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Health & Wellness Spotlight: Self Care Isn’t Selfish

Photo By Kayleigh Omang

Self-care is a popular buzzword, sometimes met with an eye roll.  But, it’s no joke. Those who know how to take good care of themselves often have more to give others and enjoy more positive emotions. Looking forward, your future self will be healthier and happier too. Self-care is the ultimate health care reform.

It starts with intentional awareness of these daily health pillars: Sleep, Healthy Eating, Movement, Relaxation and Connection. Add in a few extras when possible, and you’ve got a winning plan for effective self-care. Create brief simple rituals that support this plan. If you’re a parent, there is nothing better that you can do for your kids than create intentional rituals that will bake good self-care into your daily routines. Be the role model, but include them in these routines whenever possible.

Good self-care involves developing reserves and resilience that help you travel the inevitable up and down journey of life.

1. Sleep well.

This is the only overnight cure. You really can make a big health impact in one night with quality sleep. Make it very dark, cool and quiet in your bedroom and ban electronics and blinking lights. Use blue-blocker glasses in the evening to shade out light that overstimulates your brain. My son loves a little iPod time in the evening and his next gift is some cool shades.

2. Eat to nourish.

Try to flip the switch on cravings and learn which foods help you feel the best. I tried the Whole30 plan last month, eliminating dairy, flour, sugar, sweeteners, bread, grains, processed foods and alcohol. I had significant improvement in my flexibility and joint pains, so I think I’m going to keep up many aspects of it. What foods make you feel great? Which foods make you tired or uncomfortable? Be your own detective, or get checked for food sensitivities.

To pass this along, teach the kids three to five age-appropriate simple dishes that can be assembled or prepared faster than fast food.

3. Move your body.

This does not have to be an intimidating workout. A morning walk or and evening stroll counts. Walk the dog and the kids. Scatter four to five dance breaks throughout the day. Stretching makes you feel like a graceful cat. Lifting heavy things, barbells or groceries a couple of times a week is great. Work yourself up to a class and stand in back if you’re shy. We’re so lucky to have amazing options at the YMCA, Family Wellness, Courts Plus, Park District, Community Education, Mojo Fit, Anytime Fitness, Planet Fitness and numerous private gyms and yoga studios around town.

And don’t forget Barre classes, Cycle Bar, SolidCore, Orange Theory, hot yoga, Surf Classes and more. Move it, shake it, lift it and be a little silly and have fun. If you can’t do all the moves, laugh it off. Move it so you don’t lose it.

4. Relaxation helps your mind and body.

This is as simple as two minutes of deep breathing in the morning. It can be prayer, meditation, guided imagery, journaling or reading. Ask friends if they have any favorites. What calms and centers you? If you need to explore more, consider an app like Calm or Headspace. For real tech lovers, the Muse headband is a meditation device that provides real-time feedback on your mental activity, heart rate, breathing and body movements so you can track your results and progress.

Having a massage, bodywork or facial on a regular basis is a great way to relax. The power of touch is a powerful psychological boost in addition to soothing sore muscles and improving skin.

5. Connection makes the world go round.

It’s said that loneliness is deadlier than cigarette smoking. Be intentional about meaningful conversations with your family. Discuss the highs and lows of your days. Have family game nights that inspires laughter along with a little healthy competition. “Girls Night” Out with your friends is also important. And “Guys Get-Togethers” have meaning beyond football scores. Make it more about the conversation than the cocktails. If you are really brave, give some hugs. A 20-second heart-to-heart hug is scientifically proven to boost positive hormones.

6. The little extras make it all worthwhile.

I’m currently reading a book called “Joyful: The Surprising Power of Ordinary Things to Create Extraordinary Happiness” by Ingrid Fetell Lee. The message is simply that joy is all around us if we know where to look, and we can learn to cultivate joy in our everyday lives. It’s about noticing what brings us pleasure. It’s about being aware of birds singing, a beautiful sunset or frost on the trees. It’s about relishing cozy socks, a warm sweater and a cup of tea on a cold day. It’s a few moments of basking in the sun at the lake, enjoying the waves and a little bit of breeze. Make a list of happy moments and things you enjoy, and intentionally seek them out.

Consider all the little self-care rituals and habits that make up your pillars of health and the silver linings that these fill your bucket with reserves and resilience. Self-care allows us to be grateful for our bodies, our minds, our spirits and others. Life is good!

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