Being intentional to take care of yourself can feel like a luxury or even impossible to squeeze into an already busy day. Trust me, I get it! Self-care hasn’t always come easy for me. In fact, I’ve been prone to the exact opposite. As a former athlete, I spent the first three decades of my life completely ignoring my body and pushing it to the limits not only physically but with stress and deadlines. And because of it, I ended up in a total health crisis in my 30s.
Here’s the thing: self-care really should be a necessity and a daily part of our lives. We can’t feel our best and be able to give and serve those around us if we’re not taking time to recharge our mind, body and soul.
Self-care is more than a cute mask and a clever hashtag on Sundays. It’s loving yourself and caring for your overall health and wellbeing. It is a necessity for living our best lives, reducing our stress levels and achieving a healthy glow. We only get one precious body to live in so we need to be intentional to nourish it. I don’t know about you, but I think it’s time we stop running through life reacting and simply “existing” and start enjoying the journey and truly living.
Keep reading for five ways you can start practicing self-care today.
1. Think About What You’re Thinking About
Our thoughts hold POWER. Have you ever stopped to consider what stories you are telling yourself about your body, your worth and your life? Would you talk to someone you love the way you talk to yourself? If we’re honest, the answer is typically a resounding no.
Aimee E. Raupp writes in her book “Body Belief”: “The average person has about 50,000 thoughts each day and each thought influences the chemical messengers in your brain and how your body functions [at a cellular level.] … “Why? Because your brain hears everything you say to your body… there are 37 trillion cells in your body. Are you cheering them on with loving thoughts or verbally abusing them with toxic thoughts? Your thoughts dictate your behavior and your behavior dictates your health.”
2. Cultivate a Healthy Diet
Fueling your body with nutrients and exercising regularly are crucial steps in taking care of yourself. Clean eating not only helps you feel better, it keeps your gut microbiome in balance (which affects your overall health and immune system.) Eating clean includes limiting processed foods, refined sugar and trans fats and instead eating a variety of healthy, whole foods, hormone- and antibiotic-free meat and drinking clean filtered water.
One of my favorite shorthand ways of telling people how to eat is, if it comes in a bag or a box, don’t eat it. —Chris Kresser
Pro Tip: An excellent book to read is “What the Heck Should I Eat” by Mark Hyman.
3. Schedule YOU Time
Today it can feel like the norm to be “too busy” for anything, much less self-care. However, you have to set aside time to rest and recharge because no one else can do that for you. It’s crucial to set that time aside so we don’t burn ourselves out and set our bodies up for chronic inflammation, illness and disease. Whether it’s taking a Pilates class, reading for pleasure, enjoying a warm detox bath or setting aside quiet time in the morning, the key is to find an activity that relaxes you and make it happen.
4. Make Time for Movement
These days our lifestyles are becoming more and more sedentary, yet the body is meant to move. Exercising has a variety of health benefits including lowering blood pressure, improving your mood and sleep and protecting against heart disease. Any activity from walking your dog to taking a spin class benefits your mind, body and soul. Studies have shown that working out can help reduce stress levels, anxiety and depression by boosting endorphins. (The body’s feel-good chemicals.)
According to Dr. Michael Craig Miller of the Harvard Medical School, when it comes to exercise, “for some people it works as well as anti-depressants, although exercise alone isn’t enough for someone with severe depression.” Do you have a pet? Studies have also shown that petting or playing with a pet releases oxytocin (the bonding hormone,) dopamine and endorphins into your body.
5. Learn to Love Yourself More
Self-love is being kind, gentle and patient with yourself. It’s a process of learning to love yourself and listening to your body. Don’t be afraid to support yourself in the way that you need. Tip: Do a 5-minute body scan a day to check in with yourself and see how you’re feeling. When we’re experiencing things like headaches, pain and fatigue, our body is crying out that it needs some TLC.
Pro Tip: For more on Self Care, check out the She First Project blog and podcast.
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As an Institute for Integrative Nutrition and Duke Integrative Medicine trained health and wellness coach, I love helping women create sustainable long-term changes with their health so they can feel their best inside and out.
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