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Self-care plays an important part in our physical wellbeing. Taking time to care for ourselves increases our physical and emotional stamina and improves our self-esteem, leading to a better mindset and greater resilience. By putting ourselves first, we ensure that we’re in a position to perform at our best with optimal levels of energy and enthusiasm not only for ourselves but for others as well. Unfortunately, many of us have been brought up to believe that putting ourselves first is rude and have perhaps had role models in our upbringing – probably many of our parents – whose own needs always came after everyone else’s.
It is important to distinguish between developing self-care habits and being self-indulgent. Self-indulgence is defined as an excessive or unrestrained gratification of one’s own appetites, desires or whims. Picture this: you get home from work after a long commute and a day of back to back clients or projects. As you walk in the door, your dog is jumping all over you to go for a walk, a friend and your mother are both calling at the same time, and perhaps your friend is going through something personal that you’ve promised to help her with. You’re tired, starving and haven’t had time for a proper meal all day. What do you do?
My guess is that many of you would take all the calls and walk the dog. And when you finally get back, you’d shovel a bag of chips in your face because you’re too starving at that point to bother waiting for some proper food to cook.
In the above scenario, it’s easy to see that you would be in a better position to help all those requiring your assistance by, first, taking a little time to satisfy your own physical need for nutrition as well as your emotional need to relax and restore your depleted energy. With your own needs satisfied, you will then have the necessary energy to go and help others.
Many of us are deficient in self-care. To start, however, you don’t have to make sudden or large changes in your everyday life. Start small and before you know it, the small changes will have an incredibly positive effect on your physical and emotional wellness. Here are a couple of self-care tactics that can help anyone de-stress and refocus:
This is easy to neglect because it does require some time, energy and usually a change of clothes and a shower after. But it doesn’t have to be long; a 15 to 20-minute walk, jog or exercise routine in your living room is better than nothing. Your body needs movement to release stress and feel good. Combine exercise with a healthy and balanced diet for a winning self-care combination.
Keeping a journal is a good idea, too. Research has found that journaling for 15 to 20 minutes can help most people cope with traumatic, stressful, or emotional events while also connecting us to our creative sides. It can help us process and communicate more efficiently, as well, which is still important in today’s technology-obsessed world.
Focus on one big thing each day that makes you feel accomplished, whether that’s writing a blog post, finishing a project, or attending a business meeting that you’ve been putting off. With regards to money, resist the temptation to overspend when you’re stressed out because that’s when we tend to make our most impulsive purchases. Take the time to relax and really think about what you want. Save for that trip you’ve been dying to take or specialty class to learn and develop a new skill.
Self-care is not indulgent; it’s necessary for our physical and mental health. Small and simple habits, like doing light exercise and writing in a journal, can make a world of a difference for your wellbeing, improving your energy and your ability to take on whatever life throws at you.
Carrie Gabriel studied nutrition at California State University-Los Angeles and got her RDN through the Coordinated Dietetics Program there. She works as a dietitian for different corporate wellness companies, creating recipes for cooking demos and content for nutrition seminars.
She created her company, Steps2Nutrition, in 2012 in hopes of working more one on one with busy professionals and their specific nutritional needs. She has an advanced certification in weight management and specializes in gluten and dairy free meal preparation for various clients.
You can find some of Carrie’s healthy and delicious recipes and meal tips on her website, www.steps2nutrition.com, and on her Instagram and Twitter account, @steps2nutrition.