The mention of the word “self-care” conjures images of spa days and bubble baths in dim lighting. In the words of the famous Lucille Ball, “Love yourself first and everything falls in line.” But there’s more. Practicing self-care goes well beyond what some may call self-indulgences. And there’s a good reason to do it.
Ultimately, the practice of self-care is an act of self-love. Taking care of yourself can lead to physical, emotional and mental health benefits. Getting started on your path to improved health and wellness through self-care may be easier than you think.
Give yourself permission.
It may sound cliché but it’s true. You can’t fill from an empty cup – though we so often try.
Balancing work, family, friends, and other responsibilities can sometimes leave you with little time for yourself. But it’s important to first nurture yourself to really be there for your loved ones and perform your best at work and beyond. So, let go of any guilt as you take the smallest step back to take care of yourself.
Now that you have permission, try making these self-care tips a regular part of your routine.
Pardon the perfect plate.
Perfection is overrated. But the way you fuel your body can make a big difference in how you feel. Taking a little time to think through and plan for healthy eating is indeed an act of self-care. And it may be easier than you think.
Sometimes what you see online and hear from friends can be overwhelming. But eating well doesn’t have to be difficult. Try these ways to eat a little better.
- Add don’t subtract. Instead of thinking about what to eliminate, focus on adding more fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean meat or plant-based protein like beans and peas to your diet. Just one extra vegetable per day or per week is progress. Celebrate each bite as a mini win!
- Take short cuts. You don’t have to cook everything from scratch to be healthy. Use low sodium canned beans for a quick vegetarian chili, stock frozen vegetables to toss into pasta or soup, and buy prepped salads with a rotisserie chicken from the supermarket to save time. These little things go a long way toward helping you make healthy choices with ease.
- Supplement as needed. If you’re having trouble meeting a certain nutrition target, speak with your healthcare professional. You might consider taking a high-quality multivitamin or another supplement.
Move your body.
Loving and respecting your body means giving it what it needs. And physical activity is another act of self-love. Especially as we age, engaging in regular movement can go a long way to improve mobility, flexibility, and maintaining muscle mass. In addition to boosting mood, regular physical activity might help with preventing falls and managing a healthy weight, among other benefits.
If hearing the word exercise makes you want to crawl under the covers, call it something else and make it your own with these ways to move more:
- Stretch it out. Yoga or simply stretching is an important part of physical fitness since it helps improve flexibility. Try stretching after your activity or start a morning yoga practice.
- Walk it out. You don’t have to run a marathon to reap the benefits of physical activity. Take a walk – short or long, brisk or slow. Just start somewhere. Even in the winter, bundle up and take that walk (or stroll) outside. The natural light might help boost your serotonin levels, and as a result, your mood too.
- Skip the gym? Yes. If the gym doesn’t bring you joy, skip it. Hit several self-love notes with your favorite music while you dance around the house. Not a dancer? Jump rope or go for a swim – whatever keeps you interested and moving on a regular basis.
Get enough sleep.
Though diet and exercise get the most attention when discussing health, sleep is an ultimate act of self-care. Try these tips to get more sleep:
- Be active. It may seem counterintuitive but being physically active during the day is associated with better sleep at night.
- Set a bedtime and wake time. Aim to go to sleep and wake up around the same time each day. And yes. Though sleeping in on Saturday sounds good, it’s recommended to stick to the same wake time on weekends.
- Mind the room. Sleeping in a cool, dark room might help with sleep. The National Sleep Foundation actually recommends keeping the temperature as low as 60-67 degrees.
- Use your bed for sleep and sex only. This might help train your brain to fall asleep when in bed, so you get to sleep faster.
Remember, even if you do just one of these things, it’s a step forward.