30 tips for self-care

posted by Brent Brown on November 20, 2020 ActiveHealth tips

As we continue to adjust to daily life changes necessitated by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, it’s vital to remember to prioritize our health. Read on for tips on how to combat stress, eat well, and stay active during this uncertain time.

Tips to help you avoid or manage stress

Tip 1: Boost your mood naturally – be active

Make time to be active. There are fun, easy things to do at home. You can do housework. Spend some time in your yard. Play with your kids or your pets. Download an app. Or try an online video. All of these things can help keep your blood pumping. Exercising can help release endorphins, which are natural mood boosters.

Tip 2: Watch out for emotional eating

You can help avoid stress eating by being aware of what triggers your urge to eat. When you do eat, look for healthy snacks. Eating healthy meals and snacks gives your body the fuel it needs. It can also help regulate your blood sugar, and it can help you keep your emotions on a more level playing field.

Tip 3: Good sleep can help with stress

Feeling worried and stressed can make it hard to sleep, and not having enough good sleep can make your stress feel overwhelming. Aim for seven to nine hours of sleep each night. Don’t drink alcohol or caffeine before bed and avoid nicotine. If you’re still not sleeping well, look at your bedtime routine. Try adding a long bath or a cup of caffeine-free herbal tea. Plan for the next day earlier in the day so you’re not thinking about it around bedtime.

Tip 4: A good routine can soothe your stress

Your daily routine may be really different than it usually is. You may be working from home. Your kids may be trying to learn at home instead of at school. You’re probably all missing the structure of your usual routine. So make a new one. Sit down every night and plan the next day. Decide what you want to do each hour. Include time for work and learning, but add fun things too – like reaching out to friends or doing something creative. Be sure to make time for some physical activity. You can make mealtime an event too. When you find a routine that works, you can use it as a basis for the next day.

Tip 5: Step away from the television

Be aware of what you’re seeing and hearing in the media. It’s important to stay informed, but it’s just as important to step away every now and then. Plan when you want to get the latest news. Maybe in the morning and again in the evening. Then resist the urge to read articles and watch the news during the rest of the day.  That includes social media. Choose your sources carefully too. Look for information that includes recommendations for things you can do to stay healthy. Avoid ones that focus on just the negative news. It can help improve your outlook.

Tip 6: Stay connected from a distance

Humans tend to be social by nature. So it’s important to stay connected, even if we need to keep physical distance between us. Technology can help. Reach out to family and friends over the phone, text, and video chats. And maybe use this time to rediscover the joy of sending and receiving an actual letter. Nothing beats seeing your loved ones face to face, but you can still give and receive social support.

Tip 7: Practice mindfulness

Mindfulness is paying attention to the present moment with openness and curiosity. Try to remain fully in the present. Let yourself feel whatever emotions you may be having. Experience what’s happening within you and around you. It can help lower your stress. It can also help you think more clearly and be more patient.

Tip 8: Go for gratitude

Practicing gratitude can lead to greater happiness, and it can help improve your overall well-being. It can help lower your stress and encourage you to focus on the positive in your life. It can help manage your anxiety because you’re focusing on your blessings instead of your worries, and it can help you sleep better and overcome troubling thoughts that might keep you awake at night.

Nutrition tips

Tip 1: Embrace family mealtimes

Eating as a family helps kids develop healthy eating habits. Planning them gives you a chance to teach your kids about what makes a healthy meal. Check out ChooseMyPlate.gov for helpful information. Letting your kids help teaches them important skills they’ll use throughout their lives. Practice mindfulness as you serve and enjoy your meal. Notice the smell and taste of the food. Focus fully on the conversation around you.

Tip 2: Be aware of what you eat and why

Sometimes we turn to food when we’re bored, lonely, or anxious. It can be soothing and it can distract you from what’s really bothering you. But emotional eating can interfere with making healthy food choices and can lead to weight gain that can lead to other health problems. Try to notice what makes you want to eat. Keep a food journal. Write down what you were doing and feeling before you started eating. Ask yourself if you’re really hungry before you eat. You’ll learn to tell the difference between physical hunger and emotional eating.

Tip 3: A balanced diet gives your body fuel

Stress can take a toll on your body. So try to pay extra attention to what you’re choosing to eat when you’re stressed. Do your best to eat a balanced diet.

