Written by Dana Brown.
What is self-care? It’s not an indulgence; it’s a necessity. Self-care is often the first thing we sacrifice when life explodes and the calendar overflows.
If you experience constant stress, irritability, anxiousness, or poor eating or sleep habits, it’s time to recalibrate. Self-care is crucial to maintaining a balanced life because it helps to prevent overload burnout, reduces the negative effects of stress, and allows you to refocus.
Everyone recharges differently. Some people meditate, while others seek nature or escape into a good book. Depending on your individual situation, you can develop a holistic self-care plan that works for you.
Simple self-care suggestions
- Make the time to plan meals and eat well. If you’re used to grabbing food on the go and aren’t sure where to start, start slowly and make changes gradually. Check out these suggestions from Lifehacker.
- Protect your schedule and learn how to say “no.” Add a “meeting” to your Outlook calendar and reserve that 30-minute block for cooking or two hours for meal prep. You’ll be less likely to skip those activities because they’re already built into your schedule.
- Practice better emotional hygiene. Loneliness, stress, and anxiety build up over time. Find someone to talk to about it; don’t push it away and ignore it. These “injuries,” when left untreated, only worsen over time.
- Take breaks to increase efficiency. It sounds counterintuitive, but it works. Stepping away for a bit and then returning to a task with fresh eyes often helps to increase productivity.
- Create a balance that allows you to incorporate fitness into your self-care without becoming obsessed or feeling guilty that you’re neglecting other areas of your life.
Integrating fitness into self-care
Fitness and exercise are important components to self-care. Finding that balance, however, can prove challenging and intimidating. If you’re just starting a fitness program, these steps will help:
Evaluate your fitness level.
The Mayo Clinic’s checklist is a great resource to determine how you measure up.
Create your fitness program. Define your fitness goals. Design a routine that includes about 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous activity weekly. Build activity into each day.
Start your workout routine slowly.
Build up gradually, especially if you’ve not worked out in a while. Also, if exercise hasn’t been a priority before, and you’re worried that you won’t have time to dedicate hours to a program each day, that’s okay!
Find 10 minutes here or a half an hour there to add in a walk. Jogging with your dog or playing tag with the kids counts! Sign up for a salsa class or schedule nightly dance competitions with your children before bedtime. If you’re a multitasker, catch up on your favorite shows while you walk on the treadmill.
Monitor your progress.
Worried that you’re losing your motivation? Set new goals or try a different activity. Instead of measuring your results every day—or even every week—reassess every four or six weeks. Ultimately, your goal is to feel healthy and energized, not frustrated and more stressed!
The importance of exercise for recovering addicts
People who abuse alcohol or drugs never intended to travel that path. Exercise is an important component in their recovery as they work to regain their mental and physical health because it:
- Reduces and relieves stress.
- Naturally and positively alters brain chemistry.
- Improves your outlook and provides a general positive feeling.
- Provides structure.
- Takes up time that might otherwise be spent obsessing or thinking about the addiction.
Just a warning—if you’re just starting out, begin slowly. Don’t overdo it and risk injury.
So many possibilities exist to incorporate what you love and enjoy into a self-care routine. Start small, perhaps with just 10 minutes a day. Increase the time you spend on taking care of yourself gradually, and that self-care will eventually become an established part of your day. Never feel guilty about making time to ensure your mental and physical well-being.