Between looming deadlines at work and squeezing in weekend getaways to visit friends whenever I get a chance, it’s hard to find time to take care of myself. Some weeks speed by before I even have a chance to set foot in the gym and I’m not practicing wellness every day. Lately, though, I’ve started to understand the toll that a lack of self-care can take on my body. It shows up in the form of tension headaches, terse responses to friends (and sometimes coworkers) and other unpleasant side effects.
It might seem like it makes sense to grab some greasy food to go or stay up late to finish a work project, but I always end up paying for these unhealthy behaviors in the long run — and so does my boss, my family and my friends. So instead, I’m practicing wellness every day and making some healthy changes that help to keep me operating at my best all the time. This means prioritizing new habits — here are five of the most helpful.
When I’m busy or stressed, it’s hard to talk myself out of a milkshake and fries. But the second I’ve devoured my drive-through treat, I already regret it. So instead, I’m practicing wellness everyday by spending a few hours on my Sunday afternoon prepping a few lunches and snacks. Doing this in advance ensures that I don’t cave to my cravings when the work pressure hits, and helps set my body on the right track.
Part of that plant-based meal prep usually involves breakfast. Eating breakfast helps to charge me up for the day and keep me focused straight through lunchtime. I like to make overnight oats or chop up some veggies for breakfast burritos when I have the time to spare.
On days when the emails and chats just won’t let up, I’m usually tempted to chug coffee all morning long. This doesn’t help me focus, though. It just triggers a caffeine buzz that makes it impossible to get in the zone. Instead, I’ve started reaching for my water bottle. When I go through a few throughout the day, I feel more energized and avoid the caffeine-related highs and lows. It also keeps my skin healthy and my digestive system running smoothly, so drinking more water is a win-win from head to toe.
When I’m super stressed and running low on time, I always tend to look for it during the late-night hours. It’s hard to know where else to carve out a piece of valuable time without throwing off my entire schedule. But like my other unhealthy habits, this only makes things worse in the long run. When I get enough sleep, I wake up refreshed and ready to face another day — no matter how hectic it may be. So now, I never operate on less than eight hours of sleep a night. The change has made a major difference.
If I’m not shaving hours off of my nightly sleep, then sometimes I find extra time by skipping the gym. Although I don’t like to be too rigid with my fitness routine, I have found that it’s important for the sake of my mental health to get at least some form of exercise most days of the week. Even if I can’t get to the gym, I still take a walk around the block on my lunch break or power through a workout video in my living room. The endorphins serve as a valuable boost on days when I can’t help but feel overwhelmed.
Sometimes it’s the simple act of calming my mind and working through a situation slowly that evades me. I’ve found a simple way to stop my mind from spiraling out into the ether is to meditate. In fact, meditation takes me back to step 3, snoozing soundly. When I can’t unwind after a long day of work, I focus only on breathing deeply for a few minutes until my entire body begins to relax. Sometimes I use a guided meditation app to lead me in the right direction if I can’t seem to get there on my own.
Another way I get to sleep at night is by drinking tea. The perks of this are three-fold. It counts toward my daily water quota, adds some antioxidants to my diet, and helps to soothe me to sleep. I usually opt for herbal or sleepy time teas so as to avoid any extra caffeine.
With the pace of today’s world constantly speeding up, it’s hard to stay on top of self-care. But when I ignore it, the daily grind only feels more difficult and my ability to cope with stress drastically drops. That’s why I’ve challenged myself to tackle these new wellness habits and keep them up long-term — and you can, too. You don’t have to dive into a whole new lifestyle all at once but try making one or two of these changes. You might be surprised by what a difference you feel after just a few days.