I headed into this summer ready for relaxation and fun. With the sun shining, I wanted to pack my schedule with social events and spend as much time as I could outdoors. Instead, the universe had a different plan for me. Within the first month of this bright season, I lost a dear loved one, started a new job, and moved to a new town. Instead of being able to enjoy the lazy, dog days of summertime, I was facing three major life changes—and all at once!
I had two choices: get overwhelmed by change or learn how to navigate it. This period of major life transitions taught me one big lesson: the importance of self-care. There was no way I was going to make it through this time of both loss and new beginnings without slowing down and tuning in to myself. In order for me to show up and be present every day, I had to put taking care of myself first.
When life throws big things your way, we especially need to press pause and reevaluate our daily habits and try to improve on what we’re already doing. Between family and work, fun and commitments, it can be challenging to squeeze in time for self-care. But it should always be a priority, because ultimately, when you feel good, you can show up and be there for others.
Use these five tips to take your self-care routine to the next level.
Treat yourself at least once a week
Your body works hard to help you meet each day’s demands, from work to socializing to simply getting you from A to B. So, it deserves something special! There are so many options to give your body a special thank you. A foot massage, a manicure, a haircut, a DIY face mask or a soak in the tub are just a few ways to indulge. Whatever it is, find the little luxury that makes you feel the best.
Move your body
We all know the importance of exercise, but sometimes that word can make us cringe. A little shift in perspective is all it takes to kick your body into gear. Instead of looking at exercise as a chore, approach it as a fun way to try something new. Go for a walk, swim in the pool, try kayaking, canoeing, rollerblading, skateboarding, yoga, or Zumba. For me, I’ve never been a gym girl, but I’ve found what gets my heart pumping. I love going for a walk (especially in nature), doing some yoga (whether it’s in a studio or at home with a YouTube video), and playing at the park with my nieces and nephew. Find what you enjoy and then get out there and move as much as you can. Your body will thank you.
Eat your fruits and veggies
The standard American diet is high in fat, sugar, and junk food and is linked to numerous diseases and conditions, including diabetes and heart disease. A wonderful first step in the right, healthy direction is increasing the amount of fruits and veggies you consume every day. This alone will have amazing effects on your overall health, including helping to reverse and even prevent heart disease, some types of cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and more. Replace your daily snack with a piece of fruit, like an easy to grab-and-go banana or apple. If you want to take things up a notch, buy a juicer or blender and make a smoothie to get your vegetables in for the day. Meet with your doctor or nutritionist to come up with a health plan personalized for you.
Between work, friends, family, social media, and everything life throws our way, there’s always someone or something vying for your attention. This summer, when I was juggling so many demands, I had to carve out breaks for myself, otherwise I would have snapped under the pressure. Rest is so necessary. No one can function at full speed all the time. Look at your calendar and designate one day each week as your “rest” day. On this day, try to completely unplug and do activities that help you unwind and relax. You can read a book, head out for an adventure in nature, or spend time with friends and family. Even taking 10 minutes to sit quietly alone can help you find a sense of calm.
Make sleep a priority
Last, but certainly not least, it’s absolutely critical to make sleep a priority. When we’re well rested, we feel better about everything. Sleep is directly linked to your health, and it’s one of the best things you can give yourself. It helps you feel more centered, builds up your immunity, and allows your body the time it needs to rest and detox each night. Set a lights out time and try to avoid all screens for the hour before you hit the sack by docking your phone somewhere out of reach. Make your room dark and do a relaxing activity before bed, like reading, journaling, or even meditating. Some people need more or less sleep than others, so find the amount that works well for you, and be sure to get to bed on time. There’s truly nothing better than a good night’s sleep.
Originally published on August 9, 2017.