Have you ever heard anyone say, “You can’t take care of others if you don’t take care of yourself first”? Well that is something I say everyday to the patients I work with. Some people find it admirable to work non-stop and constantly put the needs of others before their own. One of the biggest reasons I created this blog was to help people to start taking care of themselves so that they can lead better lives and truly care for others without resentment.
Practicing what is known as “self-care” is the best way to start. You are not being selfish by taking care of yourself, let’s be clear about that. By caring for yourself you will operate at optimal levels in every aspect of your life. By nurturing your mind, body and soul, you will emanate that positive energy to others around you, including your children. The days of supermom are gone. The days of working through your lunch, are a thing of the past. As wise person once told me, “When you die, nobody is going to be at your funeral saying, I wish they helped and worked just a little harder than they did.”
Here of some of the easiest ways to start practicing self-care today:
- Take a detox bath- One of my favorite ways to relax and restore my mind and body is by taking a hot Epsom salt bath with essential oils. I am constantly buying Dr. Teals’ Epsom Salt and I really like using lavender and tea tree essential oils. You can also add Bragg’s Apple Cider Vinegar and baking soda all together or separately for added detoxing.
- Use affirmations- You can use affirmations any time of the day. Begin with saying “I am” and add whatever it is you are seeking at that moment. Affirmations work better in the present tense to create a belief that you already have what you seek. You could say things like, “I am feeling healthy and positive today” or “I am happy and content with my life.” There are numerous sources to find affirmations on the internet and some great books and fun cards outlining the power of affirmations.
- Watch something funny- Watching anything funny whether it be on TV, online or at the movie theater will instantly make you feel better and get you out of a funk. As they say, “laughter is the best medicine.” Laughter has the ability to transform your negative energy into positive energy which in turn can have positive impacts physiologically on your body.
- Take a nap- This one might be obvious, but when you are feeling exhausted…take a nap! When you are feeling down, a nap can help you wake up with a new mindset and help you to better process what is going on. It’s been shown that napping for 10, 30, 60 or 90 minutes is ideal. Napping longer than that can cause grogginess upon waking. Just be careful that you are not napping all the time as that can be a sign of depression. Get your best nap in with this sleep mask, which I cannot live without (bonus: it also provides migraine relief).
- Listen to music- I’ve heard that listening to music activates, stimulates and uses the entire brain at the same time. Music can impact our moods significantly and trigger memories to be mindful about what you listen to. Classical music has been shown to reduce blood pressure, reduce stress and help with insomnia, as well as many other benefits. Music helps you balance your personal rhythm. Additionally music can release dopamine, which is the same chemical that is released when we feel pleasure.
- Write it down- Writing can reduce stress, improve memory, promote self-awareness and mindfulness, as well as increase our optimism. If you are dealing with something difficult, writing it down will help you purge the negative thoughts and clearly deal with the issue at hand. The goal is to write for yourself and don’t worry about it making sense or being grammatically correct. You can find some really awesome journals on Amazon that even have writing prompts.
- Talk to a supportive friend- The key word here is supportive. Friends can be amazingly support or catastrophically cruel. Choose whom to speak to wisely.
- Go for a walk or a drive- Fresh air can do anyone good, so long as it’s not allergy season. We all know you can burn calories by walking, but you will also reduce stress, energize your body and improve your overall health and mood. A drive can offer similar benefits so long as you are not driving angry or under the influence. You can add in your favorite music to both of these activities for added benefits. Devices like the Fitbit will even remind you to get moving.
- Drink water- Again this might be an obvious way to take care of yourself, but most of us, including myself, do not get enough water. Fifty to sixty percent of our bodies are made up of water. The list of benefits related to drinking water is nearly endless. The biggest pros include; improving mood and immunity, flushing out toxins, increasing energy and reducing pain. I prefer to drink my water ice cold, which is not necessarily better, but helps me drink more of it. This bottle has been a life saver. Adding a lemon will add additional perks, such as increasing your vitamin C and electrolyte intake, clearing your skin and aiding in digestion and reducing inflammation (which ultimately impacts our mental health). More on that later.
- Say no- This is the best personal boundary you can develop in my humble opinion and the easiest way to practice self-care. Saying “no” may seem rude, mean or selfish when you are first practicing it…but it’s definitely not. It is singlehandedly the best way to start seriously taking care of yourself. This will allow you to stop overextending yourself and agreeing to do everything for everyone. There are many ways to say no without offending people, like saying “I’m sorry, but I already have plans” even if those plans are just watching Netflix. You have the right to say no to anything at any time. Try not to let yourself feel obligated to anyone. Remember “no” is a complete sentence and you are not required to justify or explain why you are saying no.
There are so many ways to practice self-care. These are some of the easiest things to start with. I encourage you to find and develop your own toolkit when it comes to taking care of your mental health and body. Self-care is necessary for everyone, but especially those that care for others. It is all too easy to forget ourselves these days with fulfilling the needs of our jobs, caring for our children and sometimes being the primary caregivers of our parents. The path to feeling and being better starts with you.