Happy International Self-Care Day! When I think of self-care, a luxurious spa day comes to mind. I can picture it now: me, sitting in a lounge chair in a fluffy cotton robe, with a mask on my face as I get my nails done and sip on cold, sparkling Champagne. That sounds amazing, but self-care is so much more than treating yourself to a spa day, a vacation or a shopping spree.
Self-Care Day, Everyday
Self-care should also be a part of our daily or weekly routines, as opposed to something we do when we are at a breaking point. Think of it like getting an oil change on your car. Just like regularly maintaining your car keeps it from breaking down, taking care of our bodies both physically and mentally on a regular basis can help us to thrive and avoid burnout. Below are 5 ways we can celebrate self-care day today and everyday.
1. Get Some Sleep
Our sleep requirements change as we age, and it seems like those “requirements” are different between different types of people. Some of us can function on five hours of sleep nightly, and others of us need nine or ten hours of sleep to feel rested. The CDC suggests that adults aged 18-60 years should aim for seven or more hours of sleep every night. How much sleep are you getting? I know I aim for eight hours per night, but that’s not realistic for me on a daily basis. Not getting enough sleep is linked to several chronic conditions, including depression, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, stroke and obesity.
Getting enough sleep is something that is mostly within our control that can have a major impact on our physical and mental health. It is, therefore, an important aspect of self-care. There are several ways to improve sleep, and these fall under the category of “sleep hygiene”. Having a consistent bedtime routine, sleeping in a cool dark room, turning off the electronics and avoiding caffeine close to bedtime hours can help improve the quality of your sleep.
2. Make Time to Move Your Body
We should ideally be aiming for about 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity exercise, but life definitely gets in the way. Like my husband says, anything is better than nothing. Set aside one day and spend 15 minutes moving your body. This could mean going on a walk, doing some Yoga with Adriene, or sweating it out on the elliptical while you watch your favorite show. I promise, it will make you feel better. I have had days when the absolute last thing I want to do is exercise, because I have a headache or I’m just plain exhausted.
Just getting the blood pumping for even 5 minutes can boost your mood and energy levels, and reduce stress. Exercising can also improve sleep. It’s important to make fitness a priority. Many of us want to get there, but making that lifestyle change can be difficult to do all at once. Focus on taking small steps and making micro-changes until you are ready to make that big leap. Here’s a cool infographic from the CDC about physical activity.
3. Eat Something that Makes You Feel Good
If you’ve been neglecting yourself to the point where you’re skipping meals (and I’ve frequently been there), making it a point to snack regularly and eat three meals per day can really improve how you’re feeling. The edginess and the “hangry” feeling you get from skipping meals can take a toll on your performance at work and your relationships at home. It is easy to lose focus and become fatigued when you are not supplying your body and your brain with the energy they need to function optimally.
For me, skipping meals was also a trigger for my migraines. Forcing myself to hydrate well and eat frequently (advice from my doctor) has reduced those episodes drastically. Really think about what makes you feel good when you eat it. I love donuts. Donuts are my guilty pleasure. While I feel amazing eating them in the moment, I always regret it later on in the day. What really makes me feel great all day are fruits and salads, lean protein and whole grains. Figure out what those foods are for you and include more of them in your snacks and meals. If you want some inspiration, check out my Greek-Inspired salad recipe!
4. Get Off Social Media
Social media is a great way to connect with family and friends, especially during these challenging times. While social media is integral to being connected to others, it’s important to establish boundaries for the sake of wellness. The first boundary is time. How many hours are you spending scrolling through Instagram, Facebook or TikTok? Imagine if some of that time was spent doing something for your own mental health. What if even 15 minutes was spent going on a walk, getting some sleep, or actually talking to someone you love on the phone? When social media use gets in the way of maintaining your physical and mental well-being, that’s when I say it’s too much.
I also set boundaries around who I follow on social media. Surround yourself with positivity. Connect with those who are there to support you and cheer for you as you go through life. Consider un-following bullies and others who make you feel less valuable than you are. We have control over what we are exposed to on social media. We should make every effort to not let anyone or anything steal our joy.
5. Combat Negative Self Talk with Pampering
Finally, circling back to the spa day situation, self-care can include a little bit of pampering. Putting a mask on or painting your nails can be stress-relieving. For me, a pampering session is my antidote for negative self-talk. Sometimes my thoughts spiral to the point where I feel like I don’t deserve to take care of myself. I skip showering, I let my leg hairs grow out and I stop trying. This self-neglect is a step in the wrong direction.
My best weapon is to do one thing nice for myself. I might shave my legs one night, or take the time to style my hair differently. These little things give me a confidence boost. They help to shift my thoughts so that I can tell myself “I deserve it”. Maybe that’s not your reality and you radiate confidence at all times, and that’s amazing! For all of us, taking the time to pamper yourself is like repeating a mantra of “I’m beautiful, I deserve to be pampered, I am worth it.” Taking time to pamper yourself can reinforce a sense of confidence and pride in who you are, which is a great step in making wellness a priority.
Self-care day should be more than just having a spa day, although that can definitely be part of your routine. Self-care should be practiced everyday. Include it in your routine the same way you make time for work and other obligations. Like the flight attendants say, put your mask on before attempting to help others with theirs. Self-care can help you to thrive and avoid burnout. It will help you to be more effective in loving and caring for those around you. Take care.