5 Tips to Practice Self-Care

Most people experience stress in life, whether it is related to positive events, such as being nervous about starting a new job, or negative events, such as recovering from a natural disaster. Stress is not always a bad thing. When a deadline is coming up, it can sometimes help you focus on the task at hand. Other times, when stress is prolonged, interferes with your daily activities, or makes you feel like you have lost all control, it can be harmful to your health. It is easy to prioritize work projects and taking care of your families and friends, but it is just as important to take care of ourselves.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines “Health” as, “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” It is important to practice regular self-care to ensure that the stress you are dealing with does not begin to impact your physical, mental and social well-being.

The following 5 tips will help you take care of yourself to ensure you stay healthy enough to take care of everything else:

  1. Eat healthy, well-balanced meals – A common symptom of stress is a loss of appetite. Setting a timer at meal-time to remind yourself to eat, even if you are not hungry, can help ensure you are getting the nutrition you need. On the other hand, sometimes it is easier to eat on the run or to eat quickly while working. When you know you will be pressed for time, plan meals ahead to include protein, complex carbohydrates, and healthy fats to sustain optimal energy levels throughout the day.
  2. Stay active – Loss of interest in normal activities affects many people when dealing with stress. These normal activities could include taking your dog for a walk, or your weekly tennis match with friends. According to the CDC, regular exercise, 3 to 5 times a week can be a positive way to reduce your risk of depression and help you sleep better. Work in small exercise sessions whenever you can. Take the stairs up a floor or two instead of the elevator. Walk to lunch. Ride a bike with your kids. Small steps in the right direction will motivate you to do more.
  3. Get plenty of sleep – When there are a million things on your mind, it can be hard to shut down long enough to get quality sleep. Try to go to bed at the same time each night and wake up at the same time every morning. Keep your bedroom dark, quiet, relaxing and at a comfortable temperature. Limit or avoid electronic devices, large meals, caffeine and alcohol before bedtime.
  4. Give yourself a break – If your stress is brought on by events in your area, avoid watching the news or reading articles about the event for a day. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, take time for yourself. Enjoy a hobby, pamper yourself for the day, or read a good book to help you wind down.
  5. Talk to others – It is easy to separate yourself from loved ones when dealing with stress. Planning fun activities with your family or friends is a good way to reconnect. Sharing your thoughts and feelings can help you process what you are dealing with, and can lead to a better understanding of how to feel better. If you do not know where to turn, call your local crisis intervention center or a national crisis hotline.

September is self-care awareness month, but self-care is something that needs to be practiced throughout the year. Make time and schedule your annual checkup with your primary care physician. If you’re a woman, don’t forget to visit your OB-GYN every year. Learn how to #taketime4u to help maintain a healthy, happy life.