The Case for Self-Care
The world is a busy place. As you meet obligations to your family and your workplace, it can be difficult to make time for yourself and what you need. We have all heard that taking care of ourselves allows us to care for others in a healthier way. So, especially if you are a caregiver, practicing self-care can actually make you happier and more productive in all of your interactions. Here are some ideas for making it happen.
Develop a movement habit. If this seems like a chore, try not to think of it as exercise. It’s “movement,” and movement feels good. Enjoy a few stretches in the morning, take a refreshing stroll at lunch, or host a private one-song dance party in your living room.
Breathe in nature. Spending time in nature has lots of benefits. And here in our rural area, you don’t have to go very far to find pleasant places outside. It could be on your back porch or on a park bench. Just sit and be. Feel the sun, look at the trees, watch the birds, and breathe in and out. It’s as easy as that.
Practice gratitude. Our culture wires us to want more of everything. Naming even just one thing we are grateful for each day can improve our outlook. More than that, gratitude has been shown to slow the effects of neurodegeneration, decrease inflammation, lower blood pressure, and protect the heart.
Take one small step towards a goal. It is so easy to get discouraged when we are not making as much progress as we would like. Try decreasing the size of your steps. If you are having a hard time carving out 30 minutes to practice a language or instrument you would like to learn, try 5 minutes instead. Making even one phone call in pursuit of your goal is a success that can add up over time.
Reach out to a friend. Spending time with people who rejuvenate us can be so rewarding. But it takes time. Even if you only have a few minutes, reach out to remember the last time you saw them or to let them know you are thinking of them. It will make them feel great, and you will enjoy it too. Being in the habit of getting in touch will increase your chances of a much-needed meet up.
Escape from technology. Turn it down or turn it off! Technology is such a big part of our lives. When we feel like we have to answer every message right away, it can eat away at our sense of autonomy and self-worth. You don’t have to answer right away, and it might make you feel better not to. In addition, while the daily news is a source of information, it can also be a source of stress. Taking time away can help us focus on the positive things happening in our world.
Cook and eat a healthy delicious meal. Cooking something you really love is so much fun. The sensory experience as you prepare the ingredients heightens the anticipation and makes savoring the meal so satisfying. As a bonus, home cooked food is usually healthier than meals you get prepared.
Self-care is healthy, but it’s more about making time for the things and people you genuinely enjoy for the sake of the joy alone. What could you do in the name of self-care? Taking a nap, gardening, listening to your favorite music, painting, flea market shopping… The answer is whatever brings you fulfillment. Enjoy!
Lisa Downing-Forget, MD, MPH, CMD, is a primary care physician for people 60 and older at SVMC Internal Medicine, which is a part of Southwestern Vermont Medical Center and Southwestern Vermont Health Care in Bennington.