Have you ever felt you were neglecting yourself in key ways? Few among us do enough to protect our health, beauty, finances, and happiness.
Most of us will donate our time and effort to others in need. But, as we focus on helping others, we can let our personal care slide.
“I spent much of last year taking my sister to chemotherapy treatments,” says a friend of ours we’ll call Tom. “I loved helping my sister, but I found out last week that I need two root canals. I should have taken a little better care of myself.”
What’s interesting about self-care is this: The better care you take of yourself, the more focused you can be in helping those around you. You’ll feel more energetic toward your career goals, too.
Here are some self-care tips for the coming year:
1. Keep daily worries to a time frame. For example, avoid dwelling on problems between 6 p.m. and 10 a.m. Let your mind rest after 6 p.m.
2. Use evenings to take care of yourself. Soak in the tub, give yourself a facial or ride your exercise bike in front of the TV. Push your worries to the 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. time frame the next day.
3. Do a diet makeover. Work in more salads, cooked vegetables and fruits while slowly cutting back on too much meat, carbs and alcohol. Consider giving up second helpings or swapping regular beer for light beer. Do what works for you.
4. Make a list of things that bring you joy. If you like bowling or playing board games, work these into your schedule. Even something as simple as taking a drive to your childhood neighborhood or spending time in a bookstore can rejuvenate your spirit.
“I’m one of these people who always feels I should be doing something else,” laughs an associate of ours we’ll call Helen. “If I’m exercising, I feel like I should be visiting my aunt in the nursing home. If I’m with my aunt, I feel like I’m neglecting my kids. I can’t win!”
Taking control of your time, and planning what you’ll push ahead to the next day is critical. None of us can be totally in control of everything. For example, we know plenty of people who wake up at 5 a.m. full of anxiety. Their problems are shouting at them from every area of their lives.
Planning when you’ll do certain activities, such as problem-solving, will help you stay calm, get your routine in order, and figure out a plan to get things done.
One man we know, who we’ll call Kevin, says he reserves time for relaxing by solving problems between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. on weekdays. He explains: “I keep a file on my computer of what I call ‘small steps.’ I try to do at least two small steps a day to reach certain goals and solve problems that pertain to my personal life.”
Kevin puts his small steps file into categories such as: saving money, planning for vacation, improving my health, advancing my career. “This week, I canceled a magazine subscription to save money,” he explains. “Then, I got brochures for a trip to Key West in the spring, ordered an exercise bike for myself and enrolled in a Spanish class.”
Taking care of what matters to you will add up to a productive New Year.
Judi Light Hopson is author of the book “Cooling Stress Tips.” She is also the executive director of USA Wellness Café. Emma Hopson is an author and a nurse educator. Ted Hagen is a family psychologist.