The key to taking care of yourself is to start with small, manageable changes and keep adding on. Consider asking yourself, “What’s one thing I could do to care for myself right now?”
Eat Enough Food
Sounds easy enough, right? You’d be surprised how many people rush around between work and errands without feeding themselves!
We need food (energy) about every 3 to 4 hours. This means that 3 meals and 2-3 snacks are what it takes to provide steady energy to get you through the day. If this sounds overwhelming, start with adding one more meal or snack.
Get Enough Nutrients
Consuming enough energy is one thing, but you also need to get enough nutrients. This includes macronutrients (carbohydrates, protein and fat) and micronutrients (all the vitamin and minerals).
You don’t need a rigid meal plan or intense food tracking app to get enough nutrients. You can use the plate method as a tool to build balanced meals that help you feel satisfied. A brief summary of the plate method is having a grain, protein food, fruit and/or veggie, and calcium source at every meal. Then you add on seasonings, fats, garnishes, etc.
Life isn’t perfect and meals aren’t always nutritionally balanced – and that’s OK. But striving to include the above food groups in most of your meals is a worthy goal.
Drink Plenty of Water
Did you know that being even slightly dehydrated can have a significant impact on how you feel? Get ahead of dehydration by drinking water throughout the day! The easiest way to achieve this is to keep a full water bottle with you or next to you and take frequent sips.
Remember that water isn’t the only thing that can hydrate you. Non-alcoholic fluids such as coffee, tea, milks and juices also help with hydration. Fruit and high-water veggies such as cucumbers, tomatoes and celery also contribute to a day’s fluid intake.
Get Enough Sleep
Here’s the thing: only a tiny percentage of adults can function well on less than 7 hours of sleep. Yet many people seem to think they don’t need more than a few hours. The reality is people are masking chronic sleep deprivation with caffeine, which only impairs sleep further.
When it comes to getting enough sleep, you really need to make it a priority. There will always be reasons to stay up later. It takes some serious self-discipline to stick to a bedtime, but the benefits are so worth it!
Try these strategies for bedtime:
- Set a reminder or alarm on your phone 1 hour before you want to get into bed.
- During that hour, turn off screens, do your nighttime hygiene routine, slip into your PJs, and perhaps do some reading or light bedtime yoga.
- Try guided meditations or sleep stories.
- Consider diffusing lavender essential oil.
- Keep screens off in the bedroom (i.e. no TV or phone in bed).
- Use the restroom right before getting into bed.
- Make sure the room is cool and that you have plenty of cozy blankets.
- Set your alarm for 8 to 9 hours after you turn off the lights.
Keep up with Stress Management
It’s not realistic to eliminate all stress from your life. Rather, how can you minimize stress and manage stress effectively?
First make a list of your stressors and categorize them into “avoidable” and “unavoidable.” For the “avoidable” list — where can you cut back? Do you need to employ new systems to maximize efficiency and time management? Do you need to say “no” more often? Are there specific people you need to set boundaries with?
Then look at the “unavoidable” list and ask yourself if those stressors are indeed unavoidable. You may be surprised that with an open mind and some creativity you might be able to decrease the level of stress in those “unavoidable” areas as well.
As for managing stress, it’s best to get a solid self-care routine in place so that stress doesn’t build up and then break you down. Self-care doesn’t have to be super time-consuming, expensive or luxurious.