The “technical” definition is: the ability of individuals, families and communities to promote health, prevent disease, maintain health, and to cope with illness and disability with or without the support of a healthcare provider”.
I’m all about holistic or natural treatments so would you think I would have this down to a science, right? NOPE! I struggle with practice self-care, like I’m sure many do. The benefits of better physical, mental, and emotional health and well-being should be enough of a reason for me to at least attempt it once a month, right? Research suggests self-care promotes positive health outcomes, such as fostering resilience, living longer, and becoming better equipped to manage stress. I definitely could use some more tools in managing stress!
Self-care can get pretty expensive but you don’t have to break the bank or carve out lots of time to reap the benefits. These may seem like no-brainers BUT the truth is, how many of us actually do them?
#1 – DON’T SKIP USING YOUR VACATION TIME
Vacations can be expensive, but it doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy some time off. Did you know, most Americans, cumulatively wasted 768 million vacation days in 2019. I know, then COVID hit so many used their vacation time to stay home to care for family. Time off from work can improve your mental and physical health, give you a mental edge when it comes to productivity, and keep you excited about your job — and your life.
Vacation can be more affordable with a little bit of creativity. Consider going with friends or family and getting a vacation rental. We loved the cabin we stayed in when we were in Florida. Instead of shelling out for a hotel, share a comfortable home, condo, or apartment then enjoy everything your destination has to offer. When you save on accommodations, you can splurge on great local restaurants, music, and water recreation, too.
#2 – CARVE OUT TIME FOR PROFESSIONAL HELP
No matter what your struggles are in daily life, speaking with a counselor might help. This one was always tough for me. I was afraid it would be considered a sign of weakness. Counseling helps people identify negative patterns, make changes to take control of their lives, and discover their personal strengths. I’m grateful for the 12-steps in my recovery program to help me do this too. Cost should no longer be a reason for not seeking help – if you have employer-sponsored healthcare, a policy through a health insurance exchange, or Medicaid, mental health is likely part of the package. Check it out!
#3 – GET BETTER (AND MORE) SLEEP
Did you know a lack of sleep can affect your mental health and your overall psychological state? I know we feel grump, or at least I do, when we don’t get enough sleep. I was surprised that it also worsens depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety issues, and ADHD. Do you have a bedtime routine? Remember how we always had one for the kids? Guess what? We need one too. I have found sticking with a schedule helps me decompress and prepare for quality rest. I may not get the recommended 7 – 9 hours sleep (who does) but I do average between 6 – 7 hours which definitely makes a difference for me. Some tips for getting into a sleepy mood: journaling, reading or meditating before bed can help. TURN OFF your electronics about an hour before bed. I know this could be the toughest thing. LOL. Try to keep your bedroom as neat as possible; if the place where you sleep is a disorganized mess, you may find this level of chaos is causing a spike in your stress levels, which can disrupt your sleep.
#4 – GET A LITTLE EXERCISE
You know exercise is great for your body. However, you don’t need a gym membership to take advantage of the benefits Plus, there are mental health benefits built into your sweat session, no matter where you have it. Physical activity can decrease depression and anxiety. You don’t need to pay for a gym to lift weights or use machines. Old-fashioned bodyweight workouts require minimal, if any, equipment, and it can be just as effective as hitting the gym. How many of you have exercise equipment (stationary bike, elliptic or something like this) you bought and it is collecting dust in the garage? Pull it out! We bought a stationary bike about 15 years ago and it wasn’t until we moved to our forever home I started using it every day for 15 – 30 minutes. Not a lot but it is definitely making a difference.
Here’s a plus for seniors: If you’re enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan, you can take advantage of the SilverSneakers program, which allows you to enjoy workouts at participating fitness facilities without having to pay any additional fees.
#5 – STEP OUTSIDE & ENJOY NATURE
There are multiple benefits by walking in nature for your mental health — and it’s free. Spending time outside can reduce your risk of diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and myriad other conditions. No matter where you live, there’s likely a park or nature trail nearby you can take advantage of. Take a walk around your neighborhood. Enjoy the sunshine (things are warming up in NJ), smell the flowers (spring is coming), and start feeling more energized without spending a dime.
Although you can spend a lot of money on self-care, it’s not necessary. With these easy ideas, you can glean all the stress-reducing benefits of self-care right away.