“Self-Care is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation.” -Audre Lorde
What does it really mean to care for yourself and why is it important? The quote above highlights that self-care isn’t being selfish or self-centered, but rather protecting and maintaining your physical, mental and social health so that you can increase your ability to cope with everyday challenges and stresses. Self-care can be broken down into three parts; physical, mental and social. Physical focuses on taking care of your body, mental focuses on taking care of your mind and social focuses on relationships and community. Consider the following practices and tips below to start taking care of yourself and improving your overall health and wellness.
Participate in Regular Physical Activity: It is recommended that healthy adults spend at least 30-60 minutes a day, 3-5 days a week doing moderate to vigorous aerobic exercise. Physical activity has been shown to reduce anxiety and improve mood. Going for a walk or hike, riding a bike, joining a dance class or group fitness class, are all great ways to get active. Eat Healthy: A healthy and balanced diet is very important when thinking about our physical self-care. Avoid sugar, junk food and foods high in saturated fats, and eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. Choose good lean sources of protein such as fish or turkey. Limit caffeine in large quantities as it can heighten feelings of stress and anxiety. Eating healthy has been shown to boost immunity, lower risk of chronic disease such as diabetes and heart disease, helps digestive system function, supports bones and muscles, and maintain a healthy weight. Avoid tobacco, alcohol and drugs: Smoking, and vaping increase risk of lung disease and also can affect your cholesterol negatively. Using drugs and/or alcohol frequently to cope with stress can only make things worse and will reduce your ability to deal with stress or everyday challenges.
Keep a regular routine: Keeping a regular routine is important to mental health. Keeping times for everyday tasks consistent can make you feel more in control, which has been shown to improve mental health. Find enjoyable hobbies: Staying busy by finding an enjoyable hobby can get you away from a negative thought processes that can feed stress and anxiety. Identifying a new project or going through that old storage closet you promised you would get to are great ways to stay busy and manage stress and anxiety. Set goals: Setting reasonable goals each day and outlining steps to achieve those goals can provide a huge boost in mental health and is another important piece of mental self-care.
Make connections: Find time each day to connect with others. Whether that is a co-worker, a friend, or a family member that you haven’t connected with a long time. Provide support for family member, friend or others: Find purpose in helping the people around you. For example, call or send a text checking in on friends, neighbors or family members and ask if they need anything. Something as easy as just sending a text to a friend or loved one can brighten their day.