I took several flights recently, and every time I was reminded why self-care is so important, both for me and for those I care about.
As each plane prepared to take off, the flight attendant instructed us in emergency protocol, including what to do if the air masks drop down: put mine on first, and then those of any children or anyone else in need of assistance.
Put mine on first. To take care of others, we mustn’t forget to take care of ourselves first. I appreciated the reminder, as I find it so easy to forget in the busyness of just living to actually take care of myself.
What follows is a primer on just that — taking care of you!
1. Move Your Muscles Every Day
We all know that we should exercise, but it can be hard to find the time and the motivation.
The Department of Health and Human Services Physical Activity Guidelines recommends 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week for the average individual. That’s 30 minutes five times a week.
- Break it up. Get it out of your head that it has to be 30 minutes of continuous activity. Move around for 10 minutes here and 10 minutes there. It’s easy to make excuses to skip that exercise class or your morning run. So reframe the situation: Grab five or 10 minutes whenever you can.
- Work it into your daily routine: Park at the back of the lot instead of right by the door. Take the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator. Have a walking meeting with a colleague instead of sitting in a conference room.
2. Exercise Your Brain Every Day
Your brain is a muscle. You exercise your abs, your arms and your legs. Don’t forget to exercise your brain! You don’t have to get an advanced degree or read a million books; every little bit counts.
- Stay curious, active and involved. Make time to read a book, take a class, learn a new language or do crosswords or other puzzles.
- Load up on fruits, vegetables and omega 3-rich foods. A diet with plenty of phytonutrients can help keep the blood vessels in your brain healthy, just like you eat to keep your heart healthy.
3: Be Present for a Few Minutes Every Day
Being “present,” or mindful — not thinking about what you have to do tomorrow or making shopping lists in your head — for even just a few minutes a day can lower your blood pressure, reduce your anxiety levels and stabilize your mood.
- Download an app like Headspace or Buddhify on your phone so you can practice it whenever or wherever you are.
- Try a class: Choose from mindfulness classes, meditation studio or yoga classes.
- Embrace a support system: This is the perfect time to rely on someone else to actually help yourself. Take a class with a friend, meet for a prayer service or just have an email buddy system.
4. Keep Your Space Calm Every Day
For many of us, our living space defines us. How we choose to arrange those spaces says a lot about who we are. And, just as importantly, how we choose to live in those spaces affects how we feel.
- Add color to your home. Color isn’t just decorative; it can actually affect how you feel. Calming colors (pale blues and grays) can help create a calm environment in your bedroom that will help you to sleep better.
- Surround yourself with plants. This is especially important if you live in an apartment or don’t have much access to nature. They’re beautiful, they clean the air and they require you to take care of something other than yourself.
5. Keep Track of Your Spending Every Day
The good news is that we’re living longer. The not-so-good news is that the majority of Americans aren’t saving enough (if they’re saving anything at all).
Financial insecurity adds to your stress levels, and, in turn, high stress can increase your risk of developing and aggravating certain health issues.
- Save early and often. Put money in a 401(k) or whatever retirement vehicle your company offers. And put a bit more than you want to; it adds up quickly.
- Bring a healthy homemade meal to work at least once a week instead of just picking something up. Need an incentive? Grab a Mason jar and put the money that you don’t spend in and add it up after a month: You’ll be shocked at how much you’ll save.
- Learn. It’s that simple. Many of us haven’t learned financial literacy, but that can change. Take advantage of easy tools at your fingertips (both books and internet resources abound) and figure out what you need to know.