The Top 10 Ways to Practice Better Self-Care
Self-Care Is the Best Care
Your well-being starts with caring for what’s most important — yourself. Learning how to focus on your own mental and physical health can help you combat anxiety, reduce stress and stay fit. From a quick workout to a simple act of kindness or a personal indulgence, every action you take that makes your life and world a little better brings major benefits to your overall mental and physical well-being. Here’s a list of 10 things you can do to care for yourself.
1. Eat Healthy
When you feel stressed, food can be your ally or your enemy. The food we eat significantly affects our minds and bodies. Avoid unhealthy foods that make you feel bad or stressed, including sugar, processed carbohydrates, alcohol and caffeine. Instead, add fruits and vegetables to brighten up your diet and overall well-being.
“Adopt the mindset of eating to live, not living to eat,” said Dr. Tracey Johnson, assistant director for the CONCERN Employee Assistance Program. “You’re more likely to make poor choices when you shop impulsively. Carve out time to write a grocery list and make healthy choices. You’ll feel satisfied physically and mentally.”
2. Exercise Regularly
From a brisk walk to yoga to a vigorous workout, exercise stimulates blood flow and endorphins, which are chemicals that trigger positive feelings in the body. As a form of self-care, regular exercise not only helps you maintain a healthy weight but also boosts your energy and mood.
“Add exercise to your schedule — maybe three times a week or a little every day,” said Johnson. “Park your car farther away or take the stairs instead of the elevator. Even getting 10,000 steps per day is a huge benefit to physical health.”
Sleep affects how you feel and can even cause health issues. To promote better sleep, make sure your nightly routine is free of distractions, caffeine, bright lights and screens. A full night of sleep refreshes the mind and body.
“Sleep helps you build energy for memory, emotion and learning during your waking hours,” said Johnson. “It’s a gift to yourself to get a full night’s sleep.”
To feel refreshed throughout the day, Johnson recommends sitting still and paying attention to your breathing and heartbeat for five minutes.
4. Put Down Your Phone
The number of smartphone users in the world now totals 3.5 billion. Although technology helps you get to your destination and stay connected with far-away friends, it also has serious health effects, such as brain fatigue, eye strain, neck pain, sleep disruption and shortened attention span.
Try a digital detox. Instead of checking your timeline, talk directly to a friend or coworker. Turn off notifications, don’t take your phone to meals, and schedule time for answering emails and returning calls.
5. Have Fun
Life is to be enjoyed, so do something you normally wouldn’t do or indulge a guilty pleasure. Some people dance, draw, ride a bike, write in a journal or bake. Others may reminisce with old photographs or plan a party with family and friends.
6. Get Involved
“Volunteering is a positive way to feel connected to your community,” said Johnson. “You may discover that you get more back than you put out.”
To improve happiness, give your time to causes you care about, such as volunteering as a dog walker at an animal shelter or spending time with residents at a retirement home. When volunteer activities don’t fit into your schedule, try donating resources, such as clothing, housewares or food.
“Someone else gets blessed, but you also get blessed in return,” said Johnson.
7. Be Nice to Someone
Kindness releases feel-good hormones called serotonin. Kindness helps us relate to others and craft stronger relationships with family, friends and strangers. In addition to boosting serotonin levels, small acts of kindness can help relieve anxiety. It doesn’t matter if it’s to a friend or a complete stranger, say or do something nice. It feels better every time you do it.
8. Treat Yourself
Buy yourself flowers, attend a concert, eat dessert first or even get a massage. You know what you like — do it!
9. Clean and Organize
Whether it’s piles of paper, laundry or random items, clutter can be stressful.
“We become attached to tangible things,” said Johnson. “Sometimes, we live with clutter for so long we forget that it’s just taking up space. It’s nice to see the surface of your desk or the bottom of a messy drawer.”
Decluttering your home or workspace helps declutter your mind, too. Organizing can be an exercise in gratitude for the items you own. It’s a time to pause and give thanks for what you have.
Whether it’s once a day, week or month, take time to remember how important it is to care for yourself. Start by looking for small ways to incorporate self-care into your routine. Find an activity you enjoy and repeat it often.
Johnson acknowledges that self-care isn’t always easy. Most of us are too consumed with work, busy family schedules and technology to make time for ourselves.
“You’re not being selfish when you practice self-care,” said Johnson. “Many people don’t realize self-care is a necessity. If you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t be there for others in a real and meaningful way. When you practice self-care, you’re truly able to live a full life.”