Self Care Best Practices: Get back to the basics.

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The term “self-care” is everywhere these days. We all are becoming more aware that if we spend too much time taking care of others, we lose ourselves. Whether it’s physical, mental, or emotional, a little bit of us can start to go each day… until we’re a shell of a person just going through the motions.  But there’s a reason flight attendants tell you to put your oxygen mask on first in the event of an emergency: You cannot help yourself or others if you are unconscious or dead… or wigging TF out.

Stress, depression, and illness are all on the rise and I feel like I know people who’ve been in dire straits for years on end. We need to take better care of ourselves and that means putting yourself first sometimes. The problem with most self-care activities though? It seems like ONE MORE THING to put on our to-do lists. And when you’re finished with your hot bath, your 60 minute massage, or that pedicure that you scheduled to make yourself feel more relaxed, all your other shit to do is STILL THERE, because it hasn’t been done since you were taking time for yourself. This is why people don’t do things that are good for them… My suggestion?

Get back to the basics before you do anything else. 

Address the biggest issues that cause you to be more stressed in the first place.

In no particular order:

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{Get Good Sleep MOST nights during the week}

Sleep is imperative. This is the time your body repairs itself, resets hormone levels, and basically cleans up everything that happened during the day. Think of it as cellular housekeeping. I learned a long time ago that if I don’t sleep enough, I feel awful during the day. When I feel awful, I don’t workout and I want to eat crap food, which makes me feel worse.

Research is now showing that it’s not so much about getting a set number of hours of sleep per night (everybody’s different and sleep requirements differ by age), but more about getting your body on a schedule to create better rhythm. So getting to bed around the same time each night is huge.

How To Do It:

  • Cut out caffeine after 4pm.
  • Try to limit alcohol during the week.
  • Try to cut back on screen time an hour before bed. I also set up “Night Shift” for warmer light on my phone past 8pm in my Display & Brightness settings on my phone.
  • Save your shows for the weekend more often than during the week.
  • Read a book or magazine (a real one, not from a brightly lit screen) to help you get sleepy. I haven’t had a tv in my bedroom for years and that helps too.

For you brand new parents out there, sorry. I can’t help you with babies. Good luck… But keep reading though, there’s more.

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{Eat Real Food, Cook Dinner MOST Nights}

I cook dinner most nights of the week… Because real food is good for us and it’s cheaper than restaurant meals. Don’t convince yourself cooking is too hard/time consuming. People have been doing it forever. It’s only in the past few decades that people have let a million other activities take up time in the evenings. You can’t let socializing or multiple kids’ sports prevent you from eating proper meals. Do I cook every night? No. Re-read the first sentence. If I make enough, I can have leftovers the next day.

How:

  • Use home delivery meal services for a month or two to learn some new recipes and new cooking skills in order to enjoy cooking more (because it sucks if you suck at it).
  • Delegate: Kids can even help too. If they’re old enough, have them prep the next day’s meals the night before by chopping veggies or peel potatoes.
  • Look up 1 pan meals that can be baked in the oven all together. Most fish, chicken, and root veggies can be baked in the oven for 25-35minutes, needing not much work at all other than olive oil and salt & pepper.
  • Make enough for leftovers or lunches the next day.
  • Remember: Dinner doesn’t have to be fancy! See my post about Real Food here.
  • Limit kids activities or sports to one per kid so you’re not manic every night of the week.

If you aren’t working 2 jobs and still think you don’t have time to cook dinner, sit down and look at your schedule. You’re most likely packing in too much.

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{Get Outside, Whatever the Weather}

I think people would be much healthier and the earth much cleaner if people took time to be outside for a little bit every single day. There are numerous studies on how the outdoors positively affects your mental and physical health. There’s this one. This one. And this one.

How: Nobody has time for a two hour hike every day, unless you’re retired, so think small. If you sit at a desk, set an alarm every couple hours to get you up and moving for 5 – 10 minutes.

  • Instead of scrolling on your phone for the next 10 minutes, get up and move. Try 10 lunges and 10 pushups, and a lap around your floor.
  • Take a work call while you walk around the building or do a lap up and down the stairs of your building.
  • Get outside in the evening after work or dinner. If it’s cold, put on a coat, hat, and gloves. If it’s raining, grab your umbrella and boots. If it’s really hot, put on a visor and take a bottle of ice water.

You can do it! You won’t die! You’ll get your blood flowing, you’ll burn some calories, and you’ll be more focused when you get back inside. It took some cajoling to get myself into this habit when I was working in more urban areas, but it makes a huge difference to how you feel afterwards. Instant mood and productivity booster!

 

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{Cut The Excess} 

There’s so much unnecessary stuff in our day that does NOT have to be there. I used to start my day by deleting 20-30 emails every morning – newsletters I didn’t sign up for, coupons, promotional ads, etc. I spent every day doing this. One morning, I finally took 10 minutes and unsubscribed from all of those lists I was on. It took a few minutes, but now they’re gone. That’s one example, but there’s so much we deal with every day that we DON’T HAVE TO if we would just address it

How To Do It:

  • Limit kids sports/activities to one per kid. This cuts down on time driving to/from practice, allows you to make more meals, and keeps everybody more balanced between play and rest.
  • Set up Screen Time on your phone to limit the scrolling you do each day.
  • Limit tv shows to just weekend hours.
  • DELEGATE. Don’t be the only spouse or roommate that does the laundry or cooks. One person shouldn’t be doing everything. If your kid knows how to handle your tablet or computer, they can make their own bed, load/unload the dishwasher, separate laundry, etc. Yes, you will do it faster, but the point is that they will learn how to do it and you won’t have to do as much.
  • Learn to say no. Volunteering at school or work is awesome, but you don’t have to do it all the time.
  • Make monthly things bi-monthly things. Book clubs and girl’s nights are awesome, but having 6 monthly appointments can lead to MORE nights you’re running around and not taking care of yourself.

The point is, you could be doing less excess stuff and more sleeping, cooking, or moving.

Moral of the Story: Get back to the basics

Get sleep. Eat real food. Go outside. Move your body. You know, things that people did 100 years ago when there weren’t t.v. shows and drive thru’s and social media. Instead of initially wandering what you need to add to your life to feel better, like spa days and life coaches, think first about what you could cut out in order to focus on the basics.

Remember the best kinds of lives are the ones you don’t have to escape to feel better. 

You don’t have to do all of these things at once, but the more you make them a priority, the easier they will become and the better you will feel, mentally and physically… maybe even emotionally.

How: Focus on ONE thing this week. Just the sleep part, or the going outside part. Could you follow through with it 3 times this week? And what about next week?

What do you guys do for basic self care?

How do you make it happen?

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Comments

  1. Loved this!!!!

  2. Joll says:

    Well written!!

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