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Is Self-Care Really Necessary?
As women, we sometimes think that self-care is a privilege that only some people can afford.
People with extra time.
People with extra money.
People who don’t have kids or spouses.
But, the thing is, self-care isn’t a privilege. It’s not something that only special people can have.
Self-care is essential and available to all of us! And that’s what I want to talk about today: What self-care is, why you need to practice it, and how you can integrate it into your daily life.
What exactly is self-care?
I think that one of the things that gets people confused and not focused on practicing self-care is that they don’t really understand what self-care is. Rather than thinking about the actual definition of self-care, people seem to focus only on what it may look like. And, usually, they think about what it looks like for others.
But self-care has nothing to do with what others do. It’s about what YOU do.
Here’s the Oxford definition of self-care:
The practice of taking action to preserve or improve one’s own health
The practice of taking an active role in protecting one’s own wellbeing and happiness, in particular during periods of stress.
As you can see, in the official definition of self-care, there is no list of what self-care looks like. Why? Because self-care looks different for everyone. You just have to figure out what self-care looks like for you!
Why should I practice self-care?
Because people often have a simplified and blanket view on what self-care is, they often fail to realize just how important it is. Self-care isn’t just about massages and new clothes (though those can definitely be valuable parts of a self-care plan). It’s about your overall health and happiness.
Self-care can help you to be physically fit and as healthy as possible. Self-care can help you look your best. Self-care can help you feel a deeper level of happiness and joy. Self-care can keep you from being burned out. Self-care can help you get rid of the things (and sometimes people) in your life that bring you down. Self-care can help you get rid of habits that hold you back. Self-care can control anxiety. Self-care can help you heal and build relationships that matter to you. What are some examples of self-care?
Although self-care is a very personal thing to each individual (which means I could never make an exhaustive list of self-care activities), here are 6 common categories to help get you started:
1. Get active
I’m sure you already know this – you only get one body in your lifetime, so it’s important to take care of it. Part of that is making sure you’re physically active.
This doesn’t mean you have to do some insane fitness challenge or go out and buy an expensive gym membership that you never use. Or you may despise running even though I love it, and that’s totally OK.
It’s just as simple as moving your body for 30 minutes a day, doing something you enjoy.
That could be a group fitness class, a walk around your neighborhood, a swim in the pool, or just about anything that gets you up and about for just half an hour a day.
If you need some ideas for workouts you can do at home, check out this post on the best free workout videos on YouTube. Browse through the channels to see which ones meet your needs the best and then set aside just 30 minutes per day to move your body.
2. Eat well
Another huge aspect of self-care is eating well. As a dietitian, the nutrition side of this is clear. Choose mostly meals and snacks that will fuel your body will support your health in the best way possible. Be sure to get enough fruits and veggies, and include protein often throughout the day. Eat when you are hungry, and stop when you are comfortably satisfied.
If you don’t feel like you have time for cooking on your own, meal delivery services like Real Eats makes it easy to get high quality, quick-to-make meals delivered right to your door.
But there’s another aspect of eating well that many people feel guilty about.
Food is fuel – but it is also delicious and pleasurable and enjoyable. As an RD, I’m here to tell you that’s OK too!
So to me, part of self-care can be enjoying the meal process. Taking the time to create meals that taste good. Figuring out unique flavor combinations or spice blends or cooking methods that produce a nutritious and delicious meal. And yes, occasionally enjoying desserts and treats as part of your balanced diet!
3. Stay on top of your medical needs
Another aspect of our health that many of us skimp on is attending to our medical needs. For example…
Those of us who take prescription medication may remember to take it daily, but what about taking any vitamins your doctor recommended? (I’m guilty as charged for forgetting to take my Vitamin D supplement!). What about seeing your doctor regularly? What about going to the doctor when you feel ill rather than just suffering in silence, hoping it will go away soon?
Granted, I know that not everyone has insurance that makes it easy to do some of these things. However, you DESERVE to be healthy. If you don’t have health insurance, there are many resources in the community that can help you figure out how to get low cost insurance.
