Self-care is one of the most important aspects for creating mental and physical wellbeing, but too often we neglect ourselves. You’re busy caring for others, you’re working, you’re going to school…but whatever it is you’re doing, you still need to take time to nurture yourself.
To be more mindful of your own care, treat yourself the way you would a small child. If you were in charge of the wellbeing of that child, you would take incredible care to make sure she was nourished, rested, and happy. You would feed her with energizing foods, offer her compassion and spiritual guidance, teach her things that stretch her mind, and show her the joy and sense of gratitude that comes from interacting with others. Now imagine you are that small child. Have you been caring for yourself the way you would for her? If not, here are five tips to help you nurture and care for yourself.
- Get plenty of sleep: It should go without saying, but sleep is integral to protecting physical, emotional, and intellectual wellness. It’s one of the most important factors of overall health and wellbeing. Lack of sleep can wreak havoc on the body, mind, and spirit. Nightly requirements for length of sleep varies, but many experts agree that between 7 and 9 hours is optimal for most people. Less than that can cause sluggishness, lack of focus, and even lead to other bad habits for example, late night snacking. For sleeplessness, get help to identify the underlying causes.
- Exercise regularly: We are not meant to be stationary creatures. We are an active race. And activity can impose a number of potential health problems. But regular exercise and moderate activity has a multitude of benefits, including keeping blood sugar in check, managing proper weight levels, and affording us the energy we need to get through the day. And activity releases endorphins, the neurotransmitters in our brains which reduce pain and stress, and increases feelings of happiness, modulates our appetites, and enhances our bodies’ immune response. Find a type of movement you enjoy and make it a habit.
- Eat cleanly and simply: It is far too easy to grab a box, can, or jar of something to eat when we’re hungry. We are inundated with convenience foods, which are laden with chemicals and additives that can be harmful to our bodies. Eating cleanly and simply is the best way to nourish your body and get the vital nutrients from real foods. When you’re shopping, buy from the perimeter aisles at the grocery store. Avoid packaged, processed foods—those that come in a box, can, or jar. Make sure to read labels. The first listed ingredients are usually the main ingredients—often it’s sugar, high fructose corn syrup, or an unpronounceable chemical or food. If you can’t pronounce it, you shouldn’t be eating it. Attempt to stick to foods that ARE ingredients, rather than those WITH ingredients. Plan your meals and spend a day or two each week preparing and cooking whole, natural foods. Minimize alcohol and sugar consumption and eat more fruits and vegetables in their purest forms. Consider eating organic and local whenever possible.
- Meditate, pray, worship: Faith is a wonderful thing. No matter what your beliefs, taking time to reflect and appreciate life through meditation, prayer, or worship is important. Studies have shown that meditation and prayer reduce depression, ease stress and anxiety, and create a sense of harmony and comfort to the mind, body, and spirit. Whether you practice on your own or at your chosen place of worship, allow for the space of reflection to guide you.
- Have dedicated YOU time: There’s a reason airlines tell you to take care of yourself before your neighbor. You cannot help anyone else if you don’t first help yourself. To be at your best, it’s important to take time out for just yourself. Block off regular chunks of time in your calendar for relaxation breaks. Do this on a daily and weekly basis. Throughout the day, take 5-10 minutes every few hours to close your eyes and focus on your breathing. Read or listen to soothing music. Take a walk outside or sip your favorite tea and just enjoy the moment of peace. Hug a loved one. Do your favorite light activity. Take a hot herbal bath or schedule a spa treatment. Do something solely for yourself that you enjoy.
Nurturing and caring for yourself with compassion and love is essential to a healthy lifestyle and aids us in productivity, peace and balance, and being in-tune with our minds and bodies.