We all know that self care includes taking baths, getting massages, and taking a moment to breathe when we get stressed. What we often forget is that self care comes in many forms (many of which are preventative), and we should really be incorporating more of them into our day!
1. Go to bed earlier
According to the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, most adults need a minimum of 7 hours of sleep per night, some need as much as 9 hours. If you are getting less, you are at risk of weight gain and obesity, diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and stroke, depression, and increased risk of accidents. How often do you get 7 solid hours of sleep? Going to bed earlier, turning off the tv at least an hour before sleep, making sure you aren’t overstimulated, and exercising regularly are all options to help you get more of the sleep you need!
2. Slow down your mornings
How often do we start the day by checking up on Facebook, realizing we’re running late, and panicking while packing lunches? There are so many ways to reduce stress in the morning, so you can wake up slow and focus on filling your cup first; make lunches the night before or meal prep on Sundays, lay your outfit out before bed or keep your closet simple and organized, go to bed earlier and get up 10 minutes earlier. Even if you earn yourself 5 minutes of peace in the morning and less of a rush, think of the note that you’re starting the day on! Personally, I like to start my mornings off by getting up an hour early and working out or reading personal development before all of the crazy work and school rush begins. Sometimes, I’ll even spend a little time cuddling my puppy and resting on the couch – so long as I start my day doing something positive for myself, I can handle most of what life throws at me the rest of the time!
3. Slow down your evenings
“I got home from work, shoved my kids into their soccer uniforms, grabbed McDonalds on the way, spent their hour long practice replying to work emails, scurried home, threw them in the bath, poured a glass of wine, and then spent 2 hours binge watching Netflix just to have some alone time!” There is nothing wrong with the occasional busy day or night, but western culture currently has a bad habit of overscheduling ourselves while under preparing. Our kids are in 3 activities 5 days a week, we volunteer and never shut off from work, we squeeze in a little time with friends and family, refuse to say no to anything (even if it sounds awful), and when we finally take some down time, it tends to be mindlessly in front of the tv (guilty as charged!).
My family is still guilty of some of these (the tv ends up on while we cuddle and unplug from our phones, I watch my horror shows and meal plan while Zach plays a video game, but we balance it out thoroughly. After work, we try and take some time with our daughter (whether it’s walking the dog together, playing uno, pulling out the lego, or letting her help cook supper). Our wonder girl is currently allowed ONE extracurricular during the school year. We try to plan for it to fall on the weekend, and we include swimming lessons because it’s necessary. During the summer, we have cut signing her up for more than a week of camp because it leaves more room for sleep, family, and friends! As she gets older, I’m sure we will be more flexible on this. As a daycare provider, I have seen so many overbooked, tired children that aren’t given the opportunity to use their imaginations because they’re too worn out. Honestly, I used to be the adult that never made time to slow down and overbooked her time severely. Now, I meal prep to make sure we are eating well and don’t have to grab junk, aim for 7-8 hours of sleep per night, unwind by reading before bed instead of watching tv until I wear out (most nights anyway!), and it has made a huge difference in my mental health.
4. Read personal development books!
This is one of the most important. Reading personal development has a weird stigma around it. I spent years rolling my eyes at the self-help section at Indigo and insisting that a book couldn’t help me. If I had stopped to accept that thousands of others go through the same struggles as me (and that some of them can write), I would have given them a shot sooner. Reading PD isn’t about improving… it’s about expanding on yourself as you are, learning to view yourself and others in a more positive light, and pushing through your limitations. You can learn to prioritize yourself or tasks that serve your goals. You can relate to someone else going through similar struggles. You can develop a skill, reflect on your struggles, and learn how to communicate better with your partner or friends. There is a well-written personal development book out there for everyone. And if you believe that you have no time for reading, try audiobooks! The library has a huge selection, and you can listen while you shower, drive, cook, clean, or use it as your 10 minutes of morning cup filling! Here is a list to get you started!
5. Find a hobby!
My therapist tried to convince me of this one for months. I was so opposed because I genuinely felt like I already had no time, I could barely remember what my interests were, and I was exhausted. Now, I find myself with the opposite problem! It took a lot of reading PD, meeting a group of women with similar struggles, and starting with something small to let myself use some of my time on myself. Personally, what brings me joy is working out at home, creating meal plans and recipes for this blog!, cooking, playing cards, singing, and reading. For you, it may be crochet, going for walks, joining a book club, making a collection, or building model airplanes. Whatever sounds like it may bring you joy is worth trying. I held back for a long time because I thought I needed a hobby that let me get out of the house. I really was craving social interaction, but starting my health journey introduced me to a ton of amazing women, rekindled my love of food, gave me an excuse to read for fun again, and has opened my mind to concepts that I never would have tried in the past (such as trying skiing this upcoming summer, signing up for a muddy obstacle course, and even just expressing my own needs to others and learning to say no).
Hopefully even one item on this list helps you focus on yourself a little more and practice the more forgotten art of preventative self care!