By Jessica Cording, MS, RD, CDN, INHC.
The fall season, with its back-to-school / back-to-work buzz, is a time we need to pay extra attention to our physical and mental health and wellness. For many of us, this is a time when we’re taking on more responsibilities and trying to squeeze as much in as possible before the December holidays hit. We may be adjusting to new schedules right along with changes in the amount of daylight hours that impact our mood and energy. It’s easy to get run down.
As a dietitian and health coach, I’ve helped many people navigate this seasonal transition and put self-care on their to-do list. I’ve also had lots of practice with this in my own life! It drives me crazy when I read articles or hear a healthcare professional saying to “reduce stress”—sure, there are some things we can impact, but there are always going to be stressors beyond our control, where the only thing we CAN control is how we react and what types of healthy coping skills and strategies we have in place for ourselves.
When we’re going through a busy or stressful time it’s especially important to prioritize our physical and mental health. This helps us show up as our best self in our relationships, at work, and in our day-to-day interactions. It helps us deal more effectively with those inevitable stressors that do come up. Additionally, when we’re under a lot of stress, our immune system may be affected, making it harder to ward off illness—ever notice how you always seem to get a cold or sore throat when you feel like you’re going nonstop at top speed?
There are always going to be stressors beyond our control, where the only thing we CAN control is how we react and what types of healthy coping skills and strategies we have in place for ourselves.
Sometimes, though, we get so busy it feels like we have no time, or we get so caught up in what we’re doing, our needs are the last thing on our mind. Then there’s this especially sneaky and strong barrier to self-care: feeling guilty about focusing on ourselves. This could be related to the amount of time or money we have; it could have something to do with how we were raised to view self-care. Do you ever worry it’s selfish to take time for yourself when there are others who need you?
If you get nothing else from this post, I want it to be this: Self-Care isn’t selfish. If you struggle with believing this, try reframing self-care as an investment in yourself that can help you be there for others.
Self-care doesn’t have to be elaborate or expensive or take up tons of time. It can include really simple things like cooking a healthy meal, setting aside an hour to sort mail and pail your bills, or making sure you’re up to date with doctors’ check ups.
I know that on social media and in advertisements we often see self-care made out to look like it’s all about spa treatments and lying on the beach and ten-dollar green drinks, but it can also include really simple things like cooking a healthy meal or making a nourishing choice when eating in a restaurant or ordering takeout. It could be setting aside an hour to sort mail and pay your bills or setting up a system for yourself to streamline that process. It can be making sure you’re up to date with doctors’ check-ups and vaccinations and prescriptions. It could be setting a boundary with your time or energy in your work or personal life. It could be taking a walk or stretching when you get up in the morning. It could be talking to a loved one who makes you feel uplifted.
What is one thing you can do to take care of yourself today? This week? This month?
Jessica is a registered dietitian, health coach, and writer with a passion for helping people streamline their wellness routine and establish a balanced relationship with food and exercise. Through her writing, consulting, public speaking, and counseling, she works with individuals, corporations, and the media to help make drama-free healthy living approachable and enjoyable. You can find her on Simple Habit here.