healthy living
The theme for National Nutrition Month 2017 is “Put Your Best Fork Forward” to remind individuals to make healthier food choices. Eating healthy can prevent the onset of chronic diseases, reduce inflammation and improve physical recovery time from wounds. (U.S. Air Force illustration by Airman 1st Class Destinee Sweeney)

Sporadic acts of self-care can go a long way, like getting 15 minutes of sunshine or taking a quick nap, but unfortunately, self-care isn’t a one-time deal. Taking a bubble bath and doing a face mask every few months is a fun way to relax but you should be planning self-care into every day.

At first, it may seem over-the-top to consider so many aspects of the body, including its schedule and how we feed it, but taking a holistic approach to life has proven to offer many benefits to our bodies. Finding the right foods, drinks, supplements, fitness regimen, and other routines will offer you well-rounded health that looks and feels great.

It takes a great deal of motivation to be successful. You can count on lots of long hours and hard work. But if you want your body to keep up with you for the long haul then self-care needs to start now. The following self-care tips are perfect for busy people that need quick ideas to relax and take care of the body.

Drink water

Drink plenty of water throughout the day to avoid dehydration. Hopefully your doctor, nutritionist, friends, teachers, and probably your mom have drilled the importance of drinking water into your head. Hydration is day one in learning how to care for your body.

The average 4 to 6 cup recommendation is for a healthy person. In fact, it’s actually possible to drink too much water if you have certain health conditions, such as thyroid disease or kidney, liver, or heart problems; or if you’re taking medications that make you retain water, such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), opiate pain medications, and some antidepressants. This is a great resource for calculating how much water your body needs based on your weight and activity level.

Find time for fitness

Fitness is another obvious list item here, but it’s still so underestimated. From problems like stiffness in the back and neck to menstrual cramping, getting in at least 30 minutes of exercise can be a tremendous symptom reliever.

Yoga is one of my favorite examples because it brings us back to the idea of holistic treatment. When practicing yoga regularly, you will reap obvious benefits like flexibility and strength, but it also improves posture, lowers stress, helps you sleep, and does so much more. If finding a fitness routine and sticking to it is a challenge for you, a workout buddy might be helpful. If you can’t manage fitness into your daily or weekly routine, be sure to at least give your body a deep stretch each day.

Have a morning and evening self-care routine

Practicing a self-care routine every morning and night will help assure that you make time for your body every single day. A classic bedtime routine for me usually look like this:

  • Drinking a cup of tea
  • Washing my face
  • Brushing my teeth
  • Moisturizing my face
  • Several stretching exercises
  • Reading a book

Not only does this ensure that I routinely practice habits that make me feel good, but it also reminds my body that it’s time to wind down and get ready for sleep.

Get enough sleep

Getting enough sleep is a crucial step in caring for your body and in finding success. Infants, toddlers, and school-aged children need more sleep than young adults, adults, and seniors but from our teenage years through adulthood it’s safe to aim for 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night.
Not sleeping enough can lead to a range of health issues, but after just a few days the brain starts to fog and decision making is affected. Sleeping too much can make you groggy too, so try to find that sweet spot.

Eat a custom diet

It may sound ironic but as we advance in medicine, more and more people are relying on diet to fix chronic health issues. Common disorders that have previously been treated with prescription medication or through procedures are now being cured or the symptoms are being partly treated by a customized diet.

Patients with conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), interstitial cystitis (IC), fibromyalgia, and many more have seen an immense relief in pain after committing to an anti-inflammatory diet. These patients either saw relief or went into full remission for weeks, years, or even permanently after finding the right diet.

Interestingly enough, these patients also showed an increase in overall quality of life including improved sleep, mood, skin and hair health, and, of course, digestion. In some cases, there were underlying food allergies or intolerances. Food allergies or intolerance that was just hidden enough to never receive a proper allergy test. Gluten is a prime example. Millions of people are finding a more comfortable, or “healthier”, way of life by eliminating gluten from their diet. Many non-celiacs are finding they love their skin, sleep habits, ability to digest, and more when gluten-free.

Start by finding a nutritionist who can test your blood to help determine which foods are difficult for your body to digest. For a lot of people, these are inflammatory foods. They can help you find a custom diet, often through an elimination diet, that makes your mind feel clear, your skin and hair shine, and your stomach and bowels happy.

Always eat breakfast

Once you’ve found the right diet, it’s important to plan so you are eating enough. Breakfast is a great place to start but if you can’t commit to waking up early enough, be sure to have healthy snacks on hand to eat on your way or when you get there. These healthy breakfast options are perfect for busy mornings because they require little prep and are packed with nutrients.

Take 5 minutes to breathe every day

Detoxing from technology and separating yourself from work can be difficult but finding time to do both is crucial for a healthy mental state. Some days even just a few hours of separation is impossible. During these times, be sure to at least make time for a 5 minute decompress. This should be a daily habit but it is even more important when you feel stressed or overwhelmed. There are several breathing exercises worth trying, find one that works best with your breathing pattern and practice it daily.

Try massage therapy

Massage therapy is another incredible tool for improving quality of life by loosening up muscles and giving the brain and body a chance to relax so it can recharge. Not only can a massage reduce stress and help you relax, but it also helps circulate blood and strengthens the body’s immune system.

One of the more difficult aspects of seeking massage therapy to help with stress or muscle tension is the high cost. There are massage deals online and some sites have pages that are location specific so no matter where you are, the deals populate to show massage places near you.

Outside of good self-care habits, there are a ton of ways to invoke that feel-good rush we all know and love. Cross off a lurker on your to-do list (something that’s been on there forever but you never have time to take care of it) or try something new that you’ve always wanted to do.

Self-care is not a new concept, but it’s gaining traction — especially with millennials. Whatever your daily responsibilities or distractions may be, they can easily take away from devoting enough time to self-care. If you prioritize it, eventually self-care will come naturally. Until then, keep practicing!