The term “self-care” could be perceived as selfish. But self-care doesn’t mean indulging yourself. It means taking care of yourself so that you can stay healthy, feel good, do your job effectively, help others and do the things you need and want to accomplish each day. Giving time and attention to your own well-being is every bit as important as caring for a loved one.
If you push yourself to the point of physical or emotional exhaustion, you won’t be at your best for yourself, your loved ones or at your job. Taking a break, and practicing self-care, will help you stay healthy, focused, and productive.
It’s tough not to buy into the myth that we must always be accomplishing something and must always be productive. But ignoring your own mental and physical well-being can lead to anxiety and depression. It can also lead to burnout, substance use or overeating can spark irritability, and can result in declining overall health.
The pandemic effects
Through most of 2020, fear of exposure to the coronavirus, and limited access to primary and specialty care, caused many people to delay important medical care. COVID-19 made it difficult for family caregivers to take time for their own health, as working from home and social distancing caused a loss of social support. This resulted in people feeling isolated.
Unhealthy eating and alcohol abuse became more common, and exercise routines were disrupted when gyms closed. Mental health worsened, and some people found it hard to reach out for help. Even today, with variants of the virus lingering, self-care hasn’t returned to where it was before the pandemic.
Make time to take care of yourself
Here are a few simple steps from the American College of Lifestyle Medicine to help you push self-care near the top of your priority list:
- Improve your physical health.
- Get active. As little as 10 minutes of exercise a day can improve your physical and emotional health.
- Eat healthy foods. A plant-rich diet that avoids or minimizes highly processed foods and added sugar can quickly improve your mood and energy. Try switching out one unhealthy choice a day, like swapping a cookie for an apple.
- Get enough sleep. Aim for at least seven hours of sleep on a regular schedule and try to avoid screen time and stressful thoughts in the hours right before bed.
- Screen for diseases. Don’t neglect preventive health screenings. Talk to a health professional about mammography, colonoscopy, and other tests you may need. And stay up to date on vaccinations.
- Take steps to boost your emotional health
- Find ways to relax. This could include yoga, meditation, and deep breathing. Or, carve out time to play with your children or pets. Like exercise, relaxing for 10 minutes a day is enough to have an impact on your life.
- Avoid risky behavior. Drinking or smoking to “get the edge off” or stress eating will hurt you in the long run. Reach out for help if you are having a hard time making healthier choices.
- Engage with family and friends. Social connections were missed during the worst of the pandemic. Try to socialize with people with similar interests who are also looking to rebuild a social network.
- Set boundaries. Taking on more than you can handle can drain your energy. It’s okay to say “No” to social invitations or requests for favors from family and friends. And, when you feel overwhelmed, it’s okay to ask for help.
Always keep in mind—especially when you’re feeling discouraged—that self-care will allow you to live a happier, healthier life. If you’re feeling more stressed than usual or have questions about your physical health, click here to schedule a free, 15-minute wellness consultation.