Self-care isn’t selfish. In reality it’s the complete opposite — we could all benefit from putting ourselves first every once in a while.
“In order for us to be our best selves and be there for those we care about or who rely on us, it’s important for us to invest in our own well-being,” says Marni Hillinger, MD, a Scripps Clinic integrative physiatrist at Scripps Center for Integrative Medicine.
Getting started can be a challenge. Making time and making changes doesn’t come easy for some, but the trick is to “start low and go slow.” Small changes made over time can really make a difference.
“Little things count, and one of the ways we can succeed in taking care of ourselves is to break things down into smaller bites that seem more doable,” Dr. Hillinger says. “Maybe an hour of yoga isn’t doable, but 10 or 15 minutes is — and that counts, too. Doing something, even if it’s small, is better than nothing.”
Here are six ways to care for yourself in the coming year:
Even five minutes can boost your mood and decrease stress, plus there’s no wrong way to do it, Dr. Hillinger says. It takes time to learn meditation techniques, so guided meditation apps are great for beginners. Or look into a class, such as the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program offered at Scripps Center for Integrative Medicine.
Exercise causes your body to release endorphins, which are natural mood-boosters. Regular exercise can also help prevent disease and bolster cardiovascular health. Find a form you enjoy and stick to it; according to Dr. Hillinger, the best one is the one you like to do.
One of the best ways to improve your diet is something many of us have been getting more than our fill of recently: cooking. It’s not only fun and creative, but it also puts you in control of what you’re consuming. Cooking with or for others, even if it’s the people you see every day, also feeds your need for socialization. And don’t forget to occasionally treat yourself.
We’re all under some degree of stress. Connecting with loved ones, even via video or phone, can help.
“Have a conversation with someone who loves you or you feel close to,” Dr. Hillinger says. “Even those little interactions can make us feel less lonely.”
No one thing is going to work for everybody, but in general, keeping a routine like going to bed and waking up at the same time every day can be helpful. A ritual, something you do every night before bed, helps set the stage for a good night’s sleep. A nightly cup of tea, a bath, reading, playing with your child, listening to a podcast – any of these may eventually signal to the body that it’s time to wind down.
Take in some of the sunshine San Diego’s famous for (with sunscreen, of course). Enjoying the fresh air, even if you’re wearing a mask, can help shift your perspective.
“We’re so fortunate here to be able to do that,” Dr. Hillinger says.
This content appeared in San Diego Health, a publication in partnership between Scripps and San Diego Magazine that celebrates the healthy spirit of San Diego.