Today’s hectic world can have us so caught up with getting or staying ahead, we can allow our own needs to fall to the wayside. We may view self-care as an optional add-on to our busy days, and then we wonder why we feel like we’re attempting to tread water in quicksand.
We need to take care of ourselves before we can take care of anyone or anything else. Self-care is not an act of selfishness; it’s one of compassion and accountability. And there’s more to it than bubble baths and adult coloring books; real self-care is part of a healthy lifestyle, one that optimizes our chances of being healthy, happy and successful.
Take Time to Recharge
We can’t expect to function well when we’re running on empty half the time, but we may struggle to find effective ways to recharge. We all work differently; the basic bubble bath and a good book might be the perfect wind-down for one person, but a creative project or a long phone conversation with an old friend might be just what the doctor ordered for another.
We need to make sure we’re setting aside time for ourselves—once or twice a week at a minimum. We must feed our souls.
Another vital aspect to recharging is getting enough sleep, which may feel easier said than done. Working on sleep hygiene and setting up a solid sleep routine can do wonders for overall energy levels.
Self-care is all about finding balance in our lives, and learning to set healthy boundaries is an important part of that. Life is stressful enough already, and we only make it worse when we allow other people to walk all over us or overfill our plates.
Whether we’re at work or dealing with an overbearing family member, we must assert our right to say “no.” Then, when we are able to say “yes,” we can tackle the task on our terms, which can alleviate a lot of potential stress.
Get Proper Nourishment
Too many of us have fallen into unhealthy Western eating habits and then failed to connect them with increases in physical and emotional health issues. There’s really no easy way to say this: Processed food products are not food. They don’t provide the body with all the building blocks it needs to stay healthy. They may taste good and satisfy the cravings, but they’re toxic knock-offs of the real deal.
Our bodies need the right balance of proteins, vitamins, minerals and an array of different types of plant fiber—and no matter how fortified a product is, there’s no replacing the real, natural sources to these nutrients. We often have no idea what we’ve been missing until we take a leap with our eating habits and learn to nourish our cells rather than satisfy fleeting cravings. A shift to a healthy, balanced diet can be life changing.
Strengthen the Body
Be it through sedentary lifestyle, illness or overscheduled days, we may not get the exercise we need. As a result, our bodies can grow weak over time, which can leave us open to chronic pain. About 20% of adults eventually fall into that potentially disabling pit, which can make a person want to be even less active.
In truth, many sufferers can improve their overall pain levels by exercising more regularly. Stronger muscles are able to hold supporting tissues more securely, making issues like chronic back pain less likely. In addition, muscle burns calories—so the more muscle we’re able to build, the more effective our metabolisms will be.
Mindfulness and reflection can come in different forms, but they’re an essential part of emotional growth. Without either, we can stagnate, falling into unhealthy ruts or clinging to old coping mechanisms that no longer serve us.
Through meditation, we can develop greater inner peace. It may not keep us graceful in all circumstances (we’re all still only human), but it can make dealing with many of life’s obstacles just a little easier. It takes practice, and it can be hard to get started, but regular meditation can open doors most people had no idea existed.
Some people enjoy guided meditations, which use visualization and breathing techniques to help rein in the body and mind. Other practitioners might prefer quieting their thoughts with the use of mantras or moments of silence. And then some people might find their meditation while taking a walk on a trail, singing in a choir or even while they’re washing dishes—whatever quiets the mind.
It’s important that we learn not to be afraid of being alone with our thoughts. The mind is the most powerful part of the body; when we learn to work with it instead of against it, real progress is possible.
Those of us who take steps to improve our self-care often find the resulting changes are gradual but progressive. We may not even realize how far we’ve come until we take a moment to look back on ourselves from a fixed point, and then we really do see the growth. Remember: It took a long time for us to fall into many of our bad habits, so it also might take a while to establish positive new ones.
They’re so worth the effort.