Tip 4: Kitchen time can be learning time

Letting your kids help in the kitchen can supplement skills they’re learning in their schoolwork.

Tip 5: Plan ahead and shop smart

Plan ahead before you shop. Sit down and make a list of what you want to cook for the week. Then look at what you already have and what you’d need to buy. Choose some simple meals that your kids can help make. Some fresh fruits and veggies last longer once you get them home. Apples, citrus fruit, celery, potatoes, onions, and broccoli all store well. Look for low-salt canned veggies and fruits in juice or water, not syrup. You can add flavor with dried herbs and spices. If you’re shopping in the frozen section, look for veggies without sauce and frozen fish, seafood, or meat.

Tip 6: Healthy and delicious go well together

You can make healthy meals that are calorie conscious and delicious. Instead of fried chicken, try roasted or grilled. You could even try a recipe for oven-baked “fried” chicken.  Kick up the flavor with herbs and spices instead of butter and salt. Offer fruits and veggies with every meal. It’s a great time to experiment with new recipes. Or try some new twists on old favorites. Let your kids help mix and measure. Then just enjoy the time around the table with people you love.

Tip 7: Fill up your glass

Drinking enough water is an important part of keeping your body healthy. It helps regulate your body temperature, protects your organs, and helps you digest food. Being even a little dehydrated can lower your energy levels and leave you feeling tired. Here are some quick tips for drinking more. Fill a reusable bottle that you’ll drink from throughout the day. Plan to drink 8 to 16 ounces with every meal. Try adding lemon, lime or other fruit if you like flavor in your water. If you drink a lot of sugary drinks, try to replace one a day with a glass of water. You can also eat more fruits and veggies. Watermelon is about 90 percent water by weight.

Physical activity tips

Tip 1: Being active at home can be easy and fun

Most adults should aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity each week. It’s easy to do at home. Try walking briskly around your house or up and down the stairs. Download an app or try an online exercise video. Do housework or work in your yard. Put on your favorite music and dance! You can schedule your activity to add breaks in your day. You can do 30 minutes. Or you can do 10 to 15 minutes two or three times a day.

Tip 2: What if my gym is closed?

Strength training can help improve metabolism, mood, and bone density. It can also help relieve arthritis and back pain. Most Americans should do some strength training twice a week. But what if the gym is closed? You can do it at home! You could download a strength training fitness app. You don’t need equipment to do the exercises. Have you thought about trying yoga? Deep breathing and mindfulness can help reduce anxiety too. Or you could do simple exercises using things around the house. You can use a chair to do squats, sit-to-stands, lunges, or single-leg step-ups. You can do push-ups against a wall, the kitchen counter, or the floor.

Tip 3: Don’t sit too long – it’s just wrong!

You may be working from home these days. It is important to take breaks. Just like you were working in the office. Take activity breaks during the day to help you focus, prevent fatigue and relieve body stiffness. Try a standing break like marching in place or walking around your home or yard. You can also do stretching or chair exercises. These increase blood circulation, reduce injury and increase your heart rate. Do standing and stretching breaks for two or three minutes for each hour you sit.

Tip 4: We’re built to move

As a society we are sitting more than we ever have. Too much sitting raises your risk for heart disease, weight gain and type 2 diabetes. Now we’re spending more time at home. Our routines are different. We don’t have access to all the same ways we used to be active. But we are built to move! You can move anytime, anywhere. Play with your family. Do yardwork or chores. Turn on some music and dance. Or move around while you’re watching television. Every bit of movement helps. So add some activity to your day, even if it’s just 10 minutes at a time.

Tip 5: Recess is good for everyone

Visit a local park, or take a walk together if you can. Just remember to keep your distance from people you meet. Use some chalk to draw a hopscotch or four-square board. Teach your kids to skip and have a skipping competition. Find out who in your family can hula hoop the longest. Take turns picking music for a family dance-off. There are a lot of fun ways to stay active. It’s important for growing bodies and it’s a great way to keep their spirits high.

Tip 6: Wake up and warm up

It’s a good idea to warm your body up for work wherever you’re working. Exercise directs blood flow to muscles and helps you get ready to move. It can help improve strength and flexibility. So start your day with some gentle exercises. Start with five minutes of easy aerobic movement, like walking in place or around the room. Then do some dynamic warm-up movements. Try lunges, shoulder rolls, squats and toe stands. Make sure to move through the stretch. End with some easy stretches. Look for chances to repeat some stretches as you move through your day.

