Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Time to take better care of yourself

We absolutely love to talk about self care, don’t we? It's plastered all over the Instagram and everything. I have issues with what self-care means to the general public, but that's a post for another day because at the end of this one self care is the term I'm using for taking better care of yourself. We post about self-care, we talk about it endlessly, yet we’re all guilty of failing to take care of ourselves properly at some point. Whether we’re working too many hours leaving no time to unwind, have forgotten how to say no, over-scheduled ourselves, whatever...this is the year to figure out how to take care of ourselves even when we’re pressed in all other areas.

Taking care of yourself doesn’t have to be expensive or difficult (expensive being the issue I have with many self care shares online). Making small changes can have big impacts that last through those hated busy times. Where to start?

Care for Your Body
Your body does a lot for you but how much do you think about it? We tend to care for our bodies only when there’s a problem but the reality is that there’s plenty you can do to prevent those problems occurring in the first place. 

Hygiene is particularly important, though I'm talking beyond making sure your smelly areas don't smell. Many people don’t take proper care of their dental health, which can lead to serious problems later in life. Poor dental health can lead to heart attack among other serious conditions so brushing twice a day and seeing your dentist regularly is essential. And for the sake of all that is holy learn from my mistakes and FLOSS. If you do have poor teeth, don’t write yourself off, you can get an implant that lasts many decades to replace individual teeth as well as multiple teeth. Science is amazing.

Your skin also deserves some attention. There are 6897799 articles on the internet full of advice and more products than feels possible. The best advice is to treat your skin according to its type and whether you wear makeup or not. If you have acne or another skin condition, consult a dermatologist. Try to use products without harmful ingredients. Do your research.

Then my most hated - activity level. I’m not a hard core exerciser but I do try to walk as much as possible and when I’m at the shore, I bike too. Over 40,  stretching is an absolute must or my back doesn’t want to do what it should. Stretching and exercises of the pilate or yoga type will stretch your muscles out, preventing aches and pains that come with sitting around all day. You don't have to run five miles or do CrossFit but you absolutely have to do something and over 30 light weights will help you make sure you can get your own self off the toilet at 70. And don't we all want that?

Some additions from friends - regular massage therapy, chiropractor and acupuncture visits (my additions). Stay on top of your preventatives-colonoscopies, mammos, full body scans at the dermatologist, etc. 

Alter Your Diet
Changing your diet isn’t going to happen overnight so instead of making a radical change, try making smaller changes along the way. For example, if you make a conscious decision to eat more fruit and vegetables, you will naturally find that you eat fewer carbohydrates and fats - you won’t have room on your plate or in your stomach. I personally need about 807 more vegetables and less salty/oily meat, cheese and sweet things. 

I am not a cutter outer though. I believe in balance in all areas, and in regards to diet this means eating a wide variety of foods, including every food group. I am wary of any diet that suggests you cut out carbs or significantly reduces what you are allowed to eat. When I want to improve my diet, I actually add new foods, in lieu of taking foods away. For example, there are lots of benefits to including fermented foods in your diet. I am not a kombucha drinker but know many who swear by it. 

Keeping track of what I'm eating is a really good way to learn more about my habits plus I love lists. A food journal doesn’t need to be complicated, either, just write down what you’re eating and consider why you have chosen that meal. I jot it down in my Everything Notebook. I overeat on days when I'm anxious or tired and under-eat on busy/stressful days. My diet is better when I have more time to cook (duh). This is why preparing meals ahead of time is so important to me. If nothing else, writing down your food habits will make you more aware and mindful of what you’re eating, giving you a better chance to change bad habits and foster better ones. If you eat like crap when you’re busy, make sure you make and freeze meals so you always have healthy options.

Deal with Your Stress
Stress is one of the most common issues people struggle with in daily life. Part of the problem is that we often accept that overwhelming stress is a part of modern life; it doesn’t occur to us that we could make a change or that the stress might be too much (see my post Stress Should Not Be Our Accepted Resting State). While accepting some stress is a healthy response, learning methods to reduce stress and to handle stress more effectively is really important. 

Mindfulness works for lots of people as it gives them a chance to slow down and slow their thoughts too. The idea is that by giving yourself time to root in the world again, by focusing on your breath or the sounds around you, you will feel calmer. Once you are calm, it becomes easier to deal with the roots of your stress. It’s a lot easier to problem solve with a still mind than it is to figure out a solution when your mind is spinning like a top. 

Sometimes, mindfulness comes most easily with a relaxing activity. For example, you could create a Zen garden and rake the sand while you calm your thoughts. Read a book, draw a picture, listen to some music, piddle around in the kitchen, pet a dog. Any activity that allows you to slow down and be in the moment can really help to de-stress and give you time to breathe. 

Stop living according to the ideals of other people
Of course, you can only de-stress so much through mindfulness. You should also look at your lifestyle and see where you could reduce the pressure you are putting on yourself and where you might make changes to be healthier. Start by stopping. Stop comparing yourself to other people, living by other people’s ideals, acting like life is perfect, and being anything you’re not.  Be yourself. It’s much less stressful. 

Taking good care of yourself is a big component of a healthy, enjoyable life. Giving yourself time to look at your lifestyle and figure out where you could make some improvements is the best gift you can give yourself this year. You owe it to yourself before you do one single thing for anyone else.

What are some things you would add? 

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