By Pooja Naik, MD, internal medicine
Over the last two years, many of us let our self-care slip — understandably — and we’re feeling it. Those were rough years. As the pandemic upended routines, our work lives merged with our personal lives, and boundaries were lost. Many of us also lost the rhythm of our fitness routines, grappled with depression and anxiety, and developed unhealthy habits as coping mechanisms. Even if we did see some gains — better meal-prepping, more time with our families — the overall toll on our mental health and quality of life was mostly a net loss.
So, hello 2022! We could not be happier to see you! We are so ready for a reset. January might not be the end for the pandemic, but it can be the beginning of a new way to move forward, if we refocus on taking better care of ourselves.
A self-care reset
When life is challenging, good self-care makes everything else feel a little lighter, a little brighter and a little more doable. It’s essential to your well-being as a whole, healthy person. Which areas of self-care could use a reset for you?
Food is medicine. Recommitting to a healthy, mostly plant-based diet can help you think and feel better.
A daily walk, or 20–30 minutes of movement of any kind, is honestly one of the best things you can do for yourself.
Many of us give our emotional health a backseat to more pressing concerns, but it drives all other areas of our lives. Give it the front seat. If the wait for a therapist is three months, book the appointment anyway.
Remember how good a good night’s sleep feels? You deserve to feel that refreshed every day. Adjust your schedule and your sleep habits so you can get 7-8 hours of restorative sleep every night.
How are you coping these days? We all need to blow off stress, whether through a long talk with a supportive friend, 15 minutes of meditation, a two-minute cuddle with our pet or partner, or just one minute of slow, deep breathing. Here are five stress-reducing techniques that can help.
When life feels “off,” it’s often because one of our relationships is off. It’s easy to take our closest relationships for granted, but they need tending to flourish. Could your relationship with your partner, child, parent or friend use some TLC? Here are 10 things you can do to improve your relationships.
General life satisfaction
Checking off to-do lists can become such an obsession that we forget to leave time for the fun and fulfillment that give life meaning. If that hits home for you, maybe your to-do list needs to be rebalanced. Add a couple of lines for laughter, music, art, friends, nature, or whatever makes you happy. Schedules and routines are important ways to structure our days, set boundaries, and budget our time for the things that matter — including self-care.
If you’ve let one (or more) of these areas slip, the new year is a great time for a reset (but don’t tackle them all at once — the last thing you need is more stress). Start small, live in the present, and focus on the “next right thing” you can do. Once you feel like you have a good grip on one area, consider another. And don’t be afraid to ask for help. Reach out to a friend, family member, employer, health provider, trainer, dietitian, therapist, recovery program or online support group if you’re struggling.
Life will always throw you curveballs — and sometimes, meteors. You can’t change that, but you can change how you react. Practicing self-care, gratitude and living in the moment helps you stay centered and resilient. It takes self-discipline and it’s not always easy, but it’s worth it.
As you move forward into this new year, keep your self-care and positive energy going. Remember, there is always light at the end of the tunnel — sometimes you just have to shine it yourself.