Why You Should Practice Self-Care – and 7 Ways to Do It
With so many things vying for your attention, self-care may be at the bottom of your to-do list. This is especially true if you're a woman. Child care, work, family commitments and household responsibilities can often occupy the bulk of your time and energy, making it difficult to find time to take care of yourself. You may also feel like it's too indulgent to take time out to just focus on you when there are so many other things on your plate.
Unfortunately, delaying self-care may affect your physical and mental health. It may also make it more difficult to care for your family or excel at your job. That's why self-care should not be at the bottom of your to-do list. Instead, you should prioritize it because the benefits it offers extend to all aspects of your life.
How You Benefit from Self-Care
For generations, women have shouldered the burden of caring for family members and managing their households, often while working full- or part-time jobs. Although men certainly contribute more these days, women still spend more time on household and family tasks. In fact, 80%of women with children prepare family meals, according to the Pew Research Center. The center also notes that women devote six hours more per week to child care than men do.
When your life is all work and no play, you're bound to feel exhausted, frustrated and stressed, at least occasionally. In addition to causing headaches, insomnia and upset stomachs, stress may affect your immune system, making it easier to catch colds and other viral illnesses. Over time, stress may increase your blood pressure and even be a factor in depression. Without regular self-care, your health may suffer and you might not have the energy you need to take care of yourself and your family.
That's why it's important to take time to care for yourself—no matter how busy your life may be.
Try These Self-Care Activities
Feeling overwhelmed or stressed? That's a sign that you need some "me" time. Self-care doesn't require hours, although the more time you can devote to it, the better. In fact, all you need is a few minutes per day to relax and recharge. Find time each day for any of the things on this list:
Take care of your health: “It is important for women to schedule annual wellness exams with a primary care doctor to rule out any underlying health issues,” says Erin C. Capitena MD, PIH Health Family Medicine physician in Whittier. “Women often make their family's healthcare needs a priority while neglecting their own health.” In fact, 78%of women surveyed by Healthy Women and Working Mother magazine reported putting off healthcare appointments because they were too busy managing their family's needs. Making (and keeping) well-visits, dental, vision, therapy and other healthcare appointments is essential for maintaining your physical and mental health.
Escape from reality: Give yourself a break from your usual routine by visiting a museum, scheduling an afternoon at a spa, reading a book, taking a nap or playing a video game.
Make a date: One-on-one time with your spouse or partner is crucial for a healthy relationship. Getting out of the house for a few hours is ideal, but there's no reason why you can't enjoy an at-home date night after the kids are asleep.
Find time for friendships: Friends make life more rewarding and offer much-needed support and companionship. Regular get-togethers, whether they're in-person or virtual, can provide laughs, a shoulder to lean on or a way to feel connected to life outside your family.
Educate yourself: It's never too late to master a new language, learn how to paint or take up snowboarding. Find something you've always wanted to do and then give yourself the time to learn how to do it – or do it better.
Get moving: Exercise is an excellent way to reduce stress and improve your health. Walking, biking and running are inexpensive forms of exercise that help reduce stress. These activities will also give you some alone time to recharge and regroup.
Improve your diet: Prepared foods and packaged snacks will satisfy your hunger pangs, but these foods can make you feel sluggish. Swap convenience foods and sugary or salty snacks for foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy and lean meats for more staying power.