4. Stay hydrated
Another item that might be on your daily self-care checklist? Staying hydrated. The fluids you drink help to maintain every single system in your body. It helps carry essential nutrients to your cells. It helps flush out bacteria from your bladder. It helps you to stay regular (bye-bye constipation).
When your body doesn’t get enough fluid, you can experience symptoms such as thirst, fatigue, or irritability.
There are a variety of factors that go into how much fluid each body needs per day, but a good place to start is the colloquial recommendation of 8 cups daily. This is equal to about 1.9 liters, which comes pretty close to the Institute of Medicine’s recommendation for women of 2 liters of fluid to drink per day (note for men, though, that number is closer to 3 liters).
If you have trouble remembering to drink water or figuring out how much you need to drink, I recommend this 64 ounce water bottle. Not only will it hold 8 cups of fluid, it also has time markers and motivational sayings to keep you focused on finishing the whole cup by the end of the day. It’s humungous and might feel a little silly, but can be great for establishing the habit.
5. Dress so you feel your best
Ok, so I know that you may have cringed at this tip. Who am I to tell you how you should look, right?
But I’m not telling you how to look. In fact, I’m telling you to ignore what others say about how to look, and focus on how you personally feel.
If you feel best right now in sweat pants, more power to ya. I am in them more often than I’d like to admit, haha – but I love feeling comfy and cozy.
On the flip side, other women may feel best when they’ve put on a nice outfit, done their makeup, and styled their hair. That’s awesome too.
Wear things that spark joy for you, however that may look. This could be a cute outfit, comfy shoes, fun jewelry, or your favorite hairstyles.
And if you’ve got lots of stuff that doesn’t spark joy (channeling my inner Marie Kondo here) – donate it. Keep the things on hand that make you feel good.
Similarly, when you’re shopping, focus only on the items that make you want to do a little happy dance when you have them in your hands. It’s OK to treat yourself sometimes, even on a budget – there are plenty of happiness-inducing bargain finds out there at thrift shops, consignment stores, and yard sales.
And if you’re a sweatpants and athleisure lover like myself, a good ‘ol online sale at Reebok can make the heart sing. 😉
6. Do things that make you happy
Last, but not least, DO things that spark joy in your life. Listen to music that you love. Dance and sing like no one’s watching. Pick back up those hobbies and passions you may have laid off to the side when you got married or had kids. Remember that you are more than a wife/mom/daughter/sister. You are a human with all kinds of interests and talents. Tap into them! I promise you will feel better when you do.
How can I practice self-care daily?
This is the hard part, isn’t it? We know WHAT we can do to practice self-care, but we somehow get stuck on the how.
But, when you get right down to it, the biggest things are to:
Remember why self-care is important. Think about how much harder and more stressful life is when you DON’T practice self-care. Remind yourself that you have the RIGHT to take care of yourself. Remind yourself that you are a better mom and spouse when you take care of yourself. JUST DO IT!
Just as we make the time to take care of our kids, our partners, our homes, and our pets, we need to make time to take care of ourselves. We make sure our kids are fed, bathed, clothed, and entertained. Because we love them. So, love yourself enough to do the same – for you!
It may take some practice. Because so many of us are out of practice with actively loving ourselves. However, it is SO worth it to make self-care a daily habit.
Self-Care Checklist or Planner
I’ve got two resources here that will hopefully help you on this journey. The first is a daily self-care checklist, which you’ll see below – and you can download the PDF here.
Ok, in full honesty, there are a few options on here that are not exactly daily – like getting a checkup from your doctor or even treating yourself to a mini vacation. But the rest of the items are definitely things you can be practicing every single day! And those few that are more irregular can remind you to weave them in during the upcoming year.
If you aren’t feeling the examples on the checklist, you can instead print out a weekly self-care planner (download the PDF here). Fill in one self-care item each day (or more!) to focus on, to remind yourself what you want to do. Hang this on the fridge or on a bulletin board in your office.
I hope that this helps you to get into the habit of practicing self-care on a daily basis – without any misplaced guilt ruining the experience. You deserve to be happy and healthy. Self-care is a big piece of that puzzle, so cheers to health and happiness!
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