Five ways to take good care of yourself

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Want to make a positive change? Try self-care

It’s typical for many of us to rush into the heart of winter with a flurry of big health goals – like losing weight and hitting the gym more regularly. These are admirable goals, but it’s also important to engage in more forgiving self-care – especially during the cold winter months.

5 self-care tips for year-round mental and physical well-being

1.Stress reduction

You can experience headaches, fatigue, sleep problems, and muscle tension when you are stressed, whether you are on the go or trapped at home during a pandemic. Stress might even cause you to overeat or withdraw from your family and friends. And left unchecked, stress could contribute to high blood pressure, heart disease and obesity.

2. Get more sleep

Dr. Candelore suggests getting 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night to reap the maximum benefits. “Your body actually repairs itself while you’re asleep,” she says.

A lack of sleep can make it harder to focus. And chronic sleep deprivation can impact your body, contributing to conditions like high blood pressure. 

 To get better rest, Dr. Candelore suggests:

  • Going to sleep and waking up at the same time every day, even on weekends
  • Keeping your room quiet, dark and cool
  • Avoiding caffeine or a big meal before bed
  • Ending screen time about an hour before going to sleep

3.Do what you love

You can benefit from practicing a hobby as part of your self-care routine. Activities such as gardening, hiking, or martial arts can get you moving and help you feel good. Hobbies that force you to use your mind – like crafting, puzzles, or listening to music – can also be rewarding.

“Taking up a hobby is a great way to enjoy self-care,” says Dr. Candelore. “Hobbies have been associated with improving mental health and can even reduce depression by stimulating the release of endorphins, brain chemicals that promote wellbeing.”

Taking part in activities with a social component can further boost the benefits. “Staying connected to others can help you stay healthier and happier,” Dr. Candelore notes. 

4. Care for your body

Taking care of your body doesn’t just mean exercising. Flossing your teeth daily, taking a long bath, or trimming your nails are all simple ways to take care of yourself.

“Maintaining good hygiene might seem like an expected part of daily life, but these habits might have changed during COVID-19, which has kept us home more and disrupted schedules,” says Dr. Candelore. “Showering and getting dressed each morning gives us an important sense of routine, while giving yourself a home manicure can help you feel pampered. Even brushing and flossing your teeth can have huge benefits, reducing bacteria in your whole body and just making you feel good.

5. Know when to seek help

A lot of people get the “winter blahs” — minor sadness or restlessness — after the holidays. But if symptoms started in the fall, or become more severe, you may have seasonal affective disorder (SAD), also called seasonal depression.

Symptoms of SAD include:

  • Reduced energy
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Increased appetite
  • Increased desire to be alone
  • Greater need for sleep
  • Weight gain

Having some or all of these symptoms doesn’t necessarily mean you have SAD. But talk to your healthcare provider if you have any concerns.

“While we don’t know the cause of SAD for certain, experts believe it’s related to shorter days and altered production of the chemicals serotonin, which is linked to mood regulation, and melatonin, which causes drowsiness,” Dr. Candelore notes. “Therefore, light therapy may be part of your prescribed treatment plan, if you’re diagnosed with seasonal affective disorder.”

Light therapy for SAD involves exposure to a full-spectrum bright light. During the treatment, you’ll sit near a special device that emits a glow that mimics natural light. Therapy starts with one 10- to 15-minute session a day and may be increased depending on your response.

He adds, “Most importantly, remember that exercise and diet, while part of a healthy lifestyle, aren’t the only components of good health. Self-care is also a valid, even vital, part of a healthy, happy life.”

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