Healthy Holiday Habits
What is self-care? And why does it have an impact on our mental health? Self-care means doing things for yourself in order to take care of your physical and mental health. The National Association of Mental Illness (NAMI) tells us that in order to take care of the ones we love, we have to take care of ourselves. Every day stress affects our health in physical ways such as muscle tension, elevated blood pressure, upset stomach, headaches, insomnia, etc. Dealing with these physical symptoms helps us to be able to think more clearly and focus on our important tasks.
So how do I practice self-care?
Get moving! Physical activity releases endorphins, the hormone that helps us feel happy. Exercise helps with low energy levels, increases oxygen levels to lower heart rate and help us think clearer, and helps with sleep. You don’t have to run 5 miles every day, starting small—like parking further away from the grocery store or using stairs instead of the elevator—is better than not doing anything. Just get your muscles moving and your blood flowing!
Take care of your emotions. We encounter a lot of different emotions on a daily basis, from anger to sadness to pure joy. It’s healthy to feel emotions, including the not-so-great ones. So do things that make you happy, spend time with people that support you and build you up. Watch a funny video of animals on the internet. Take time to feel your emotions and really pay attention to how different situations and people make you feel. Being social and feeling supported goes a long way to helping prevent depression as well.
Challenge yourself! What is your 5-year plan? Do you want to learn a new hobby or a new language? Challenging your brain to learn new tasks (no matter what your age!) helps to ward off depression, which is a risk factor for cognitive decline, according to Stanford Health Care.
Take care of your body. Avoid drugs and alcohol. Try to eat a balanced diet. No, I’m not saying you have to eat a salad for every meal, just try to make sure you take in some extra fruits and vegetables and maybe not eat a cheeseburger twice every day. Restricting your diet can also lead to obsessive eating and eating disorders, which also affect your physical and mental health. Food is about balance and moderation!
Self-care looks different for everybody. Maybe it’s going to the movies and enjoying popcorn on the weekends with your girlfriends, or maybe it’s staying at home with your dog on a Friday night to catch up on the shows you missed this week. It could be going to the beach for a weekend with your family, or taking a couple days off work to stay at home in your pajamas all day. Whatever it is for you, make sure you try to make at least 5 minutes for self-care every day. If you are the best version of yourself, you will be able to keep being there for all the people around you.
-Journal 3 things you’re grateful for when you wake up each day
-Pick an exercise to do during each tv commercial (jumping jacks, squats, pushups, etc.)
-Take a bath with Epsom salts to help with tired muscles (bonus: light a candle and listen to your favorite music!)
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Holidays are a stressful time because of all the family gatherings, work parties, spending money on gifts, baking 3 dozen cookies.
Lauren Blackburn, LCSW