Self-Care Strategies for the New Year
Chuck Chapa shares actionable advice to help you prioritize mental and physical well-being in the new year.
When it comes to taking care of our mental and physical health, we all have the best intentions, but life, work, and other stressors can sometimes make self-care our last priority. With so many responsibilities to tend to, finding that balance is a struggle and it can be hard to know where to even start. As we go into this new year, I’d like to challenge you to improve your quality of life by prioritizing personal health — so let’talk through some self-help practices and strategies that will get you started on the right foot.
Many people hear the word mindfulness and instantly cringe. The concept of “If I could think it away I would.” Before you give up on the concept of mindfulness, I challenge you to think of it as simply taking time to get out of your own head. For just a few minutes each day, try to take some time to simply stand or sit quietly and focus on clearing your mind while slowly breathing in and out. Believe it or not, even a few minutes can make a huge impact on your overall emotional well-being.
Focus on Nutrition
We are all familiar with the saying “you are what you eat,” and it’s not necessarily as crazy as it sounds. Diet plays a huge factor in overall energy level, mental clarity, and emotional well-being. A varied diet that includes fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains is recommended by many nutrition experts. Whatever diet you choose, I would strongly recommend focusing on simple and realistic choices. When you reach that fork in the road of decision-making between a healthy and an unhealthy choice, or more realistically the unhealthy choice and the “really unhealthy” choice, stand your ground and make the best decision you can with what is available. Small choices add up to big results over time.
Physical activity is important. It helps strengthen muscles, improves digestion, and enhances mental health, among a variety of other benefits. The current recommendation for healthy adults by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity per week. Additionally, healthy adults should include muscle-strengthening activities for two or more days per week. That sounds like a lot, but when you boil it down to how many minutes per day, it's only about 30 minutes five days a week. An important thing to note, the activity does not have to be done all at once! Even 10-minute spurts of activity yield results and meet the requirement. The other pitfall many people make is doing too much too quickly. Instead, start slow and steady and within your capabilities. Go out for a walk, take the stairs instead of the elevator, stand up for a virtual meeting… the options are endless. Keep building upon your activity with the time you have until you can reach your goals.
Get a Good Night's Sleep
Quality sleep is a cornerstone of well-being. Understandably, life can get in the way of good sleep habits. The importance of a consistent sleep schedule and creating a conducive sleep environment through good sleep hygiene are essential self-care practices. Prioritizing sufficient sleep positively influences mood, cognitive function, and overall well-being.
Build Healthy Relationships
Building and maintaining healthy relationships is vital to our overall well-being, heavily influencing both mental and physical health. Research consistently underscores the significance of positive social connections. Studies published by organizations like the Gottman Institute reveal that strong relationships are foundational to emotional resilience and the Harvard Health Blog emphasizes the impact of relationships on health, linking social ties to a reduced risk of chronic diseases and increased longevity.
I know that self-care can be challenging at times, but it truly is a necessity for overall well-being. My challenge to us all is to embrace evidence-based self-care practices going into this new year to cultivate balance, resilience, and overall well-being. And remember, self-care is a personal journey, so be sure to adopt practices that are in line with your needs. Together, we can all benefit from focusing on our physical and emotional health with even the longest journey beginning with that first step.
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