Four “H’s” of Self-Care
Amanda Kirk, MS
Self-care. It’s such a buzzword these days. Everybody has an opinion on what it is and how to do it, but few of us actually tend to prioritize self-care on a regular basis. So I would like to submit to you four ways to begin taking care of yourself. This shortlist may surprise you because there’s nothing clever or overly indulgent here. Yes, that means “take a bubble bath” or “get a massage” didn’t make this self-care list. In fact, you may even consider this list to be pretty… basic.
And that’s kind of the point. We are whittling this down to the bare basics of taking care of ourselves. Sometimes in the simple, even mundane acts, we find ourselves most refreshed and cared for.
I read a book several months ago entitled, You’re Not Sick, You’re Thirsty! Water: for Health, for Healing, for Life, by Dr. F. Batmanghelidj (2003).
He offered some pretty compelling stories to give evidence to our bodies’ fundamental need for water. In fact, he proposes that, as a society, most of us are dehydrated. And there are no substitutes. Drinking sodas and coffee do not count toward the “drink” quota needed to promote health from the inside out, and in fact, can actually work against it.
It seems almost too simple – drink more water. However, as Dr. B. outlines throughout his book, the impact on your health – both physically and emotionally – may surprise and encourage you. Start small if you need to — add one glass of water to your daily intake, then another, then another. Can’t stand the taste of water? Add lemon, lime, or some other natural flavor to it.
Hydrate. Your body and mind will thank you for it.
- Healthy Food.
‘Tis the season for New Year’s resolutions. Many of these resolutions tend to be health-related, but as the parking lot of the local gym belies, our motivation does not seem to last more than a few weeks. This means that by Valentine’s Day, we’ve been buying (and eating!) all the candies and chocolates again – for weeks already – rather than hitting the gym!
You probably don’t need a nutritionist to affirm the need to eat well – most of us agree we need to. So why can it be so hard?!
Here’s a suggestion to curb the impact of falling off the health bandwagon too soon. Rather than trying to completely eliminate what we want – sugar and carbs – try committing to adding what we need – like more fresh veggies. Commit to adding a vegetable to a meal every day. Consider trying a new vegetable every 3 months – if you like it, that’s one more to add to your daily rotation. By the end of the year, you’ll have 4 new vegetables in your repertoire.
If you pay attention to your cravings, you may find that you actually want those unhealthy options less frequently – or in smaller quantities – when increasing good sources of protein and other nutrients. That’s a pretty good start toward more healthful eating and living!
- Head to Pillow.
That’s right, I’m talking about sleep.
When I was in graduate school, I had a professor who regularly remarked on the body’s need for rest. He proposed that his students follow his own disciplined practice of prioritizing rest and sleep. For many years, he had not required an alarm clock because he awoke, rested and energized, at the same time every morning. Much to his dismay, our class was scheduled in the evening hours. So more than once, he dismissed our class early with the agreement that we go home and straight to bed.
Not having adequate rest has been attributed to everything from mental to physical health concerns. Try turning off electronics for an hour or so before going to bed, avoid the urge to binge-watch your favorite show into the night, talk to your doctor if you have trouble maintaining deep, quality sleep through the night.
Or try what the famous songwriter, Irving Berlin suggested: If you’re worried and you can’t sleep, just count your blessings instead of sheep, and you’ll fall asleep counting your blessings.
- Heart to Heart.
“What the world needs now is love, sweet love…”
What can I say, I guess I just have classic musical standards on the brain as I write this. The world needs love, and so do we. Globally and individually, love is a dominant force for good. There is just something about sharing a heart to heart connection with another human being.
At the risk of sounding redundant, having a meaningful connection to another person has been connected to everything from improved health outcomes to longer life span to enhanced quality of life. There is now a wealth of research to support what most of us tend to already recognize – we are relational people who need some sense of community.
So how can you build up your own community? Reach out to a friend – send a text or invite over for coffee. Go on a date with your partner. Find a local group with shared interests or beliefs – take a class, volunteer, or participate in a gathering. Tell a little of your story and ask about theirs.
Keep showing up.
The thoughts I’ve shared above have been somewhat anecdotal in nature. After all, I am neither a nutritionist nor a physician. However, both formal studies and casual observations tend to point to some basic human needs that, when met, can have a tremendous impact on our ways of being in the world. It is at least a really good start.
So take care of yourself. Really. Eat and drink well, get some rest, and love on your people. To discipline ourselves in these endeavors is not always easy, but it is relatively simple. My guess is, your Self will thank you for all the tender loving care.
Batmanghelidj, F. (2003). You’re not sick, you’re thirsty! Water: for health, for healing, for life. New York, NY: Warner Books, Inc.