Make Fitness a Part of Self-Care: Balance the Basics

Contributed by Sheila Olson;

Making time to take care of yourself can be tricky. We live in a fast-paced society, and sometimes it doesn’t seem there are enough hours in the day. Women, in particular, seem to get the short end of the stick, picking up the slack for both work and family obligations. However, we can’t take care of others if we’re not taking good care of ourselves. Here are some tips to help you restore the balance you’ve lost in your life.

 Get Enough Rest

Sleep deprivation makes it hard to concentrate. It can also make you cranky, tired, and ill. A lack of sleep can lower immune function, leaving us susceptible to viruses and bacterial infections, as well as depression and mental illness. Give each day the best beginning possible by getting plenty of rest. Start by cutting out caffeinated beverages after lunch to give yourself a chance to feel sleepy. Then, create a bedtime ritual that soothes and relaxes you. A hot bath, a chapter of a favorite book, a mug of warm milk -- whatever makes you feel warm and cozy. Go to bed at the same time each night, and try to get up at the same time every day.

Better Your Body with Diet and Exercise

Despite our growing national weight problem, a lot of us are actually malnourished. A lack of proper nutrients in our diet can trigger depression and suppress healing in the body. It makes you more irritable and contributes to fatigue. Fight back by eating less junk food and processed carbohydrates, especially sugars. Focus on healthy meats, produce, and fats. Make time to feed and properly hydrate your body each day.

Your body needs exercise to maintain mobility and grow strong bones and muscles. However, it doesn’t have to be done with a pricey gym membership. Think of your workout as playtime, and use it to engage in movement that is fun and feels good to your body. Go biking, walking, swimming, or hiking. Dance in your pajamas in the living room, or swipe your kid’s hula hoop and groove to your favorite music. The point is to get active and engaged in moderate physical activity for at least 30 minutes per day, five days each week. You can even break it up into smaller segments several times a day.

Learn to Listen

Part of making yourself a priority in your own life is learning to listen to yourself. Meditation is a great way to be more mindful and live in the moment. Take a few minutes each day to meditate. Focus on your breathing, visualize your happy place, and get a little bit more zen. Studies show meditation improves cardiovascular health and immune response. It even helps slow the process of aging. On top of all that, it makes you feel more optimistic, happier, and self-aware. Combined with yoga, tai chi, or stretching exercises, it can be a healthy part of your fitness routine as well. One of the best things about meditation is that you don’t even have to leave your home. Find a peaceful, low-traffic area of your home and design your own meditation room.

Learn to Relax

Part of taking care of yourself is respecting your own limits. Avoid getting overcommitted; it’s okay to say no. When you make a social obligation, make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons. You can’t be all things to all people, so prioritize what really matters to you. And be careful not to let yourself get overwhelmed; if your schedule is getting a little crazy, pull back. Don’t overdo it. It’s better to cancel than to let an event exhaust you completely.

Everyone can benefit from good self-care practices, but they’re especially important for people who are in addiction recovery or struggling with a mental illness. These illnesses can cause so much damage, eating away at your self esteem, even as they ravage the health of your body. Self-care promotes healthy lifestyle choices and encourages the healing process. Self-care is about becoming the very best version of yourself by investing in the health and well-being of your body and mind. Take time to replenish your resources so you can give back to the people you love.