time to savor our accomplishments, appreciate our successes and be grateful for good things in our lives.

“Write down a few things you are grateful for, tell a friend or family member why you appreciate them, and take stock of progress you have made recently. You may be surprised at what you find when you intentionally appreciate positive things in your life.”


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