‘Tis the season of giving to others, but have you ever thought about it in terms of giving to yourself in the form of self-care?
As parents, we become masters at taking care of our children and other people and projects in our lives. Self-care is often the thing that keeps getting pushed down the to-do list.
So how do you actually practice self-care—intentionally nourishing and nurturing your mind, body and spirit so that you can be and feel your best—when the reality is that it may feel like one more thing to add to your already jam-packed schedule?
I started to pay more attention to how I was actually caring for myself on a daily basis—from what I was eating to the quality of sleep I was getting to how I was handling stress and anxiety. I began to notice little opportunities for more wellness throughout my day.
Here are four self-care practices I incorporate in my own life that can help you live well, too.
Rest and reboot.
If there is one self-care practice to prioritize throughout your life, it’s making sure you get enough sleep every night. So many parents are used to feeling tired, so drinking coffee while pushing past the fatigue becomes the norm. When I don’t sleep enough, I can tell (and so can my family). I have significantly less energy and patience than I do when I sleep well.
Most adults need between seven to eight hours of uninterrupted sleep every day. Depriving yourself of sleep night after night and year after year can lead to numerous health conditions, including diabetes and depression.
Make your bedtime a priority by turning off the electronics and finding a quiet activity instead, such as reading a book. I’ve found that setting an alarm on my phone to remind me that it is time to wind down for the day helps initiate my bedtime. Also, go to bed at the same time every night to help your body stay on a schedule, so you’ll naturally be tired around the same time every day.
Breathe and be.
Meditation is as simple as breathing and being. A great practice any time of year, and especially during the holidays, meditation can help you let go of accumulated anxiety.
A quick meditation practice you can do anywhere, anytime:
Begin right where you are.
Close your eyes and observe your breath going in and out through your nostrils. Notice if your breath is smooth and steady, rushed and rapid, or somewhere in between.
Turn your attention to your thoughts and observe them coming and going. Let each thought float away.
After a few more breaths, open your eyes.
Stand and move more.
As with lack of sleep, lack of exercise can lead to health conditions, including heart disease, obesity and more.
In addition to finding exercises you truly look forward to—whether it’s taking a yoga or group fitness class, going for a walk or run, or strength training—find pockets of time throughout your day when you can easily increase your physical activity. Instead of sitting at a desk, work at a standing workstation, take more trips to fill up your water bottle, stretch for a few minutes and take the stairs every opportunity you get. Every little movement adds up.
Write and create.
Writing your thoughts in a journal every day can help inspire creativity and new ideas. Take a few minutes every morning before you begin your day or every night before you end your day to write. You can write about the holidays, the highlights of 2018, your intentions for 2019 or whatever is on your mind.
When you give to yourself with self-care, you can give more abundantly to the others in your life. Carry these practices with you into the new year to keep your mind, body and spirit bright in every season.
Julie M. Gentile is a working mom, yoga teacher at the Bloomingdale Park District, author of the forthcoming book 108 Yoga and Self-Care Practices for Busy Mamas (MSI Press), and former copy editor at Chicago Parent. Learn about her self-care adventures at juliegtheyogi.com.
This article originally appeared in the December 2018 issue of Chicago Parent. Read the rest of the issue.