Monday Medical: Self-care in the season of love
For Steamboat Pilot & Today
It’s the season of love, which means it’s a good time to talk about one of your most important relationships: your relationship with yourself.
“Our fundamental relationship is the relationship with ourselves,” said Molly Lotz, a behavioral health social worker with UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center. “In this month focused on love, we can think about what it looks like for us to nurture ourselves and our relationship with our own health.”
Below, Lotz outlines her tips for practicing self-care.
Self-care is different from self-indulgence
“A lot of people think of self-care as getting a manicure or buying a new pair of shoes,” Lotz said. “There’s nothing wrong with those things, but if we’re calling them self-care, we’re missing a big chunk of practices and habits that make us feel better and improve our wellness in the long run.”
While self-indulgences provide immediate gratification, self-care often doesn’t. So don’t think you’re missing out if the small steps you take for self-care don’t seem to have payoffs right away. Instead, stick with it for the long haul and notice subtle shifts that change your life for the better.
“Self-care might not always be easy,” Lotz said. “But recognize that the payoff comes in feeling better, in having your tank full.”
Movement, mind and nourishment
Lotz recommends thinking of self-care in three areas.
First is fitness, or improving your physical well-being: that might mean adding a strength routine into your workout schedule or walking more each day. Second is your above-the-neck care, which includes spirituality, mindfulness or meditation, and mental and social health. And third is adding or eliminating something from your diet to improve nutrition.
Making changes in each of those areas can lead to widespread benefits, such as an improvement in your posture, an increase in your energy, a deepening in your relationships and better management of stress.
If you set up a meeting at work, chances are you’ll make it. Try to do the same with your self-care routine.
“We can put self-care into our schedule, so when we get pinged with an appointment reminder, we’ll honor it the same way we’d honor a meeting with a co-worker,” Lotz said. “If somebody blew me off for a meeting, I’d feel a little resentful and irritated. So why would I allow myself to do that with myself? We need to recognize self-care is just as important as any interaction with anyone else we work or live with.”
“Adding any form of self-care is better than what you were doing yesterday,” Lotz said. “Start by focusing on one thing and cut yourself some slack. These things are not easy and do take practice.”
If you’re stressed and overextended, it’s all the more difficult to help those you love.
“If our tank is empty, something is going to suffer — our health, our relationships,” Lotz said. “But if we’re prioritizing what we need and what makes us feel healthy and good, then we’re automatically more available for the other people in our lives.”
Not all self-care is tedious. In fact, one important way of nurturing your mind is to incorporate more laughter and play into your life. “There’s fun and lightness in it,” Lotz said.
And don’t forget that the end result is worth it.
“Self-care will allow you to incorporate more fun into your life, to create more room for joy. You’ll feel better, and your anxiety will decrease,” Lotz said. “While the practices may not always be fun, the payoffs are delightful.”
These recommendations were inspired by the work of Dr. Jennifer Ashton, the author of “The Self-Care Solution.”
Susan Cunningham writes for UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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