Marketers would love for us to believe self-care is about treating ourselves to things like expensive chocolates, wine, and bubble baths. Their message is, “you do so much, you deserve these products.” It’s easy to believe this message because it taps into a very real feeling that many of us have. Too many of us feel chronically stressed and overworked. We could list hundreds of reasons why this might be true for different people, but what it boils down to is this: people are not practicing real self-care.
Self-care is about setting boundaries and practicing healthy habits every day. You might be wondering, is it really that simple? Yes, it’s that simple, but we didn’t say it’s easy. Self-care is difficult because it takes discipline. It often means repeatedly saying no to things we might enjoy, like a piece of chocolate cake, because we know we’ll be better off if we do. And it can mean making hard choices regarding the people in our lives. Maintaining boundaries is an ongoing process that requires vigilance.
If you cringed a little when we said self-care takes discipline, you are not alone. Many people have experienced repeated failures because they beat themselves up for not having enough willpower. Willpower, it turns out, isn’t the only factor in forming healthy habits. Don’t get us wrong, you need discipline to practice self-care, but where discipline comes in is setting yourself up to succeed and continuously recommitting yourself to self-care. You are more than capable of replacing bad habits with good habits, and the benefits of real self-care are genuinely transformational.
How can real self-care change your life and improve your overall well-being? There are 4 main areas where practicing healthy habits can transform your life: sleep, exercise, nutrition, and mental health. Let’s take a quick look at what self-care in each area can do for you.
High-quality sleep each night is one of the most important things you can do to protect your mental and physical well-being. It also keeps you safer, as you’ll be more alert to certain hazards during the day. The amount of sleep you need varies depending on your age and other factors. If you’re having trouble getting to sleep, try stretching before bed, getting rid of any ambient light sources and keeping a regular bedtime.
Yes, regular exercise is important for weight loss and weight maintenance, but it is also good for combating a myriad of health conditions, such as diabetes, arthritis, high blood pressure and more. It can also help improve your mood, increase your energy, lead to better sleep and improve your sex life. If you have been completely sedentary for some time, you might want to begin with stretch therapy to help get your muscles ready for exercise. And remember to start slow and build up over time.
Poor diet is associated with many health problems, including Type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and osteoporosis. And it’s no wonder since food is the source of the materials that help replenish and repair our bodies. Eating nutrient-rich foods helps keep you fit and healthy.
Anne Lamott once wrote, “Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.” Whether you meditate, follow a spiritual practice, or take 10 minutes out of your day to reflect, you’ll be helping to protect your mental well-being. Also, learning how to protect yourself from external chaos and negative self-talk can open new ways of living your best life.
If you’re already overwhelmed thinking you need to fix everything right now, don’t go down this road. You will fail. Start small. Your success in one area will help you take better care of yourself in other areas in the future.
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