Tip 7: Put tech to work for you

A device or app can help you keep track of how much exercise you’re getting. Using a fitness device or app can give you an extra boost of motivation. You can track more than one activity too. Choose one that works with your wellness goals, like getting more sleep or tracking your diet.

Sleep tips

Tip 1: Make sleep part of your schedule

Getting good sleep is an important part of our overall health. For many of us, stress and worry can make it hard to sleep. You can help yourself by setting a schedule that will help you get as much good sleep as you can. Avoid naps. If you need to nap, keep it short. Limit yourself to 15 to 30 minutes early in the afternoon. Decide when you will go to bed and wake up. Once you’ve decided what bedtime is, stick to it. Even on the weekends.

Tip 2: Watch what you eat and when

Did you know that when you eat and how much you eat can affect how you sleep? Your stomach has several hours of work to do if you eat a heavy meal before bedtime. If you have to eat late, eat light. Avoid sugary, high-carb foods. It can also be hard to sleep if your stomach is empty. If you’re watching your calories, have a low-calorie snack before bed. We often change our eating behaviors when we’re stressed. We may eat to try to soothe or calm ourselves. Try to be aware of why you’re eating, what you’re eating and when. It can help your emotional health and your sleep health as well.

Tip 3: End your day with gentle relaxation

Being active can help fight cabin fever. It can add to your overall good health and help improve your energy and sleep. Just be mindful of when you’re exercising. It raises your body temperature and heart rate. Which can make it harder to wind down for the day. Schedule your workouts for earlier in the day. Children need plenty of activity during the day too. If you’re looking for something to help you relax at night, you can try gentle stretching exercises or yoga.

Tip 4: For peaceful dreams, set a bedtime routine

People cut back on their sleep for a variety of reasons. It could be demands from work or family or even to watch a good television show. You might think that getting a good night’s sleep is a luxury, but it’s not. Having poor or too little sleep can be harmful to your health. Do you know how much sleep you need? It changes as you age. Newborns need 16 to 18 hours on average. Preschool kids need 11 to 12 hours. Kids from age 5 to 12 need more than 10 hours. Teens need 9 to 10 hours. And adults should aim for 7 to 8 hours each night. We often have bedtime routines for children. Adults benefit from them too. They let your body know it’s time to go to sleep. Decide what you want your routine to be and then stick to it.

Tip 5: Take some time to unwind

Everyday stressors of life, like work and family, can affect your sleep. Your habits and activities before bedtime can too. Setting yourself up for a good night’s sleep can start well before bedtime. Start slowing down toward the end of the day. Plan your goals for the next day. Think about what you need and want to do. Stop work, tasks, and household chores about an hour before bedtime. Light from screens in electronic devices like cell phones and computers can affect your sleep, so turn them off an hour before bedtime. Do quiet activities that will help you relax. Taking the time to establish a good bedtime routine can help your body transition to sleep.

Tip 6: Good night, sleep tight

It’s natural to feel worried and stressed in emergencies.  Fear and anxiety can be overwhelming for both adults and children. Reassure your kids that they’re safe. Be aware of what they’re seeing and hearing in the media. Some news can be frightening. Let them know that it’s ok to worry or be sad. But then help them find healthy ways to manage it. Watch them for signs of stress, like crying or irritability. They may have trouble settling down for the night or staying asleep. Having a regular bedtime routine can help soothe them and get them ready for sleep. It’s important for children to get a good night’s sleep to help restore their physical and emotional health.

Tip 7: Set yourself up for sleep success

Now that you’ve got a bedtime routine, what else can you do to boost your chance of a good night’s sleep? Next stop, the bedroom! Create a cozy, dark space that’s just meant for sleep. That may mean moving the radio or TV out of the bedroom. Try to leave your cellphones and tablets at the door. If you still have trouble falling asleep, try closing your eyes and picturing yourself in a peaceful, restful place. Or focus on the rhythm of your breathing. Sweet dreams!

General well-being tip:

Make time for you

There are many things in life you can’t control. But you can choose to make taking care of yourself a priority. Commit to taking care of your body, mind, and spirit every day, not just when you’re sick. Make paying attention to your well-being part of your daily schedule. Give yourself permission to take care of you!

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