Practicing self care is not easy. We are all busy and have very hectic schedules and demands. But self care is a necessity. After all, we cannot care for others when we are broken or lacking energy ourselves.
Creating a self care practice can start whenever you want. You don’t have to wait until the new year or a specific moon phase (although, that could be beneficial too). But sometimes a seasonal change or transition can lend to a shift in routine that can feel natural and restorative.
As we’re in the thick of summer in northern Michigan with longer days and busy calendars and trying to pack it all in, take a moment to consider what you have learned so far this year that will support your physical, emotional, and relational health, what are you looking forward to? and what are you grateful for?
At Table Health we explore these questions every day – personally and professionally, seeking health in all places, spaces, and faces. We are humbled, honored, and heartened by the endless opportunities to discover, nurture, and cultivate health, and we are here to effectively share our expertise with you in the right way, at the right time, and at a pace that will support your journey of health.
That said, we invite you to explore a few self-care habits you can adopt to step up your personal wellness routine. You don’t have to do it all either, try just one healthy habit to start off.
1. Set Aside Time to Connect
Humans are communal creatures, surviving and thriving in a collective. A Harvard study showed that those who keep warm relationships live longer and are happier. Seek out shared experiences and opportunities to reflect and engage in a comfortable setting. Make the intentional step to schedule in your calendar (just like a work meeting) a recurring monthly pot-luck, book club, or game night, and hold to that date.
It takes the stress out of finding the time to connect with others and gives it the intention it deserves. While we’re each in different phases of life, we are united in the pursuit of optimal health and should be encouraged and empowered to cultivate our own tribe for the support we need.
2. Eat Real Food
Michael Pollan said it best, “Eat real food, mostly plants, not too much.” The simplest and most effective way to nourish your body and mind is to focus on eating real food. If your great grandma wouldn’t recognize it, don’t eat it.
So begins your love affair with veggies. Six or more cups a day of veggies in all shapes, colors, and sizes is recommended and will help support your immune system, digestive health, reduce inflammation, and more. And learning to listen to your body you will begin to sense when your body needs nourishment from a particular food source, when you’re thirsty instead of hungry, and when you’re full and consciously choose to stop.
Additionally, foods like spinach, nuts, soybeans provide the body with tryptophan, which increases melatonin levels in the body. Foods rich in electrolytes like potassium and magnesium help ensure your body is well hydrated, potentially supporting a better sleep.
3. Prioritize Healthy Sleep Habits
You cannot be healthy without adequate sleep. That’s it. No losing weight, no regulating your hormones, no decreasing cravings, no emotional enlightenment. You cannot be healthy without adequate sleep. Too little sleep hinders your ability to handle stress and regulate emotions. It decreases immune function, leads to weight gain, and increases inflammation.
Set yourself up for success with these simple sleep hygiene steps:
- Avoid artificial light (TV, iPads, lights) for two hours before bed
- Don’t go to bed either too full or hungry
- Go to bed before 11 pm
- Keep your room around 65 degrees for an ideal sleeping climate.
If these steps do not help you get a more restful sleep, then seeking out help from a qualified functional medicine physician is in order.
4. Move Your Body
It’s essential to move your body every day. Without movement, our blood does not flow properly and vital parts of our body loose nourishment. Movement does not have to be hard or time consuming. Find a body movement routine that works for you and your health goals. This could be mindful movement through a daily yoga practice; a playful or unstructured movement like dancing, hiking in the woods, or chasing your kiddos around the park; or a focused exercise session like lifting weights, cardio, or working with a trainer.
The types of activities you choose can vary from day to day, depending on your personality and schedule. When you’re done with it you have to be able to say, “I don’t regret that.”
Whenever possible, make simple edits to your daily life to move your body — opt to take the stairs, get a standup desk at work, walk or ride your bike as a mode of transportation, and just get outside to hike or walk around your block.
5. Meal Prep for Ease
A go-to for the Table Health team, is to take a few minutes on Sunday to wash and chop fresh fruits and veggies, prep some beans and quinoa, which are both packed full of fiber and protein and great for digestion, so you can easily grab and use them throughout the week. With this shift, you’ll feel more prepared for the week ahead, ready to nourish yourself with real food even on those nights when you just want to flop on the couch and binge some Netflix.
6. Be Still
Often when we are still, our mind is going in a million directions. When the thoughts arise let them come and go like clouds floating through the sky. Literally sit outside and watch the clouds go by, knowing there is always a blue sky behind the clouds. There is always calm behind your thoughts. Be aware of the space, the sounds, the sensations around you and within you. Take notice and then let it go. Every day, take a moment to be still, look, and listen.
When the days are shorter and darker, sometimes it’s easier to get a little stuck in your head or start spiraling on thoughts that are negative, sad, or anxious. Meditation can actually do wonders for your mood by clearing your mind and allowing you reset and start off fresh.
Sit comfortably, focusing on your breathing, and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present let any concerns or thoughts about the past or future drift on by.
Apps like Headspace, or Calm can help you get comfortable with meditation and increase the time you can practice it.
Making sleep a priority, moving each day, practicing gratitude, being still and mindful, connecting with other people, being creative, eating food that nourishes you…these are all very important and powerful ways to show yourself compassion and care. If you need additional support, please reach out and make an appointment.