Ask The Providers!

This month we ask, “What are 3 Self-Care habits you diligently protect/safe guard no matter how busy you are?”

Selia Cox, APRN

No matter how busy I may become, the three self-care habits that I still work hard to protect include movement, sleep and nutrition. I try to be as aware as possible on how full or empty my cup is within any given day/week. When I start to notice slight changes in my behavior such as going to sleep later, sacrificing movement to fit in extra family or work obligations, or eating out for convenience then I will refocus on these areas and readjust in a way that will fit into my life at that time. For example, if I am feeling more depleted, my movement may be an active recovery walk or light stretching versus a HIIT training or long run. For sleep, I may take a nice relaxing bath prior to getting into bed to unwind versus looking at my phone worrying about what needs to be done. In regard to nutrition, especially during busy times, I will find easy ways to have healthier on-the-go options on me. I will carry a bar that works for my digestion and a piece of fruit with seed butter. I also may find easier meals for my family such as crock pot dish. These adjustments can allow me to move through the days easier and with less pressure on myself thinking I need to get it all done in one specific way as I had been in previous days or months. I always tell my patients: life ebbs and flows, and it can be hard to stick to something exactly the same for 365 days. Sometimes it’s simply not feasible. By exploring new self-care habits, you can increase the number of tools in your toolbox that help you to make these adjustments as you need to.

Dr. Laura Jones, ND

The three self-care habits I work hardest to stay most dedicated to are eating well, exercising and carving out time for hobbies that fill my cup and bring me joy. Eating well became essential many years ago after realizing just how much better I feel physically and emotionally when I eat foods that work well for my body. The more I learn about the powerful medicines we find in foods, the more passionate I become about eating well and teaching my family and patients to do the same. Second, I remain committed to exercise. This benefits my physical heath; but even more so, exercise is a critical part of my stress management toolbox. Running a medical practice and a family of 5 can be overwhelming at times. Staying active and taking care of my body with exercise allows me to better manage life’s demands and relax at the end of a workout. Lastly, at least once a week, I work diligently to find time to dedicate to filling my cup with an activity that I enjoy. Even as adults, it is so important to find time to play. For me this is gardening, knitting, cooking, or a walk in the woods or on the beach with family (and my dog). Life flies by so fast, it is important to seek out as many joyful moments as we possible can.

Dr. Madalyn Otto, ND

First and foremost is probably my sleep. That not only means being in bed long enough, but it also means protecting my nightly wind-down routine to get my brain ready for sleep. Every night by 8pm, I’ve started to wind-down. I put away any work or mentally stimulating hobbies and brush my teeth/floss/etc. Then I proceed with either a relaxing yoga practice or meditation (or both!). I get in bed and read a calming but enjoyable book until my eyes feel heavy, at which point, I turn off the light and go to sleep. I am careful to avoid screens for 2 hours before bed (and if I don’t, I pay for it!), and I take a sleep support formula if I’ve had a stressful day or anticipate a difficult night because of upcoming stress. 

The second self-care habit I protect is more about a specific time that I protect my habits rather than an individual habit. And that is: while on vacation. When I travel for any reason whether to a wedding for the weekend or overseas, I don’t abandon my self-care. To me, self-care is not about deprivation and restriction, it’s about feeling good and caring for my body and mind. So being on vacation doesn’t stop me from continuing to want to feel good and care for myself! I eat a nutrient-rich diet all the time because it feels best, not because I begrudgingly feel obligated. I exercise because I feel the benefits, not because I have to. But I also realize that adherence can be challenging and sometimes modifications must be made. If I’m on vacation and won’t have a gym accessible to me, I may try to plan for that being a “recovery week” which typically is planned for every 6 weeks or so anyway. A recovery week doesn’t mean complete lack of exercise. Rather, it means yoga practice, leisurely cycle rides, brisk walks, possibly light resistance band training (I can bring resistance bands with me anywhere in my suitcase!). When it comes to nutrition, I always make a plan for how to eat during travel. The first few times you do this, it can seem daunting, but at this point it is second nature to me and I literally have a document that I refer to to remind me of what to pack for my trips. I bring meals/snacks for the airport and plane rides. I bring snacks that work for my dietary needs with me that fit in my purse so I have something healthy to eat no matter where I am. I often will bring non-perishable foods to cook if I’m not certain I can get them easily at my destination (chickpea pasta, lentils, chia seeds, peanut butter, chia seeds). While my diet may not be ideal when I travel (I don’t usually eat chickpea pasta, for example), it is not very far off from what I know will feel best for my body. 

A third self-care ritual for me is quality time with my spouse. Whatever your most important relationships are, they should be nourished constantly. When we’re busy, it would be easy to neglect or defer investing time and energy toward the most important person/people in your life because “they’ll understand”. But I find this thinking to be harmful. Fostering my greatest relationship gives me the most amount of joy and fulfillment and is therefore enormously important for my personal self-care in addition to it boosting the relationship itself. Quality time doesn’t have to be fancy, in my opinion. For us it’s having dinner together most nights and having mornings together on weekends, no matter which other directions our other commitments may take us the rest of the time. 

The question didn’t ask this, but I thought I would mention some self-care habits that I strive to be more consistent with. Like everyone, some things that I want to commit to just don’t always stick. For me, this is especially true during travel. The two habits that I struggle with the most when I am out of my ordinary routine are adequate hydration and flossing. Flossing is self-explanatory – I really have no idea why it seems to be the most easily disturbed habit for me. In terms of hydration – I can’t seem to figure out how to maintain my same water intake when traveling as compared to being at home. So that’s something that I’m still working on. 

We’re curious…. What are self-care habits that YOU practice, and which self-care habits do you struggle to maintain?

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