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Simplifying Self-care: How to Incorporate Wellness Into Your Daily Routine

Written by: Sarah Gallo

Sarah Gallo is a new NAMI Wake volunteer contributing her writing to our blog. She has a B.A. in English from North Carolina State University and works as a writer and editor in the Raleigh area.

All too often, when we think about self-care, images of expensive retreats, lavish spa treatments and other out-of-reach endeavors come to mind. But self-care doesn’t have to be inaccessible. After all, “Self-care and indulgence are not the same thing,” says Haesue Jo, a licensed marriage and family therapist at BetterHelp 

Self-care includes “things that you may not necessarily do all the time,” such as maintaining good sleep hygiene, exercising and moving your body, eating nutritious foods that nourish you, keeping your home safe and clean, and staying in touch with others to prevent isolationJo says   

While we should always prioritize our physical, mental and emotional well-being, the coronavirus pandemic has made it even more important that we do so. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explains, “Public health actions, such as social distancing, can make people feel isolated and lonely and can increase stress and anxiety. However, these actions are necessary to reduce the spread of COVID-19.”   

Let’s explore what self-care truly means, and how we can incorporate it into our daily lives — without breaking the bank.   

Self-care, Defined  

Self-care has become a bit of a buzzword that is frequently tossed around social media platforms without much regard to what it truly means. Many people have a misconception about what self-care is, says Consuela Chapman, LCSW, a clinical social worker in Raleigh, N.C. “Individuals often associate [self-care] with a paid service, such as going to the nail salon … which takes time and money.”  

So, what do we mean when we say “self-care”?  

Shannon DuPree, Director of Wellness at North Carolina State University, says, “Self-care is the active participation in enhancing the quality of your health and well-being.” At its core, she says, it means “doing small things every day to help manage your physical, mental and emotional wellness.   

Why It Matters 

The pandemic has caused many of us to juggle more than we ever have had to before, whether it’s helping the children with remote learning, dealing with financial stress after being laid-off or furloughed, or simply longing for the days when we could safely see family and friends — without maintaining a six-foot distanceDuring these stressful times, self-care can quickly become last on our to-do list 

However, when we fail to take care of ourselves, we can’t “show up” in the ways we want to, DuPree says. We can’t be the student, partner, friend or employee we hope to be.” Chapman agrees, noting that self-care is “necessary for self-preservation.” If we fail to take care of our physical, mental and emotional well-being, we can feel like we’re “surviving, not thriving” in this journey called life, she says. “This can trigger stress and anxiety, leading to disease and distress in our personal and professional lives.”  

Simple Ways to Practice Self-care  

There are many ways to seamlessly integrate self-care into your daily routine, including:  

  • Setting Realistic Goals: Setting achievable goals that fit into our lifestyles is “setting ourselves up for success,” Jo says. For example, instead of aiming to run a marathon at the end of the year, signing up for a 5K — and then a 10K — will make running that marathon a much more obtainable goal.   
  • UnpluggingWhile it is important to stay informed, especially during a global health crisis, try to disconnect from your devices for at least an hour or two each day. Talking a walk in nature or simply watching the sun rise or set will leave you feeling centered and calm.   
  • Eating Healthily and Mindfully: Nourish your body with healthy foods, including plenty of colorful fruits and vegetables. Start by taking the time to eat a healthy breakfastsuch as granola and berries or a protein-packed smoothie, which will give you sustained energy throughout the day.  
  • Practicing Gratitude: Research shows that practicing gratitude — whether by starting a gratitude journal or simply taking a few moments each morning to reflect on what you’re grateful for in your life — has numerous physical and emotional benefits, such as improved sleep, self-esteem and relationships.  

These are just a few ways to factor self-care into your daily routine with little to no time or financial resources. Of course, self-care is about taking care of you. Practice what feels good to your mind and body; find what refuels you.   

It can be very difficult to carve out time for yourself when you may be responsible for taking care of others or have a busy work schedule that leaves you feeling drained, Jo says. However, “Folks that take care of themselves regularly are generally better in tune with their internal processes and have developed healthy coping skills to manage stress and anxiety.”  

Getting out of survival mode and into a “thriving space takes regular practice and maintenanceJo says. “Self-care is a daily practice, and you can start any time.”   


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