The new year is an optimal time to reflect on the past 12 months and renew intentions for a refreshed outlook. Resolutions of unrealistic weight loss or extreme exercise regimens are popular choices with limited success rates and unhealthy outcomes.
If the pandemic taught us anything, it was the importance of self-care. The World Health Organization defines it as “The ability of individuals, families and communities to promote health, prevent disease, maintain health, and cope with illness and disability with or without the support of a health-care provider”.
Creating a self-care plan for the new year is an excellent way to take charge of your health and engage family members to do the same. Consider abandoning your old schedule and starting with a fresh, realistic approach that gives you the space and grace you need.
According to the Substance Abuse Mental Health Service Administration (SAMHSA), there are eight areas that you can take action in to improve or preserve your health.
- Emotional well-being helps us control feelings and behaviors. Activities include recreation and leisure time. SAMHSA suggests involving each of your senses: listen to music, pet your dog, eat your favorite food, light a scented candle, enjoy a scenic view.
- Intellectual well-being fosters mental growth and critical thinking. Examples include puzzles, reading, playing a musical instrument, learning a new skill or new language.
- Environmental well-being connects the environment to your health. Breathing fresh air, walking in a safe place, connecting to nature, and planting a community garden are ways to reap its benefits.
- Physical well-being is affected by physical activity, nutrition, and sleep. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends 150 minutes of moderate activity or 75 minutes of intense activity each week for overall health and well-being. It can include yoga, bike riding, jumping rope, engaging in sports, running, walking, jogging, skiing, dancing, tennis, and gardening. Improving eating habits, decreasing use of alcohol and cigarettes are all examples of improving physical well-being.
- Spiritual well-being is rooted in the meaning and purpose in your life. Examples include communing with nature, volunteering, self-reflection, meditation and prayer.
- Financial well-being allows you a sense of comfort about your finances. Examples include starting a household budget, saving for vacation or a rainy day, and limiting unnecessary expenses.
- Occupational well-being supports having meaningful, enjoyable work, then striving for work life balance. Look for work that gives you purpose. When that is not possible, balance with personal activities that fill that need.
- Social well-being gives a sense of belonging to a group or community. Look for opportunities in your community to join an activity or group with a mission that you connect with. Make new acquaintances and explore options for those people you might want to spend more time with.
Keep it Simple: Start with awareness. Notice how you feel throughout the day and make a list of activities that you no longer wish to engage in. This may include eating lunch at your computer or talking on the phone while driving. In addition, create a list of activities that help you gain composure, nourish your soul, and bring you joy. Examples might be going for a walk, playing with your children or pet, listening to music, etc.
Begin slowly: Replace something that drains you with something that energizes you. One self-care activity a day can help you feel better and in control of yourself. Add self-care activities to your calendar and, if appropriate, invite others to participate with you (e.g., going for a walk with a friend).
Reflect: Self-care means different things for each of us. Over the course of a few weeks, take the time to notice or journal your observations.
Wellness visit: It’s a good idea to visit your health care provider. Create a benchmark for your health and vital statistics. Talk with your provider about your self-care plans.
Taking care of yourself means that you are able to take care of others. Self-care is not an act of selfishness but rather an act of self-love.
Adapted from the American College of Sports Medicine’s (ACSM) Health & Fitness Journal (Jan/Feb 2022)