Let’s get one thing straight before we get started: Self-care is not selfish.
The past couple of years have been immensely difficult for most of us, highlighting the importance of prioritizing our mental and emotional well-being. In a world where we are taught to put ourselves last and other people’s needs first, it’s so easy to neglect the little actions that make our own lives fulfilling (think: taking your full lunch break, doing absolutely nothing for an entire Saturday, or enjoying tea in the park with a friend).
Let’s reiterate: Self-care is neither selfish nor shallow. In fact, it is a KEY component for a healthy lifestyle. I want you to think of self-care as something you do, for yourself, to rejuvenate and become more resilient PROACTIVELY, rather than waiting until you are experiencing overwhelming stress.
What is self-care? Self-care involves activities that we purposefully do to take care of our physical, mental, and emotional health. Regularly practicing self-care can prevent burnout, improve your overall mood, reduce anxiety, and lower stress levels.
In today’s blog post, I’ll split self-care activities into four major categories: exercise, hydration, nutrition, and sleep.
You should accumulate at least one hour of moderate to vigorous physical activity a day for at least three days a week, which involve aerobic activities for heart health, and strengthening activities to strengthen muscles and bones. Exercise not only increases focus, attention, energy, and mood, but also improves memory. I think exercise is awesome because it’s considered a “keystone habit,” meaning it can lead to positive changes in other parts of your life. I like to add exercise to my own life by visiting the playground or park, taking regular walks, and setting movement goals with my friends and family—competition is a great motivator!
To stay hydrated, I always pack a reusable drink bottle. You can even add a slice of lemon, orange, cucumber, or other fruits to add flavour to the water. For people who aren’t used to drinking much water throughout the day, I recommend setting alarms and trying foods with high water content (e.g., fruit, vegetables, soups, stews, etc.). Hydration recommendations differ for everyone, depending on age, sex, weather, and physical activity. Either way, it’s important to limit sugary drinks (e.g., sweetened fruit juices or pop) and replace these with water.
Your brain uses a lot of energy while you’re studying and learning. Give your body “better fuel.” I like to cut up fruits and veggies and have them easily accessible for snacking. Another tip that helps me is planning meals for the next day. I can now plan an entire week’s worth of meals! When planning meals, I try to limit foods that are high in sodium, sugars, and saturated fat.
A regular sleep routine calms and restores the body and brain, improves concentration, regulates mood, and sharpens judgement and decision-making. My top tip for getting good sleep is making sure to turn off all screens 15 minutes before bed. The blue light emitted from television, computer, or phone screens can decrease the production of melatonin, the sleep hormone. Sometimes, I also enjoy a nice warm bath to relax before going to bed. Reading a book may also be helpful. I started by reading for a few minutes each night and worked my way up a few minutes each time—this always makes me knock out!
Healthy habits in these areas of life are invaluable. They make take a while to incorporate into your routine, so be forgiving to yourself and try your best to make small, sustainable changes. Often, life doesn’t go as planned. Your self-care plan should be adaptable in a way that allows you to move through tough times without contributing stress.
There is no one-size-fits all formula for self-care. All our self-care plans will look different and change over time, depending on our given circumstances. I like to ask myself, when I’m in a stressed head space, what simple things I can do to feel better. Sometimes, this is a walk with great music, other times a healthy snack, sometimes a couple deep breaths.
You got this!
Photo by Jonathan Borba on Pexels.