Take care of yourself before you care for others. You may have heard this advice about self-care before. But amidst a busy schedule filled with work and family obligations, it can be challenging to find time for yourself.
If you sneak in a quick shower during the day, does that count as self-care? What about exercise — do you need to join a gym and commit to a rigorous workout schedule? Rizwana Rahman, D.O. a family medicine physician at Henry Ford Health, often answers these questions for her patients.
Self-care isn’t just daily hygiene. Reframe your ideas about self-care and adopt habits to support your wellness in three areas — mind, body and spirit says Dr. Rahman. Taking time now for self-care can impact your long-term health in the future. Proper self-care reduces your risk of developing conditions like depression, obesity and heart disease.
Here Dr. Rahman shares steps you can take to add self-care habits into your routine.
Self-Care For Your Mind
Start by setting aside time each day to take a mental break. Dr. Rahman suggests trying these strategies:
- Broaden your mind. Learn to think outside the box by exploring areas beyond your work or school activities. Read a book or article on a new topic. Build a model, solve a puzzle or learn a new skill. These diverse activities stimulate new areas of your brain. They can also shift your focus from daily demands and relieve stress.
- Recharge with mindfulness meditation. To refresh your mind and recharge your energy, try mindfulness meditation. Take a few minutes to sit quietly, focus on your breathing and take in your surroundings with all your senses. Mindfulness meditation activates your brain’s frontal lobe, improving your ability to think rationally and manage stress.
Self-Care For Your Body
Self-care for your body involves putting your physical health at the top of your priority list. Dr. Rahman recommends starting with these steps:
- Eat a balanced diet. Have a busy week ahead? Take time to plan your meals. You can even include carbohydrates as part of a balanced diet, just be sure to include fruits and vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins.
- Get your heart pumping. You don’t need to go to the gym for hours to get the benefits of exercise. Pick your favorite activity and schedule short workouts throughout the week. By raising your heart rate, you improve circulation, burn calories and improve the quality of your sleep. Exercise also reduces anxiety, triggering an increase in feel-good chemicals within your brain.
- Stick to your sleep schedule. When you sleep, your body processes toxins that build up in your brain, helping you better learn, create and reason when you wake. Sleep also supports your heart, lungs, immune system and metabolism. Adopt healthy sleep habits so you get the restorative sleep you need. Turn off electronic devices and take time to unwind before bedtime. Aim for 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night, including weekends.
Self-Care For Your Spirit
As you plan your self-care routine, don’t forget to include activities that support your spiritual needs. Care for your spirit with these activities:
- Be social. Just like babies, adults need social interaction to develop and thrive. When someone smiles at you, that act triggers a positive chemical reaction within your brain. Make time to connect with family and friends. These interactions boost your mood and reduce stress. Even a short phone conversation can improve your attitude.
- Give back to your community. When you contribute to your community, you broaden your perspective of the world. At the same time, you support your own spiritual needs by working with others toward a common goal. Volunteer at your place of worship or a local charity. Find ways that you can have an impact on your community.
- Practice gratitude. Amidst daily demands, it’s easy to focus only on your own challenges. To break the cycle of worry and stress, Dr. Rahman recommends taking time each day to practice gratitude. Create a gratitude journal and record daily experiences that make you grateful.
Be Consistent And Celebrate Your Successes
Dr. Rahman says her patients show her how these strategies improve health. For example, one of her patients lost weight, brought her high blood pressure (hypertension) under control and reduced her diabetes medication by focusing on self-care.
“The key to successful self-care is consistency,” says Dr. Rahman. “If you fall behind in these habits, forgive yourself and move on. Celebrate every success as you put your own health and well-being first.”
Subscribe to receive a weekly email of our latest articles.
Rizwana Rahman, D.O., is a primary care physician at Henry Ford Health. She sees patients at Henry Ford Macomb Health Center in Chesterfield.