Odds are, if you’ve picked up a magazine or turned on a news program in the past few years, you’ve heard “self-care” mentioned. But is self-care really all about pampering yourself?
The quick answer is: No.
Self-care isn’t always about pampering yourself with expensive gestures like massages or spa days. It’s actually a pretty simple concept—and one that can be easy to enact in your own life.
Self-care is simply taking care of yourself. In a month dedicated to love, why not spend some time loving yourself by taking care of your physical, emotional, and mental health?
“Women often put themselves last on the priority list,” says Karen Fleenor, MD, OB/GYN with West Tennessee Medical Group. “We’re so busy taking care of everyone else that we neglect our own needs, including our health. But it’s important to take care of yourself, too.”
Let’s explore some ways that you can put self-care into action:
5 Ways to Practice Self-Care
So, we’ve established that self-care isn’t always about elaborate and expensive ways of pampering yourself. What is self-care, then? We have five key suggestions to get you started.
- Practice healthy lifestyle habits. Yes, the first step toward caring for yourself is caring for your health. Boost your overall health by practicing healthy lifestyle habits. That means investing in yourself by exercising regularly, eating a balanced diet, not smoking, limiting your alcohol consumption and getting enough quality sleep. These habits are good for every facet of your health—from your heart to your brain to your mental health. That makes them effective self-care.
- Learn how to say no. Is it hard for you to decline invitations or say no to activities or people you don’t enjoy? It is for most of us, actually. Establishing boundaries related to what you will tolerate and what you will not in both your personal and professional life is an important facet of self-care. Decide what’s OK with you and what you just don’t want to do anymore—that may look like not answering emails after a specific time each day or deciding you aren’t going to say yes to invites to social gatherings if they make you uncomfortable.
- Spend time alone. Socializing is important. In fact, social isolation and loneliness have been shown as equally as dangerous to our health. as some chronic health conditions. But with that said, time spent by yourself is also important. Solitude gives you time to truly get in touch with what makes you tick and what you need to feel truly fulfilled and satisfied in life. Those are important pieces of the puzzle when it comes to mental health. Choose activities you love—and schedule them on your calendar. This can be as simple as taking a walk…or that pampering with a massage might be in order!
- Find ways to relax. Stress affects everyone to some extent. While some amount of stress is a good thing, too much stress over time can have dangerous effects on our health. Finding effective ways to manage stress is important. Meditation and other methods of relaxing and refocusing our minds are often a beneficial way of reducing or minimizing the effects of stress. If meditation isn’t your thing, you might consider journaling your thoughts or filling in a gratitude journal. Both can have similar effects, allowing you to release stress and find calm.
- Schedule those appointments. Are you at the bottom of your priority list? It is time to change that! Take the first step toward prioritizing yourself and your health by scheduling—and keeping—all those annual or biannual checkups you should be having. Make your appointment with your primary care provider, your OB/GYN, your dermatologist, your eye doctor and your dentist. There’s no better form of self-care than the literal act of taking care of yourself by checking up on your health.
Has it been awhile since your last checkup? There’s no better time than now! Love yourself this month by scheduling a checkup. FIND A DOCTOR HERE.