This is a repost from the MS website.
At work today, I caught up with a co-worker I hadn’t seen in a few days. We chatted a bit about my new schedule and how it’s really making a difference in my life. We went on to talk about things we want to do, but can’t do.
She mentioned how tired she was after work and by the time she got home, she didn’t feel like working out. Eating healthy had become a chore. She said she was stuck in a rut but didn’t know how to make the changes necessary to “get healthy.”
Seeing an opportunity to offer her some advice, we went onto to discuss the importance of self-care.
She said to me, “I don’t even know how to do that. No one else will do it for me. So, where do you even start?”
I’ve said this many times before. Part of getting healthy and being fit, includes being mentally and spiritually healthy. It’s all about the body, mind and heart. I’d like to take a moment and share some tips about self-care with you. I passed these onto my co-worker and I hope she finds value in them.
Eat Well – Food is Fuel
When it comes to eating well, people are often confused as to what type of foods our bodies need and how much food we should be eating. Think of your body, and compare it to a well-oiled machine.
When you think of a well-oiled machine, what does your mind automatically go to? I know mine thinks of a car. What do cars need to keep running?
Fuel. And an oil change every now and then.
Food is our fuel.
Eating too much food can result in weight gain and cause you to feel bloated. Eating too little can make you feel fatigued. Starving your body of the basic nutrients that it needs to survive is much like driving your car when the fuel tank is hovering near empty.
Eventually, your car will sputter and stall. It will quit working until you fill up the tank again. Your body, if it doesn’t receive the right amount of nutrients that food provides – will eventually tire out and quit on you.
Sounds complicated right? It isn’t really. According to research from various resources, women should aim for between 1200-1500 calories daily to lose weight. The daily intake for men is typically higher between 1800-2200 calories. This will all depend of course on how high your activity levels are.
I won’t go too much into detail on the different kinds of lifestyle diets you can choose from. The key is to make lifestyle changes in the kitchen. Eat a well rounded diet that provides your body with the nutrients it needs.
Get some fresh air – go for a walk or run
We’ve all heard that exercise is key to maintaining a healthy weight. But exercise does so much for more for us. It’s a mood enhancer. It’s good for our bones and joint health. It gives us energy. And it helps us to sleep at night time.
If you can’t afford a gym or pool membership, go out for a walk. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Take up a sport like tennis, volleyball, or hockey to name a few. Take a dance class. Do yoga, or pilates or strength training. Lift weights.
The key is to find something you enjoy doing – and go out there and do it. Exercise doesn’t have to be boring. It doesn’t have to be painful to be effective. You don’t have to train for three hours a day if you don’t want to.
A ten minute walk in the fresh air every day will help brighten your mood and give you some of the sunshine vitamin D that your body needs to keep moving.
Now that summer is here – it’s the best time to get active and enjoy the weather.
Recharge your batteries – sleep well
To continue with the vehicle analogy, cars run on batteries. Batteries need to be charged every now and then to work well. Just like cars, our body needs to recharge.
It is said by most health professionals that I’ve spoken with, that most people require eight hours of sleep each night. Take it from me, someone who suffers from chronic insomnia – if you don’t get enough sleep, your body will crash and burn on you.
For me, I tend to do well on six solid hours of sleep. Any less than that and I’m tired. Any more than that – and I’m still tired and often wake up with a headache.
How to sleep better at night time? Here are a few tips.
- Don’t go to bed on a full stomach
- Don’t drink caffeine past 7 pm
- No screen time at least one hour before bed
- Have a warm bath before bed
Check out my post here for more tips on the importance of sleep.
Be Social – make new friends
This is a difficult one for me. I’m introverted and need more down time than most people. I go through spurts. There will be weeks where I don’t want to see anyone. And then I get to the point that I feel cut-off and need to reconnect with others. Winter is a bad time for this. This summer – my main goal is to make new friends and get my life back.
But there is more to being social than just being social. It’s about spending your time with the right kind of people. People who are supportive of you and bring a positive influence to your life – those are the type of people you want to surround yourself with.
Join a meetup or group based on your interests. Take a cooking class or go to a paint night. Hop on Facebook and find groups in your area to join. Just get out there and start meeting people.
Meeting people can be hard but it’s not impossible. If you’re stuck in a rut or want to change things up a bit – joining a new group and introducing new people in your life can make all the difference in the world.
Meeting like-minded people who share the same passions and interests as you – can open you up to new possibilities and adventures.
If I can meet new people at my age – so can you!
Down Time – Look after You
Down time is important to me. I need a lot of downtime to recharge and maintain my individuality. This is a huge reason why I don’t date. I’m actually terrified of losing myself in a relationship again. It can happen if you’re not careful.
Finding the right balance in life can seem like an impossible feat. But to look after you and in practicing the art of self-care, you will need to make the time for yourself.
Even if it’s just for twenty or thirty minutes a day, try to find time for you. Just to be on your own and lost in your own thoughts.
If you work full time – go out for a walk at lunch time. Or find a quiet spot to read a book instead of sitting at the computer all day.
My older brother has four kids. We got talking about Netflix one day and I asked him where he finds time or the energy to watch his favorite shows. What he told me was quite surprising.
My quiet time is early in the morning. I’m usually the first one up. My favorite part of the day is that hour I have to myself. Nothing beats a hot cup of coffee and a bowl of cereal while watching a documentary.
This might be the one thing we actually have in common. Our love of documentaries. I don’t think he gets to do this much now that he has a baby in the house. But even my brother knew the importance of self-care and finding time just for him.
I carpool to work every day with another friend of mine. He has three kids and his wife works part-time. I asked him how he finds time for himself.
It’s when the kids are in bed and after I’ve picked up my wife. I stay up too late and watch whatever show I’m watching on my Ipad with headphones. They’re noise cancelling headphones so my wife can watch the television if she wants to. It’s the only time I really have to myself.
My girlfriend Montana and I reconnected on the weekend and went for brunch. She works full time, has a house to run and is caring for her partner who has cancer. When I asked her how she finds time for herself – this is what she told me.
I don’t. At least right now I don’t. It’s why I went on that trip with my partner. Even though I couldn’t afford it. We both needed it. We needed to be with family and we needed to get away from everything. And it was worth it.
Downtime might be the most important part of self-care.
Eating well, getting enough exercise, and sleeping well, are all things that we can do to maintain a healthy body. But downtime, and surrounding ourselves with positive influences – these are things we can do for our minds and sense of well-being.
Whether it’s twenty minutes a day, or two hours – find something that you enjoy doing. Do it just for you and no one else.
For me – it’s writing, reading, doing research, listening to music on Spotify and making playlists. It’s creating art. Being social – it’s about being with my friends and going for lunch. Or visiting my dad. Or grabbing a drink with a new friend.
These are all things I’m doing to improve the quality of my life. These are things that help a little with self-care. These are all things I’m striving to be better at. Because I know I deserve it. And I deserve to be happy.
And most importantly – so do you.
I hope you enjoyed this article. What do you do in your downtime? What is your idea of self-care?