Making time to take care of ourselves is an important but often overlooked part of living a healthy, sustainable lifestyle. When we don’t take time for self care, our energy and motivation can drop— making it even more challenging to stick with healthy lifestyle choices.
Feeling burnt out and stressed can also trigger unhealthy behaviors like binging, excess alcohol consumption, or drug use. While these may offer temporary relief, they have significant long term consequences for our health.
We asked Virta patients how they feel when they don’t take time for self care:
- “Chaos, everything seems to happen all at once and I lose focus.”
- “Neglected, dark, depressed, stressed, pain.”
- “Rushed, hurried, and mentally occupied more often.“
- “I feel stressed and anxious.”
By building small habits and rituals to take better care of ourselves, we can avoid (or at least know how to manage) moments of burnout. We asked the Virta patient community for their best tips on how to make self care a part of a healthy lifestyle and the following is what they had to share:
#1. Get Comfortable Saying No
By saying yes to everything, even things we don’t want to or need to do, we risk spreading ourselves too thin. Taking time for ourselves and saying no may feel selfish, but in order to take care of others, we need to look after ourselves first.
Standing up for yourself and your needs is an important part of this. Listening to yourself and setting boundaries can be challenging to practice, but they can make a big difference in managing the stressors of everyday life.
How do you make yourself a priority? Virta patients answer:
- "Me time" has never been a high priority (too much going on). However, I realize now this is very important to help stay focused and keep positive. We all need to take a minute and focus on just ourselves.
- I think in the past I have usually put myself last and taken care of everyone else first, but I have come to realize that my health should be a number one priority!
- Take time for yourself. It’s alright to tell people no.
- In the past I always felt others were more important. I felt putting myself last as a wife, and particularly as a mother, was my job. I have an empty nest now so things can be different. I can do whatever I like for myself! That’s a very good feeling!
#2. Prioritize Rest
Practicing self care doesn’t have to be complicated. It can be as simple as getting to bed 15 minutes earlier, or taking time to journal for 5 minutes in the morning.
Adequate sleep in particular has a significant impact on health, but it’s often the first thing to go when life gets busy. Allowing our bodies to fully rest impacts everything including our mood, appetite, and ability to recover.
If getting an extra hour or two of sleep just isn’t feasible for your lifestyle, focus on taking small moments for yourself. A few deep breaths in the car before going into work could be just what you need to work healthy habits into your day.
What are your favorite ways to rest? Virta patients answer:
- Wellness webinars, walks, coloring books, word search puzzles, calm and stress-free driving, epsom salt baths, essential oils.
- My coach has told me about the importance of sleep, so I try my best to get good quality sleep each day.
- Either staying home or getting out of the house with no schedule.
- Always loved reading and having quiet time.
#3. Find Non-Food Rewards
Food is a common reward people give themselves and their loved ones. It’s also one of the first things many of us turn to in times of stress. The issue with using food to self soothe or treat ourselves is that while it feels good in the moment, it often has long term consequences for our health.
Treating food either as a reward or punishment sets us up for an unhealthy attitude towards food. By dissociating food from our feelings, we can start building a healthier relationship with the way we eat.
What are your favorite non-food ways to treat yourself? Virta patients answer:
- Walk in the park, basketball time with grandson, cooking with granddaughters, Sunday brunch with daughters, time at our camp
- My last non-food reward was a pair jeans that were one size smaller. Yay!
- I have game night with family and friends. The other day I went shopping for the first time in a long time. I like to go get my nails done or go to a movie. I have a couple of friends that talk about traveling together and I would very much enjoy that. Tonight I’m starting a new Bible Study that I haven’t been to in a couple of years because I have been so sick and now, thanks to the Virta program and everyone at Virta, I’m able to go again!
- We went to Turkey Run State Park. Normally I just walk around and get bored because I can't do the physical hiking. This time I was able to climb a waterfall and actual go into cracks and caves. It was amazing.
- I like to garden so I find plants I don’t have or ones that are hard to find.
#4. Focus on Progress, Not Perfection
While making time for ourselves to rest and reflect is important, it doesn’t help if it becomes another stressor on your to-do list. Practicing self care is just that - a practice. Pressuring ourselves to ‘do it right’ doesn’t help.
Making a list of your favorite self care activities and sticking it somewhere you will see it (like on your refrigerator) can be a helpful reminder.
How do you make the time for self cafe? Virta patients answer:
- If the people in your life don’t see that self care is very needed, then that’s a shame. Don’t let that deter you from the path to better health you have chosen. Good health is the most important thing. Go after it with everything you have in you!
- Do one thing everyday that brings you joy - and write it down!
- Everyone has to find what helps them recharge and focus. Is it being alone or with friends? Taking the time to find out how you recharge is the first step, then actually making time is the second.
In an ideal world, we’d all have plenty of time to devote to self care. The reality is that the majority of us don’t have that time to spare. However, taking good care of ourselves doesn’t have to cost a lot of money, or require hours of free time.
Carving out just 5 minutes a day to focus on our breathing can be enough. Scheduling it in your calendar, like any other appointment, can also be helpful in staying accountable to yourself.
Self care is ultimately a mindset about the decisions you make. By building a sustainable lifestyle we love, we’ll be able to show up for ourselves and our loved ones more fully.