13 Jan The Best Self Care Guide for 2022: Steam Shower Edition
In recent years the term “self-care” has become more and more prevalent, especially since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. But what is self-care? According to the World Health Organization, self-care is “the ability of individuals, families and communities to promote health, prevent disease, maintain health, and to cope with illness and disability with or without the support of a health worker.” While self-care involves seeking the help of medical professionals when needed, it also emphasizes checking in with yourself to determine what you need to feel healthy. This may include anything from making more time for relaxation throughout the day to getting more sleep at night—just two of the many health benefits of a steam shower. In this post we’ll detail these and other ways to use your steam shower as a means for self-care.
Quick Tip: In his TED Talk titled “Why We All Need to Practice Emotional First Aid,” psychologist Guy Winch says, “It is time we close the gap between our physical and our psychological health. It’s time we made them more equal.”
Steam for Stress Relief
Stress is a part of life as well as a part of our biology. While bursts of the stress hormone cortisol are what once helped our ancestors escape predators, today this stress response can prove more of a hindrance than a help, causing a slew of negative health outcomes. One way to counteract this is by eliciting the relaxation response—a term coined by Dr. Herbert Benson. “Dr. Benson describes the Relaxation Response as a physical state of deep relaxation which engages the other part of our nervous system—the parasympathetic nervous system,” writes Dr. Marilyn Mitchell in Psychology Today. This can be achieved using a number of methods, including visualization, breathing techniques, and meditation—all of which are easy to perform in the steam shower.
Aromatherapy for Relaxation and Respiratory Health
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought the issues of stress and respiratory health to the forefront in recent months, renewing interest in the ancient practice of aromatherapy. An article published in the journal Alternative and Complementary Therapies defines aromatherapy as “the art and science of using aromatic plant essential oils for therapeutic purposes”—a practice that can be easily combined with a steam shower. While aromatherapy can be used for relaxation and stress relief, many essential oils also have “antiviral, anti-inflammatory, and immunomodulatory properties,” making it an excellent self-care practice for these times. Try eucalyptus oil for cough and congestion, and use lavender to relieve anxiety and depression or to calm down before sleep. Combine these with a few simple breathing techniques and you have the perfect self-care practice for the steam shower.
Exercise and Exercise Recovery
Almost every list of self-care practices includes exercise, and for good reason. Exercise comes with myriad benefits, including improved mood, boosted energy, and better sleep. But self-care doesn’t end with your workout. Pairing exercise with a steam shower enhances the effects of your workout while guarding against sore muscles and injury. In a Forbes article about tips for arthritis sufferers, Mayo Clinic rheumatologist Ashima Makol says, “Using a steam room before exercise can help loosen up the joints and increase flexibility, and reduce joint pain.”
Quick Tip: To avoid overheating and dehydration, limit your steam shower duration to 20 minutes, and cool down gradually afterward.
Self-Care Through Sleep
Sleep is the foundation for everything we do during the day. A bad night’s sleep can negatively affect our mood, our decision-making, and our ability to focus on work and other tasks. During stressful times, sleep can be the first thing to suffer, making healthy sleep habits a crucial part of self-care. To practice sleep-related self-care, The Sleep Council suggests establishing a good nighttime routine, avoiding caffeine eight hours before bed, and finding ways to relax in the evening, such as “a warm bath” and “investing in some ‘me time.’” New research backs up this guidance: a recent study published in the journal Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine found that “warm steam inhalation before bedtime induced psychological relaxation and increased deep sleep in the early sleep episode, leading to an improved subjective sleep quality in participants with mild sleep difficulties and anxiety.” So be sure to enjoy some steamy self-care before bed for improved sleep.
Published November 18, 2020. Updated January 13, 2022