by: Stacy Stefaniak-Luther, PsyD, LPC
I once had an instructor tell me that we do self-care the least when we need it the most. The difficult part of taking care of ourselves is that we have to make effort to care for ourselves. We have to put in the time and the thought and, at times, force ourselves to take time for ourselves. When someone is struggling with stress, I will often ask when the last time was they drank water. The last time they used the restroom. The last time they ate. How well are they sleeping and for how many hours? In our go, go, go society we forget to do simple things to keep ourselves healthy. We skip meals, forget to wash our hands, and the first thing we sacrifice is sleep. This can lead to a lot of difficulties down the road.
The holiday season is a particularly busy time for all. It also includes emotional triggers, additional stress, and cold/flu season. Now is one of those times when we need self-care the most, but skip it with the idea of getting more other things done.
Ways to stay health in a time manageable and behavior changeable way:
1.) Drink water. Not carry around an entire water bottle and chug throughout the day as that takes too much effort. Instead, every hour take a stretch break and get a small drink. At the same time, why not stop for a quick break and use the restroom? This also triggers hand washing.
2.) Movement. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC.org) previously recommended aerobic exercise. Now they recommend any type of movement. That’s it. Just movement. We can do that. Stand up. Stretch. Wiggle your fingers. Walk to the bubbler as that tackles the water drinking deficit at the same time!
3.) Eat healthy foods. For some people, just eating doesn’t get worked into their schedule. I have found the most cost effective and fast way to have a healthy snack is to grab a hard-boiled egg, fruit cup, and milk from the local gas station. Eating keeps your brain functioning. If you’re not eating, there is no way your brain is working at full capacity. There’s also no way you’re being as productive as you may think you are by skipping a meal.
4.) Sleep. Sleep is difficult for many. Perhaps you have chronic pain, maybe anxiety, maybe nightmares and/or restless sleep, or too much on your schedule. Finding your hour allotment takes some practice. I know I need at least 7 hours of sleep. Getting 8 hours helps me not yawn during the day. Getting 9 hours is preferable, but getting 8 hours is more realistic with my schedule. Getting 7 hours of sleep keep me functioning. Anything below that and I am not productive at all. If you cant sleep for various reasons, here are some helpful tips:
– Don’t look at the clock. This makes it more difficult to fall back to sleep.
– Don’t play games or scroll through the internet on your phone/tablet/computer. This wakes up your brain.
– Don’t stress about not sleeping. Just take the time to rest your body. Close your eyes. Breathe. Any rest is better than none. That laundry can be folded later!
The Tiny Buddha has 45 other simple self-care practices that one can squeeze in at least once a week. These can be found at: https://tinybuddha.com/blog/45-simple-self-care-practices-for-a-healthy-mind-body-and-soul/.
Wash your hands. Smile. Be grateful. Be kind. And don’t be hard on yourself for enjoying an extra 5 minutes in the shower or for going for a short walk. You deserve it!