Incorporating acts of self-care into your routine can help alleviate stress. The stress response is…
Your Guide to Reaping the Benefits of Self-Care
When you are busy juggling the responsibilities of family and work, remembering to also pay attention to your personal well-being can feel like a luxury you can’t afford. However, the benefits of self-care are abundant and can spill over into other areas of life now and in the long term.
What Is Self-Care, Anyway?
When you think about self-care, bubble baths and pedicures may come to mind. That’s often how self-care is depicted in magazines and news programs. The truth about self-care is that it encompasses many different things.
If you love taking long soaks in the tub or having your toes painted, those bubble baths and pedicures can definitely serve as part of your self-care routine—but spa treatments aren’t the only kinds of care that count. Self-care includes any activity that is solely focused on you and uplifts your health and well-being. When you engage in activities that are nurturing for you, the result is a calmer and steadier state of mind. By taking the best care of yourself, you are setting a strong foundation to take the best care of everyone else in your life.
Including care activities in your routine can help you manage stress in a healthy way, reduce your blood pressure, boost your mood, feel more energetic, and even reduce your risk of illness.
Putting Self-Care Into Action
Even when your schedule seems overpacked, finding a moment for yourself is important. There is no time like the present to get started. Pick up your calendar and look at the next month—or week if the month seems like too much. Make some appointments with yourself to engage in self-care, and resolve to hold yourself accountable. You could even team up with a friend to ensure you are taking steps to meet your self-care goals.
There are multiple types of self-care to consider. Ultimately, you want to include care plans to stimulate and uplift your health on every level, so don’t limit yourself on what self-care means to you. Find ways to support your wellness mentally and physically. (Eating lots of chocolate or binging reality TV for an entire weekend may feel like emotional self-care sometimes, but these indulgences stand to do more harm than good if practiced too often.)
Here are a few ideas to get started:
- Eat the rainbow. Yes, healthy eating habits are a key part of caring for yourself. Start by filling your plate with plenty of colorful fruits and veggies. Each hue contains distinct vitamins and nutrients, making a varied diet as beautiful as it is nutritious. Choose in-season produce at the local farmers market or grocery store, and build your meals around them. Fresh, local fruits and veggies are good for you and will delight your taste buds, too.
- Get plenty of quality sleep. Experts recommend that most adults sleep between seven and nine hours each night for optimal health, so take care to sleep within that range. However, be careful not to overdo it with the shut-eye. Sleeping too much can adversely affect your health and your energy levels just as much as skimping on sleep can. To set yourself up for a restful night of sleep, follow sleep hygiene tips, including going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, keeping your room cool and dark, and keeping technology, such as computers and televisions, out of your bedroom.
- Move your body. Make getting regular physical activity a priority. Exercise is an important part of physical self-care, but it will also make you feel better emotionally and mentally. Experts recommend getting at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity each week. If that seems impossible, break it down. That’s slightly more than 20 minutes per day (that don’t need to be done all at once) of an activity such as brisk walking.
- Prioritize activities that bring you joy. In addition to bubble baths and pedicures, self-care can also look like taking a hike, writing in a journal, or playing a musical instrument. You may also feel joy when you listen to music, read or participate in a book club, or practice a hobby, such as knitting or puzzles. Spiritual self-care, such as attending regular church services, meditating or praying, or singing in a choir, can also be uplifting.
- Spend time with friends and family. If you want to, that is. Part of practicing self-care is defining boundaries and learning to say no. Relationships can play an important part in keeping you healthy, but the relationships themselves must be healthy. Spend time nurturing the relationships that help keep you mentally, physically, and socially stimulated. Relationships should be reciprocal, so you’re looking for loved ones who help support and encourage you as you do the same.
- Visit your doctor. Has it been a while since you saw your primary care provider or had a skin check by a dermatologist? Schedule your next appointment. Regularly seeing your medical providers is a key part of self-care that can improve your long-term health. They can identify signs of underlying conditions that may not be on your radar and recommend tips to address these conditions before they become problematic.
Wondering whether an activity is self-care? If it brings you joy and fulfillment, the answer is probably yes! You aren’t limited to the activities outlined above. The point is to find activities and practices that help you stay level and strong—ready to live your best year.
Looking for other ways to boost your heart health? Find a cardiologist to help you develop a strategy for a healthy 2024.