Have you heard the term “personal self-care?” I used to think that personal self-care meant being self-indulgent. To me, it was like wealthy heiresses spending half the day getting massages and pedicures then spending the rest of the day playing mahjong. I’m the kind of person who tends to put others first. So spending time on “personal self-care” seemed really selfish.
But I came to realize it just means keeping all parts of yourself—physical, mental, emotional and spiritual—healthy and happy. Taking care of yourself, especially in a time of crisis is not selfish. It’s necessary. It’s like when the stewardess tells you to put on your oxygen mask first before trying to help someone else. That’s not selfish, it’s just smart. In that situation, if you try to help someone else before taking care of yourself, not only will you probably die but you won’t even be able to help, right?
Actually, a lot of the tips I’ve given so far are related to self-care: exercising and staying physical, keeping connected with loved ones, taking time to laugh, maintaining a routine, and so on but here are a couple more. They are so basic that people often overlook them, but they are so very necessary.
First off, eat well.
Okay, I know how it is. When stressful times hit, a big bowl of Chunky Monkey sounds awfully good. We all want a little comfort food and that’s fine. But a diet of Doritos, chocolate cake, and Pop-Tarts won’t really give you the comfort you want in the long run. When we’re stressed, we crave sugars and saturated fats. But after the initial high, those foods make us crash. Our stress, grouchiness, and anxiety actually increase. It’s like having a headache and taking a pill that makes you feel great for ten minutes. After that, it makes you feel even worse than you did before you took it!
Rather than junk food, doctors say that eating foods that are high in potassium and protein will help calm your nerves. I’m not saying you shouldn’t have treats. But healthier food will make you feel physically, mentally and emotionally better and more capable of dealing with the challenges we’re all facing right now. If you don’t believe me, try a couple of days of full-on junk food, and see how you feel. Then try some days of healthier eating and notice the difference.
We also need to make sure we get enough good sleep.
I have to admit, I’m having trouble sleeping right now too, but your body and your brain need good sleep! I’m sure you know this from your own experience. For most of us, if we don’t get enough sleep, especially if it’s for several days in a row, we feel cranky, foggy-headed, and sluggish. Pay attention to what your body is telling you and sleep in or take a nap if you need to. Schedule yourself to get the hours of sleep at night that’s right for you. For most people, that’s 7 seven to 8 eight hours but your optimal amount may be more or less.
What if you wake up at night and can’t get back to sleep? That’s pretty common right now. Our brains get over-active. Some of us are busy thinking of solutions to what’s going on. Others have their brains spinning with anxiety and worry. If this is happening, you can find a million suggestions online from meditating and deep breathing to reading something really, really boring.
Figure what works for you so it doesn’t continue night after night. One thing I do is keep a journal by my bed, if I wake up and can’t sleep, I write down all the thoughts that run through my brain. Many times we are trying to work through things and by just writing them down, it will allow our minds to relax so we can rest.
Take really good care of yourself. Love yourself. You are important.