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Putting Your Needs First: The Importance of Mindful Self-Care

    It's a sad irony that many of us get so wrapped up in our own affairs and trying to further our own interests that we lose sight of what it takes to stay mentally and physically healthy and find true happiness. Others give so freely and willingly to others that they neglect to be mindful of their own self-care needs. Self-care is a necessity that's easier to practice than you may think. It's common to dismiss such needs as something you just don't have time for, but ignoring them will catch up to you eventually, leaving you ill-equipped to keep pace with demands at work and in your personal life.

    Be an early riser
    Scientific research has proven that people who get up early tend to be more proactive, optimistic, conscientious and responsive when faced with problem-solving tasks. Early risers find it easier to handle stress and maintain a healthy perspective on life. Rising early gives you time to relax, get your thoughts in order, and face the day prepared to handle the unexpected.

    Being an early riser also means getting adequate and restful sleep at night (at least seven to nine hours) and practicing good sleep habits, such as observing a regular bedtime and creating a sleep environment that's conducive to sleep. That means maintaining a dark and cool sleep space and sleeping on a supportive mattress. Turn off all screens (computer, TV, smartphone, etc.) before going to bed to avoid sleep disruptions.

    Eat nutritiously
    You know it's important to eat well, but you also know that the demands of daily life don't always seem to allow us the time to do so. That's why so many of us end up at the drive-through multiple times a week, only to find ourselves mindlessly eating a burger and fries we know isn't good for us as we catch up on work emails or veg out in front of the TV.

    Luckily, it's easier nowadays not to fall into the fast-food trap than ever before, thanks to fresh-food delivery services. Signing up for a meal kit or grocery delivery service can save you time on shopping for nutritious ingredients for home-cooked or even ready-made meals, and will keep you in control of exactly what you're putting into your body. In turn, you'll enjoy better physical and emotional health, and as a bonus, you may even lose a few pounds.

    Be mindful
    Being mindful means paying close attention to your thoughts and feelings, which dictate how you respond to challenges in your life. It's a strategy for preventing negative thought patterns from controlling your actions, and it's an important practice because one's thoughts are instantaneous, automatic, and unconscious. It's akin to meditation and can take some practice, but it can help you learn to control how you act on those thoughts. Make time each day to process your thoughts and learn to recognize unhealthy and counterproductive thinking you know will only lead to self-destructive behaviors and reactions.

    Get moving
    Like with healthy eating, many busy people resign themselves to the fact that there just isn't enough time to exercise, but the truth is that all it takes to get started is getting up and moving around. Motion switches on your metabolism and exercising engages your sense of well-being, encouraging further exercise and teaching your body to desire it. The key is to keep it up. Getting at least 30 minutes of physical activity every day also makes you feel more alert, productive and optimistic, and alleviates stress.

    If you don't have time to get to the gym on a regular basis, look for ways to work a little exercise into your day. It could be as simple as walking or running up a flight of stairs during your lunch hour or bicycling to work, if possible. For people who spend a lot of time traveling, there are simple exercises you can do in a hotel room without spending a lot of money or lugging exercise equipment around. Try jumping in place for three minutes nonstop (it's harder than it sounds), do some push-ups, or try isometric exercises that can be done while watching television.

    Learning to say "no"
    Many of us are conditioned to automatically agree when asked to do something, no matter how it affects us. People who are eager to win the approval of others are particularly susceptible to this tendency, but it's important to set boundaries on your time and defend hard-earned personal time. Learning to say "no" can mean the difference between a relaxed mindset and one overwhelmed by stress and its physical and psychological by-products, including high blood pressure and depression.

    Spend time with someone close
    Being super busy often means being super lonely. If you fail to connect with the people who mean the most to you, it can lead to isolation and depression, which takes a devastating toll on one's physical and mental health. A study in the journal Perspectives on Psychological Science revealed that persistent feelings of loneliness and isolation heighten the risk of death by more than 25 percent; on the other hand, staying connected with others helps strengthen the immune system and imparts a self-affirming sense of belonging.

    Don't dismiss or undervalue the importance of self-care habits that help you relax and maintain a positive and healthy frame of mind. Sometimes, self-care requires resisting becoming too involved with situations you can't control, and knowing where to draw the line between dedication to a job and your own happiness and fulfillment.


Jill Palmer
Image Jill is passionate about helping people, especially those suffering with mental illness. Her articles reflect her willingness and compassion to help and share her personal experiences with others. We thank Jill for her devoted work, effort and courage.


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