When I was growing up, there were a handful of days or so throughout the year that we commemorated, like Thanksgiving Day, New Year’s Day, and Memorial Day. Now, though, there are days and months set aside to celebrate nearly everything. Some of these are definitely more meaningful than others. In the month of September alone, we have National Grandparents Day, Patriot Day, and Labor Day, along with International Talk Like a Pirate Day, National Hug Your Hound Day, and National Punctuation Day.
There are some things that claim not just one day in September for themselves, but the entire month. This month is National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, National Sickle Cell Awareness Month, and as I mentioned in a previous post, National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. This month, we also celebrate National Happy Cat Month, National Blueberry Popsicle Month, and National Courtesy Month.
September also is National Self-Care Awareness Month. If ever we need to focus on self-care, it is now. The term self-care tends to evoke images of spas, massages, and luxury getaways. While these things can be part of our self-care, self-care is more than this. At the heart of self-care is our emotional health and well-being, because without that, we cannot adequately care for ourselves.
Continuing to deal with COVID-19 and its variants, social injustice, political divisiveness, and the daily stressors at home and at work has taken a toll on our emotional health and well-being. We have been so busy social distancing, masking up, and sanitizing ourselves and our environment that we have neglected investing as much time and energy in caring for our emotional wellness.
While life may feel very heavy right now, there is some good news. We cannot always control what happens in the world around us, but we can take control of our self-care. These are 10 tips to improve our emotional health and well-being that we can put into practice today:
1. Move your body. The mind and body are connected, and exercise is an excellent way to improve your overall health and well-being. Moving your body decreases stress, anxiety, and depression, improves sleep, improves memory, and boosts your mood. Find ways to incorporate movement throughout your day, and watch how it transforms both your mind and body.
2. Manage your time more effectively. Focus on prioritizing tasks and then breaking them down into more manageable chunks. Delegate tasks and ask for assistance, when needed.
3. Address financial concerns. Devise a budget to help you keep track of how much money is coming in and how much is being spent. Consult with a financial advisor to develop a plan to reduce debt and to plan for the future.
4. Get adequate sleep. Sleep deprivation negatively impacts your mind and body. It is important to determine how much sleep you need, in order to wake up feeling rested and ready for the day. Practice good sleep hygiene by eliminating caffeine late in the day, turn off the television, your laptop, and social media at least an hour before bedtime, and make sure your bedroom is at a comfortable temperature. Develop a bedtime routine that signals your body and mind that is time to rest.
5. Cultivate social connections. Human beings are social by nature, so, our social connections are very important. Because of the pandemic, we still may not be able to interact with others like we did previously, but when safe to do so, plan in-person get togethers with family and friends, and when that is not an option, utilize telephone calls, texts, video calls, etc. to stay connected virtually.
6. Practice gratitude. It’s easy to focus on what’s going wrong, but when you focus on what’s going right and what you are grateful for each day, your mindset and mood shift to a more positive perspective. Train your brain to find the good in situations and give thanks for all things, both big and small. Thank others and let them know what you appreciate about them. Keep a daily gratitude journal to keep track of the goodness in your life.
7. Limit exposure to the news. We now have access to the news twenty-four hours/day, 7 days/week, and it can leave us feeling inundated with a barrage of information and overwhelmed by what we see and hear. Take breaks from new coverage to watch, read, or listen to something more uplifting and soothing.
8. Limit social media. Social media can drain your emotional energy and distract you from what needs your attention in real life. Sometimes, social media can lead to unhealthy comparisons with other people who are posting the filtered highlight reels from their lives. Limit your screen time, and focus on other interests and activities that you can enjoy off-line.
9. Just say no. Learn to say yes to what brings you joy and adds meaning to your life, and learn how to say no to anything that does not. There is no glory in being overscheduled and always busy. Simplify your life.
10. Spend time in nature. Enjoy time outdoors, taking in the sights, sounds, and scents surrounding you. Take a walk in your neighborhood. Visit a park. Sit on your porch. Walk barefoot in the grass. There’s a big world out there, so, get out there and explore it.
Self-care means different things to different people, but for each of us, it all starts with prioritizing our emotional health and well-being. What is at least one self-care practice that you can commit to incorporating in your life on a regular basis?
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