Most of us are on the go from sun up to sun down. Our to-do lists are out of control. We work, have families to take care of, friends we try to make time for, errands to run and all the while the laundry and dishes are piling up. The never-ending struggle to find the time to get everything done is a balancing act we think we’ve perfected, until we catch a cold, wake up with a kink in our neck, or find ourselves falling asleep during an important meeting. A lack of self-care is our biggest mistake. Putting others needs before our own is a slippery slope, one that inevitably leads to sacrificing our own health due to an influx in stress levels.
And scientists have made an alarming discovery; stress is the leading cause of physical and mental illness. Anxiety, high blood pressure, depression, migraines, heart conditions, diabetes and even skin conditions have been linked to stress disorders. The science has been done and the verdict is in –it’s time to start taking care of yourself, your quality of life depends on it.
So, now you know the facts, but how do you actually go about making yourself priority number one? Sometimes it’s easier said than done. Chances are you’ve been on the hamster wheel so long you’re not exactly sure how to get off. If you’ve spent the better part of your life taking care of other people and constantly putting tasks before yourself, then you might have a difficult time even comprehending the concept of self-care. To put it plain and simple, self-care is the act of making time for yourself. This idea can be wholly overwhelming at first, but once you get the hang of it, you can easily incorporate it into your everyday life.
Just like filling your car’s tank with gas or taking it in for an oil change, you too have to service your vehicle—your body and mind. Here are the five basic areas of general maintenance when it comes to leading a healthier and happier life.
Food is the most overlooked part of self-care. How often do we wave off lunch because we’re just too busy? Or grab fast food instead of making nutritious meals? We all are aware that we’re supposed to eat three meals a day (plus snacks!) but how often do we skip one (or two)? A simple goal is to promise to eat something for each meal, even if it is just an apple or granola bar.
Who has the time? You might ask, but exercise is a vital ingredient to living longer and having a higher quality of life. Thirty minutes a day should be your minimum! Stop working through your lunches. Take the time to go for a walk outside, bring food with you, and practice some deep breathing. These quick walks can help combat feelings of disenchantment, pessimism and even counter chronic health problems.
Yes, you can get eight hours of sleep a night. It might feel like that’s impossible, but a proper amount of sleep will help you think clearer, stay focused, and retain more information. A new study shows people who sleep with their phones in their bedrooms will get less sleep, not only because they stay up surfing their Facebook feeds, but because they are more likely to wake up by text messages and notifications. Put the phone away and you might just notice you start sleeping better.
Sure, we all have the tendency to procrastinate, especially when we aren’t feeling well. It’s so common to go to work sick, push through a headache to finish the chores, or pretend everything is okay when you’re struggling with life. Seeking medical attention when you need help is the utmost in physical care. Putting off going to the doctor may only exacerbate the situation and, something that might have been easy to take care of, may become more complicated to treat.
A massage. Brownie after dinner. Bubble baths. Take the time to indulge in what makes you happy. It truly is the small things in life that make the difference when it comes to self-care and finding five minutes to try on new lipsticks or half an hour to get a blowout can really change how you face challenges.
At the end of the day, you are the captain of your ship. You are steering the boat. In order to make sure you can weather the storms ahead and keep your crew safe, you must take care of the vessel in today. Take the time to make yourself priority number one, not only for your sake, but for the ones you love, the ones who depend on you. We will leave you with this amazing quote by Parker Palmer and hope you are inspired to do something nice for yourself.
Self-care is never a selfish act—it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on earth to offer to others. – Parker Palmer