Self care: It seems so simple, but it’s difficult for so many of us.
Why? Part of the reason is that we are too busy. Teens are often rushing from school to sports to jobs and back home again for chores, family time, and homework. Adults also have full-time jobs and family obligations, sometimes take on volunteer roles, and often return to school themselves. Where is the time needed for self care? Here is a list of seven things you should be paying attention to. If you can just devote some extra time toward taking care of yourself, you will find that handling all of your many other obligations will be easier and less overwhelming.
1. Get Enough Sleep
A third of teens and adults are sleep-deprived. Sleep deprivation can lead to a wide range of physical and mental health issues. When life is busy, one of the first things to be set aside tends to be sleep. When is the last time you got a solid eight hours of sleep in one night? If it wasn’t in the past couple of nights, it’s very likely that you are sleep-deprived.
Adults should be getting a minimum of seven hours of sleep each night. Some need up to nine hours. Teens need to sleep between nine and ten hours per night. If you are finding it difficult to get the sleep you need, you might need to alter something in your schedule. You can also try improving your sleep hygiene and, if insomnia persists, seeing a doctor for help.
2. Eat Well
Many of us grab a burger from the drive-through for lunch and put together some type of convenience-food dinner most nights. Even breakfast might be skipped or consist of sugary cereal. This is no way to sustain yourself and make sure that you have the nutrition you need for good health!
You already know what you should be eating (fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and low-fat dairy products). The problem is often that people don’t have the time to prepare foods. Try taking some time on the weekends to prepare a week’s worth of lunches or to cook ahead for dinners. You can slice fruit and vegetables ahead of time and grab some slices when you are hungry. Avoid vending machines and make good choices where you can.
3. Exercise Each Day
Many people are sedentary at work and at school. Being inactive puts you at risk of developing heart disease, high blood pressure, and even some cancers! Just getting up and moving around for ten minutes three times per day will give you the exercise you need for good health, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Try parking in the farthest section of the parking lot, walking up and down your building’s stairs at lunch, and getting your family to join you for an evening walk after dinner.
4. See Your Doctor as Needed
Too often, people are reluctant to take the time needed to seek medical care. Depending on your age, you should be seeing your doctor every one to three years at a minimum. These visits will include a physical examination as well as bloodwork and a blood pressure check. Conditions such as high blood pressure should be caught and treated early. If you haven’t seen your doctor in a while, take a few minutes right now to make an appointment. While you’re at it, make an appointment with your dentist, who most people should see twice yearly.
In addition to physical health care, think about whether you should seek mental health care. If you are experiencing the symptoms of depression, anxiety, or other mental health conditions, seeing a professional can put you on the right track toward feeling better. Your general practitioner can do some screening tests to see whether you are a good candidate for a referral to a mental health professional.
5. Spend Time With Friends
Taking some time to spend with friends can invigorate and rejuvenate you even when you are under stress. Part of your self care regimen should include socializing with other people. If you have a circle of friends who you can get together with, then make plans with them! If you don’t, you can still socialize: Try joining a community group to meet others in your area who share the same interests.
You can also meet people while out and about in public. Try going to the library or a specific coffee shop each week at the same time. You’ll get to know the people who have the same habit and you will also begin to chat with the people who are serving you. These interactions can be just as mood-boosting as an afternoon spent with friends and can be a good alternative if your friends live far away or if you are new to town and haven’t met anyone yet.
6. Find a Purpose
If you are going to work or school day after day and feeling like it’s all meaningless, it might be time to think about what type of purpose you’d like in your life. Is there a way you can make your paid work more meaningful? If you are in school, you are working toward a diploma or degree; this is purposeful. Perhaps you have a financial goal that your work is enabling you to meet. Remind yourself what you are striving for.
Remember that your purpose doesn’t have to center around your paid work. Is there a volunteer opportunity in your community that would mean something to you? Maybe there is a younger person whom you could mentor. Think about how you would like to make a difference in your home, your community, or the world and take small steps to make that a reality. This will boost your confidence and make you feel great.
7. Take Time for Yourself
Not everything that you do for self care needs to have a higher purpose such as boosting your physical health or helping you to help others. Sometimes it’s nice to just spend an afternoon reading a good book on the beach or mixing up a batch of chocolate-chip cookies and eating them while watching Netflix. While these activities can’t take up a lot of time each week, it’s important to incorporate fun, comforting things into your schedule.
Self care is largely a matter of thinking about what is missing from your life and what would make you feel great about yourself. Taking care of your physical and emotional needs is a great step toward becoming both happier and healthier.