Practicing self-care consistently and successfully can be difficult. Schedules are busy and overwhelming and self-care routines can slip down your list of priorities. Practicing self-care is what helps you accomplish all of the other items on your list, so it’s important to keep it top of mind. To reduce stress, maintain a healthy weight and feel motivated, optimistic and positive, you need a self-care routine that’s easy to incorporate into your everyday life.
Make Sure your Goals are Realistic
Where most people go wrong is in the initial planning of their self-care routine. People are often over-ambitious when it comes to making a plan to take care of themselves, which is how they fall out of their routine so easily. It’s important that you set realistic goals for yourself to accomplish. Starting out small will likely be in your best interest – if you start with about 3 goals that are most important to you, you can move up from there. This will allow you to slowly engrain your self-care routine into your everyday life and actually maintain it.
Some of the most important self-care practices are sleep schedules, exercise and eating habits.
- Sleep Schedules
Sleep is linked to concentration, productivity and cognition and can affect you emotionally and physically. Your sleep habits can be affected by multiple factors such as eating or drinking before bed, stress and anxiety and blue light emissions.
Eating or drinking stimulants like sugar or caffeine 2-3 hours before bed can keep you awake because your body is working to process those stimulants rather than focusing on sleep. Furthermore, work-related or personal stress and anxiety can also harm your sleep pattern. If you find yourself feeling overly stressed, look for a way to relax and destress before bed. This can be accomplished through meditation, exercise or music, for example.
A more recent factor contributing to sleep disruption is blue light, which disturbs your circadian rhythm. This can decrease levels of sleep-inducing melatonin and reset the body’s internal clock, which causes you to stay up later. Natural blue light is beneficial during the day, as it can boost attention, reaction times, and mood. However, today we are exposed to blue light at all times through digital devices, such as television, smartphones and laptops. In order to avoid sleep disruption due to blue light, you should stop using digital devices 1-2 hours before bed, turn on night mode or invest in blue light filtering glasses.
According to Healthline, exercise has a positive connection with improved mood, weight loss, increased energy levels, quality of relaxation and sleep and reduced risk of disease, to name a few. It’s suggested by the American Heart Association that you get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity per week. It can be difficult to maintain a consistent exercise routine with the busy schedules that today’s society creates but it can be done.
If you don’t already have a fitness routine, start out by simply including a few activities into your day, for instance, a daily walk, yoga, taking the stairs instead of the elevator or a home workout and build up from there. Once you start to include these activities into your day-to-day, you’ll start to see results of higher energy levels and a more positive attitude, which will motivate you to increase the amount of exercise you do.
The next step is to include a steady workout plan. You can do this before or after work, but the most important thing is that you’re getting that recommended amount of aerobic exercise. This will benefit you mentally, physically, personally and professionally.
If you already have a dedicated fitness routine, take this time to reinvent it. It’s common for fitness routines to get stale after months of training. Start researching videos and workout plans that can add variety to your workout, so you’re still challenging yourself. You can also try joining a new fitness club like a kickboxing gym, a yoga or pilates studio or a karate class if you have hit a plateau in your current routine.
- Eating Habits
Eating habits can be especially hard to change because they have been developed over many years. According to the CDC, a few important steps to healthier eating habits are to reflect on all of your specific eating habits and your common triggers for unhealthy eating. Replace unhealthy eating habits with healthier ones and reinforce your new, healthier eating habits. To do this, consider keeping a food diary to track your eating habits and determine where you’re going wrong. You can trade your typical unhealthy snack (e.g., chips) for a healthy one (e.g., fruit).
Although it may seem like a good idea to cut out all of your typical unhealthy food at the start of a diet, this is usually what causes people to hit setbacks sooner. You cannot change your eating habits overnight, so the most practical form of change is gradual change.
Self-care will always be important to the function of your life and once you begin to practice healthier habits, you will soon see results that you won’t be able to live without.