Self-care is a buzzy term right now, but what does it really mean? Simply put, self-care means recognizing your own physical and emotional needs, and meeting them. Many people struggle with self-care because our society tends to value things like ‘productivity’ and ‘profit’ over emotional well being. We often feel guilty when we put our own needs first. It’s important to remember that you can’t give to your family or be productive at your job if you are running on empty. Self-care is about refilling your tank. Here are our tips about how to improve your self-care in 2020

Start with Little Things

Is there a relaxing or renewing activity that you haven’t done in a long time? It can be something simple like reading a book, taking a bath, or just sitting and enjoying a few minutes of quiet time. If you never seem to get around to these sorts of activities, now is the time to start prioritizing them. Making time even once a week to engage in a simple activity that you find enjoyable or relaxing can have real benefits. You’ll find that you feel better able to take on the challenges of your daily life.

‘Making time’ can seem like a difficult thing to do, start by asking yourself what activities you could do less of. Is it necessary for your career to stay late at work every night? If not, start coming home on time one night and treating yourself to some downtime.

Discuss your goals with your partner and see if they would be willing to clean up after dinner or help the kids with their homework one night a week while you have ‘me-time.’ If you offer to do the same thing in exchange for them, it could start a healthier pattern for both of you. Beginning with one ‘little thing’ once a week can put you on the path to better self-care habits.

Focus on Your Health

Is there a simple health habit that you know you should be doing but keep putting off? Most of us know we should get thirty minutes of exercise every day, floss our teeth every night and eat less sugar, but somehow we just never do. Pick one healthy habit to start this year, even if it is just taking a couple of minutes to floss before bed. Every healthy habit you start will make you feel better about yourself and your life.
Once you start, you will be more motivated to add other healthy habits to your routine. The key is prioritizing your health over other activities or tasks. Do you spend thirty minutes looking at your phone every day? Try taking that same thirty minutes and doing a workout. Even a simple change can make a difference. For instance, if you have high cholesterol, eating oatmeal for breakfast most days could help bring your numbers down.

Don’t forget about your emotional health. Try journaling or meditating. As little as five minutes a day can help you feel calmer and more focused. And for the sake of your overall wellness, please get more sleep.

See a Professional

Many of us put off seeing a doctor when we need to. Sometimes it’s because we are concerned about cost, other times, it’s because that childhood fear of the doctor’s office never went away. Not getting preventative care or prompt care when a problem starts can put your well-being and even your life at risk.

Schedule a check-up this year if you haven’t had one in a while, and while you’re at the office, schedule one for next year too. Preventative care is free on most health plans. If you don’t have health insurance, ask around at doctor’s offices and find one that has a lower payment option for people without insurance. Many doctors, dentists, and ophthalmologists now have these plans to help encourage people without insurance to seek preventative care. You could also consider saving up for your health care costs, just like you would for any other important purchase.

If you live with chronic pain from an old injury, make this the year you go to a chiropractor. A good chiropractor can offer you a variety of services to help treat your pain at the source. Back and neck pain are treatable, so don’t suffer needlessly.

If you have diabetes or other chronic health problems, make an appointment with your specialist and commit to staying on top of your care.

Your mental health should be a priority, as well. If you struggle with a mental illness or have gone through stressful life events recently, you shouldn’t hesitate to see a counselor or psychiatrist. The saying ‘your health is everything’ applies to your mental health, as well as your physical health. If you aren’t in a healthy state of mind, your whole life will suffer. Making the time for a weekly counseling session might be one of the best things you can do to take care of yourself this year.

Be More Social

Humans are social creatures. It’s in our DNA! But in the age of ‘social media,’ we seem to be less social than ever. When was the last time you had a game night with friends? Or even a long phone conversation? Socializing boosts your immune system, decreases feelings of depression, and lowers your risk for dementia. Unfortunately, we often sacrifice our social lives at the altar of ‘busyness.’ Between work and family responsibilities, it can be hard to find time to connect in person with friends. Things get even more difficult if everyone works different shifts.

‘Difficult’ is not the same as ‘impossible.’ you really can still have a social life; the key is to communicate with your friends and make realistic goals together. Maybe your posse can only get together once a month. That’s fine! It’s certainly better than zero times a month. If you can be flexible about things like including your friends’ children in your hangouts, it might make it easier for them to make plans.

If you have a group of friends that is hard to get together with, try being social in other ways. Volunteerism is a great way to connect with people and do good for your community at the same time. Go to your local hospital or rest home and find out who doesn’t get many visitors, then chat with them. Volunteer to take meals to homebound people or to collect materials for disaster relief. With some quick online research, you are sure to find a charitable activity that interests you. Volunteering will strengthen your connection to your community and boost your self-esteem. Not to mention all that it will do for the people you are helping.