Guest post by Sheila Olson of fitsheila.com
Imagine an old-fashioned balance scale. On one end is extreme selfishness, on the other -- extreme sacrifice. And smart self-care is somewhere around the middle.
Although the metaphor seems simple, reaching that equilibrium requires forming habits that foster your physical, mental and emotional, and spiritual well-being, according to information from Utah State University’s department of Counseling and Psychological Services. But self-care doesn’t have to be too time-consuming. Here are some tips on how to address each of those areas despite an already-busy schedule.
Getting enough physical activity is a central element of self-care because it improves your physical, mental, and emotional well-being. For instance, exercise helps you control your weight and combats conditions including heart disease and type 2 diabetes while boosting your mood and energy level.
Although it’s important to start slowly if you’re new to exercise, physical activity can also help manage existing conditions including substance use disorder, depression, and anxiety, among many others. Exercise can assist those in addiction recovery increase their self-esteem as they set and meet goals, manage stress in a productive way, and create connections with health-conscious people. Similarly, physical activity can help people dealing with depression and anxiety gain confidence, increase social interaction, and cope with stress in a healthy way, all while increasing the brain’s production of mood-boosting endorphins, according to the Mayo Clinic.
But don’t skimp on sleep to squeeze a workout into a packed schedule. Like exercise, sleep is a critical element of self-care -- and for good reason. Getting the right amount of sleep can help keep weight in check, boost your memory, extend your lifespan, increase your attention span, improve your athletic and work performance, and keep stress and depression at bay. Plus, getting enough sleep will help give you the energy to exercise.
Mental and Emotional
Along those same lines, forming friendships and putting in the time and effort needed to keep them growing and going is also critical to maintaining mental and emotional health. You should also keep in mind that you are your own constant companion, so make time to get comfortable with only you as your company.
One of the best ways to carve time for friends, family, and yourself out of a busy schedule is by combining activities that foster self-care. For instance, why not enlist a favorite friend to sign up for a fun fitness class, or indulge in some alone time while pursuing a healthy hobby? If you love cooking, for example, set aside a Sunday afternoon to experiment with new recipes and prep meals for the week. You could also choose a new heart-healthy dish to prepare, and invite an intimate group of family and friends over for dinner one weekend to socialize while stretching your chef skills. Increasing your roster of recipes will boost your confidence and add some spice to your life in more ways than one.
Feeding your spiritual self can mean everything from practicing meditation in private, attending religious services with like-minded people, or clarifying your own values through journaling, among many other practices. As with addressing your mental and emotional needs, spiritual self-care can often be combined with other aspects of your self-care routine.
For example, yoga often incorporates meditation and can facilitate physical fitness. Indeed, studies have shown yoga increases flexibility, improves muscle strength, and lowers blood pressure, among a plethora of other health benefits. And, maybe more surprisingly, studies have also shown journaling might have physical benefits, including improving immune function, lowering levels of stress and anxiety, and encouraging sounder sleep, in addition to the soul-searching it encourages.
There’s no need to feel as though self-care is yet another thing to tackle on your crowded to-do list. Instead, try combining self-care strategies to create a balanced routine that works for you.