“I don’t have the time” is a phrase commonly heard coming from people we love, and one we’ve most likely used ourselves when considering the importance of self-care. Realistically speaking, finding the time for self-care seems impossible when stacked against our careers, raising children, paying bills, nourishing our relationships, and sleep. Oh, sweet sleep.
Still, as unnecessary and unattainable as it may seem when actively tackling the mundane tasks of each day, self-care is not only something we need to improve upon, but it’s important for our health. Have you ever heard the phrase “You can’t pour from an empty cup”? It’s true. It’s nearly impossible to live a life free of lifestyle-related illnesses and continue being here for our families, friends, and communities if we don’t first care for ourselves. In fact, an article published in the National Library of Medicine states “Changing the self-care behaviour of patients is relevant not only for preventing future health problems, such as heart disease and lung cancer, but also in mediating the course of long-term conditions.”
Sounds like self-care is important, right? It is, which is why we’re sharing our tips for practicing self-care.
Tips for Practicing Self-Care
Healthy Diet. If a balanced diet is not something you’re accustomed to, you’re not alone. According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, the typical American diet exceeds the recommended intake levels or limits in four categories:
- Calories from solid fats and added sugars
- Refined grains
- Saturated fat
On the contrary, Americans are eating less than the recommended amounts of veggies, fruits, whole-grains, dairy products, and oils. (U.S. Department of Health & Human Services ).
What does this have to do with the importance of self-care? Well, adding healthy, minimally-processed foods to our diets is a must, and –while not mentioned on the Facts & Statistics page of the HHS– doing that will naturally curb your desire for added sugars, sodium, refined grains, and saturated facts.
Keep in mind, when making adjustments to your diet, it’s important that you focus on what you can ADD, not on what you’ll lose/remove.
Physical Exercise. The American Heart Association, physicians, and –if you’re listening– your body, will all tell you the same thing: Exercise is your friend. Surprisingly, the HHS says “more than 80% of adults do not meet the guidelines for both aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities”. It goes without saying by committing to working out in some form is committing to a healthier you. More importantly, it’s an investment into a healthier further. So get up and get moving!
Stress Management. We all experience stressful situations. When this happens, we generally notice an increase in our heart rate, hot flashes, knots in our stomachs, or maybe even tension in our shoulders. The question is: What coping mechanisms have you set in place for dealing with high-stress situations?
How we handle stress is important in maintaining a healthy heart. For some, the stress built up throughout the day is relieved during an after-work yoga or gym session. For others, immediate removal from the situation coupled with some breathing techniques by Andrew Weil, M.D. they’ve found useful. If you’re unsure of where to begin, heartfulness meditation is a beautiful place to begin. Through this practice, you will learn to connect with nature experience stress relief, and –over time– notice an improved quality of life and sleep. What’s more, the practice is offered free of charge!
Overall, it’s important you find a way to manage stress that works for you. If the thought of something stresses you out, ask yourself why, then try something that doesn’t prove to be as stressful for you. Finding a practice that adds peace of mind while simultaneously removing the negativity is what it’s all about.
Find Your Tribe. It may be the women (or men) in your yoga class, old friends from college, new friends you’ve met through your child’s playgroup, or the family members you’ve known your entire life. Having people you can count on to support you when you feel you cannot support yourself is just as important as eating well and exercising. Just as fire needs air, human beings need the love, comfort and support of other humans. So find your tribe. If you already have, thank them for being there with you.
Treat Yourself. To something relaxing, that is. For many people –especially parents– a fancy quad-shot latte with breve has become a treat for those chaotic days. However, too much caffeine increases our heart rate and can make us even more anxious and stressed out than we care to be.
The next time you want to treat yourself to something nice, take a warm bath infused with lavender, cleanse your skin with a rejuvenating soap bar, steep a hot cup of chamomile (or whatever your favorite caffeine-free herbal tea is!), and relax. Read a book, journal, pull out your colored pencils and draw… do what relaxes YOU. Your mind, body, and soul will thank you for it.
Understanding the importance of self-care can make a world of difference in the practices we choose to implement in order to improve our overall physical, mental and emotional health. Tell us, what positive changes will you be making?