Making time for yourself isn’t selfish, it’s necessary for a happy, healthy you.
When you hear the term “self-care,” what images come up? If you’re picturing yourself in a lush robe with a goblet of wine, watching a bubble bath fill up, that’s understandable. Self-care is often seen as a synonym for indulgence, says Christine Carter, Ph.D. She’s a sociologist and senior fellow of Greater Good Science Center at University of California Berkeley.
While everyone needs an occasional bit of indulgence, being kind to yourself also involves habits that don’t resemble a day at the spa.
“Being kind to ourselves is not about luxury, and it’s also not selfish, which is another common misconception,” says Carter. It’s all about being aware of and supporting your physical and emotional needs. “The goal is to build a stronger foundation for yourself and for your health,” she says.
And it works. For example, a 2021 study in Health Psychology found that women who practiced self-compassion on a regular basis had a lower risk of developing heart disease overtime. For some, that may look like setting boundaries, letting go of grudges, and asking for help.
These self-care practices might feel a bit basic. But in a world that constantly asks us to do more, ignoring what we need most can eventually lead to issues such as excess fatigue, sleep struggles, and depression.
Today: Rethink Your Idea of Self-Care — and Act on It!
With that in mind, Carter shares some tips for how you can make space for self-compassion every day. Because when we’re at our best, we can be there fully for the people and things we care about most.
As you read this list, ask yourself: What do I need to do to lower my everyday stress and nourish my body and mind?
Use the downloadable PDF 7-Day Kindness Challenge Activity Guide to jot down your own ideas to be kind to yourself.
Self-Care Tip #1: Create a Workable Schedule
You don’t need to devote huge chunks of time to show yourself some kindness. Carter recommends developing a self-care schedule to help make it a priority. It’s the difference between “finding” time, which inevitably never happens, and “making” time.
“It’s important, especially with the pandemic still going on, to find healthy ways to support yourself,” she says. “That can take the form of what seems like everyday tasks, but really are crucial for your mental and physical health.”
- Creating and maintaining a healthy sleep routine. (Check out our 7-Day Sleep Challenge here.)
- Showering and getting dressed daily. It can shift your mood throughout the day, leading to more positivity and productivity.
- Getting a workout at least a few times per week. Of course, you can always hit the gym for a favorite SilverSneakers class — or turn on your computer to join one of the many virtual SilverSneakers LIVE classes or an online class taught by your local SilverSneakers Community instructors.
- Blocking out free time in your schedule. When you’re not obligated to another, you can have space for things you love. Maybe it’s crafts, journaling, or just vegging.
- Moving every day, even if it’s just a 5-minute shakeout.
- Putting connection time into your schedule, such as calling a friend whenever you take a walk.
- Making time to practice mindfulness. (Try our 3-minute post-workout meditation.)
Self-Care Tip #2: Get Your Checkups
An important part of self-care is taking care of your health with recommended health screenings. That includes:
- Annual physical
- Vaccines, such as shingles, flu, and pneumococcal
- Skin exam with dermatologist
- Teeth cleaning
- Cancer screenings based on your age and risk level
- Osteoporosis screening
- Hearing and vision exams
“Taking care of yourself in a way that’s preventative is very important, and a major part of self-care,” says Carter.
That also includes making sure to keep your appointments, staying on top of your medications, and improving your health through lifestyle changes such as eating healthy, not smoking, limiting alcohol — downsize that goblet of wine, for example — and getting quality sleep.
For more, read The Medical Tests Every Older Adult Needs.
Self-Care Tip #3: Notice The Saboteurs
Another step toward kindness is to move away from what feels upsetting. For many people, that’s checking on the news several times a day, or even throughout the entire day, as well as social media.
That doesn’t mean you need to toss your smartphone and TV — instead, it’s helpful to use them in a way that makes you feel informed and connected, not overwhelmed.
For example, a 2020 review found that social media can have a positive impact on mental health if people use it to stay in touch with friends, but a negative impact if it’s overused.
Sometimes, it’s our own thoughts that can sabotage us, says Brandy Porche, L.P.C. She’s a Dallas–based licensed professional counselor with Mindpath Health.
“True self-care is extending grace and mercy to yourself on a daily basis,” Porche says. “Giving yourself grace to fall, climb, and restore mentally and emotionally. Sometimes we can be our worst critic. Learning to be kind to yourself can be life changing.”
Come back tomorrow for Day 6 of the Kindness Challenge, where we’ll share strategies to help you stick with your kind intentions. Keep up with the challenge here.
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