A concept growing in popularity, self-care is worth your time and attention. The benefits associated with focusing on your physical, mental, and emotional well-being each day are numerous. Better overall health, improved mood, and reduced stress have all been linked to a consistent self-care routine. Taking care of yourself is important for everyone, and it doesn’t need to be complicated or expensive. Read on to learn more, including how you can start a self-care routine today.
Self-Care Isn't Selfish
Before we dive into learning more about self-care and how you can create your own routine, it is important to take a step back and address why you should. As the pace of life continues to accelerate, with increasing demands being made on your time, it feels selfish to set aside "me" time. However, if you are a primary caregiver – a parent, healthcare worker, first responder, or someone who cares for an elderly loved one – self-care is a must. Simply put, you cannot care for others without seeing to your own needs first. Developing a routine that addresses your physical, mental and emotional health, and leaves you feeling refreshed and recharged, will better prepare you to focus on the needs of others. For more information on the importance of self-care check out the Harvard Health Blog.
Start Simple. Stay Consistent.
Self-care is any activity that impacts your physical, mental or emotional health in a positive way. Since we are all unique, the possibilities are endless – so don’t be afraid to experiment until you find what works best for you. Once you do, try your best to be consistent. The benefits of self-care only happen when it is done regularly – either daily, weekly, or monthly. Following are some suggestions for activities that can help improve your physical, mental, and emotional well-being.
Self-care that focuses on your physical health doesn’t have to involve kale or extended sweat sessions at the gym – unless you want it to. Following are some simple activities that you can include in your self-care regimen. The key is to find an activity that you love and will want to do on a regularly basis.
- Better sleep. Instead of focusing on getting more sleep, which you probably already know you need to do, why not aim for better sleep habits? Sticking to a set schedule, limiting the amount of screen time before bed, using essential oils to help you relax – all are great ways to focus on self-care that will likely help you sleep better.
- Move your body. From boosting your immune system to improving your mood, regular exercise is good for you. There are plenty of exercise options to choose from – with little to no expense required. Search for an activity that you enjoy and want to do!
- Massage. There are many positives associated with massage therapy, including pain management and stress reduction. Choose the style of massage – deep tissue, trigger point, Swedish, etc. – that best suits your needs.
A glance at the evening news, or your smart phone’s calendar, will confirm there is no shortage of stressors in today’s world. Self-care strategies that promote relaxation and a calm mind are a great way to improve your mental health. Try adding one of these activities to your self-care routine:
- Meditation. Developing a daily meditation practice can improve focus, reduce stress, and lead to better sleep. There are numerous online resources, as well as apps, like Calm or Headspace, to help get you started.
- Reading. Spending time with your favorite characters, or learning about a subject that fascinates you – reading daily is a great self-care activity. The benefits associated with reading are many – from an improved ability to empathize to helping to prevent age-related cognitive decline.
- Puzzles. Crossword, jigsaw, sudoku – there are plenty of puzzles to choose from. All offer positive mental health benefits ranging from improving your memory to increasing your vocabulary.
In an article for Psychology Today, psychiatrist Abigail Brenner, M.D. describes the importance of emotional self-care. “Mastering your emotions is not only your personal responsibility but also is a positive strategy for getting through life in the best possible way you can. When you have a healthy attitude about your feelings and how to express them, you are better equipped to get through events well, rather than feeling each time strong emotion hits that you are overwhelmed and incapable of handling the situation.” Strategies for emotional self-care can include learning to set boundaries or forming a strong support network. Following are some simple ways to begin:
- Coffee or tea-time. From the smell of the freshly ground beans, to savoring your first sip – your morning java (or tea) can be a wonderful restorative ritual.
- Journal. Numerous studies have shown a connection between journaling and improved mental health. Not into writing? No problem – you can create a visual journal with sketches or drawings, or dictate your entries on your smartphone. Experiment until you find what works best for you.
- Pets. Teaching mindfulness, relieving stress, providing comfort, and offering a sense of purpose – pups provide numerous mental health benefits. If circumstances prevent you from owning a pet, you can volunteer at a shelter, or spend time with a friend’s dog.
Finding a self-care routine that works best for you requires some work, but the long-term benefits are worth the effort involved. Focus on finding what works best for you and being consistent, so you can offer the best version of yourself to your loved ones!
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