Make 2022 the year for self-care

(It’s the foundation for all other resolutions.)

Happy New Year!

As we embark upon 2022, I encourage you to make this the year you prioritize self-care! Care of self is the foundation for everything else you hope to achieve and experience—this year and always!

Most people are unaware of the toll stress is taking on our bodies 24/7. Modern stress is so constant that we don’t even recognize it for what it is. Instead, we think of “stress” as only those traumatic circumstances when we face an unusual challenge at work or home, get sick, lose a job, suffer an accident, or lose a loved one. “THAT’s stress,” we tell ourselves. The 24-hour onslaught of our day is just life.

But the fact is that modern life is incredibly stressful because it never lets up. We’re constantly “on,” constantly getting messaged, receiving “breaking news” updates, caught in traffic, rushing to our next appointment, “on the clock,” facing “deadlines” (aptly named). This kind of stress is chronic. Chronic stress causes chronic inflammation. And chronic inflammation is associated with all of the leading degenerative diseases—from heart attacks to cancer to Parkinson’s. I call this stress Cultural Stress because it’s inseparable from the culture we live in.

That is why self-care is essential. Just as we practice other forms of healthcare, we must practice self-care to protect ourselves from the effects of Cultural Stress. Fortunately, if you do it right, self-care is its own reward!

We’ve all heard it said regarding airline safety: “Put your own oxygen mask on first, before helping others.”

The same message was also reinforced early in the pandemic: slowing its spread began with us. If we kept ourselves healthy, we wouldn’t infect anyone else.

Yet, despite our acknowledgement of these realities—that self-care is healthcare, and care of self has to precede everything else we hope to accomplish—most of us find a thousand reasons to postpone self-care—today, tomorrow, and indefinitely! For example:

We know we should begin the day with some kind of contemplative journaling, or meditation, or gratitude practice, but we just don’t have time today.

We know we should exercise, but we just don’t have time today.

We know we should cleanse, moisturize, and apply sunscreen to our skin, but we just don’t have time today.

We know we should eat whole, fresh foods we’ve prepared ourselves and sit down together as a family, but we just don’t have time today.

We know we should disconnect from our devices an hour or so before bedtime, but we just want to check our email or IG feed one last time…

Unfortunately, what we do today often turns into what we do every day. Our actions become habits and our habits come to characterize our lives.

Until WE make the change!

Despite all the incoming news, posts, and messages we receive, we are the source of agency in our lives. We’re the deciders. So, as we embark upon a New Year in 2022, let’s up the ante, not by scolding ourselves into self-care, but by splurging on self-care! Let’s make 2022 the year we give ourselves permission to:

“Wear your crown.” Make yourself queen (or king) for a day…every day!

“Think of yourself as royalty, not poverty.” Treat yourself with deference and respect, regardless of your income.

Delete negative self-talk.” If you wouldn’t talk that way to a friend, why would you talk so critically to yourself?

Rewrite and reframe the negatives in your life.” Reframe challenges and setbacks as circumstances that will make you stronger, just like adding weights to your work-out.

Be comfortable with who you are.” You’re not perfect; and neither is anyone else. Be proud of the unique combination of talents and limitations that make you yourself. Besides, if you’re willing to “Be imperfect, you’ll live longer!”

Be yourself; don’t emulate.” The world doesn’t need another replica of someone else. It needs the one and only you!

“Treat each day as an opportunity to grow.” That way, you can welcome any experience that comes your way.

Develop a self-care routine that works for you. Because you are the key ingredient in self-care.

There are some principles you can base your self-care on, however. I call these the Four Pillars of Modern Wellness:

Diet (make most of your foods water-rich so your cells stay hydrated, while also getting the vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other phytonutrients you need).

Exercise (in a way that feels good to you; if you enjoy it you’ll be more likely to keep at it).

Skincare (protect your skin so that it can protect the rest of you).

Stress relief (develop one or more practices that allow you to disconnect from the world and cultivate your own inner peace and happiness. It could be journaling, meditation, yoga, affirmations, conscious breathing, or gratitude practice. And it is not a luxury; it is what activates the “rest and repair” side of your central nervous system. It’s time that allows your body to heal. You could even think of it as your super-power: stronger than Cultural Stress!)

The goal is to build on these Four Pillars daily so that they become routine. Our commitment is to making self-care a HABIT. Because our habits come to characterize our lives.

Although YOUR self-care routine will be unique to you, and will vary based on your work schedule, exercise preferences, childcare and family responsibilities, and more, here is a sample:

Wake up slowly and express gratitude for the day. It only takes a minute.

Get up slowly and stretch your body for a minute or two.

Take care of your skin: if you’re planning to exercise before heading to work, simply apply sunscreen after washing your face. If not, take the time to follow your skincare regimen: cleanse, tone, and moisturize, before applying sunscreen.

SMILE at yourself in the mirror. Your positive outlook begins in the mirror. Wear your happy face and watch how the rest of the world responds.

Stop by the kitchen for the coffee that is waiting and head back to bed for some journaling. Maybe write out your to-do list for the day.

Enjoy a healthy breakfast: perhaps plain yogurt, fresh fruit, nuts and granola; or scrambled onion, kale, and eggs; or a protein and berry smoothie. Don’t forget your supplements: vitamins C and D, a multi-B vitamin, and antioxidants. I also take lecithin for cell membrane strength and glucosamine chondroitin for joint health.

Head out the door for a brisk walk with the dog, or a jog with a neighbor, or perhaps with just your favorite music for company.

Back home, shower and complete your skincare routine.

On the way to work, avoid stressing out over traffic and other delays. Worry and frustration won’t get you there any faster. If you’re going to be late, accept it, along with the fact that few things are more important than your peace of mind. Practice calming thoughts or conscious breathing whenever circumstances try to upset your equilibrium. If appropriate, phone ahead to let your co-workers know you’ll be a few minutes late.

Once at work, take 1–2-minute stretch breaks every hour. Stand up, walk to the window or to the drinking fountain, or just do a few side bends by your desk.

Try eating lunch outdoors, with friends or alone, enjoying the sunshine, fresh air, blue sky, or even the noisy street scene, if that’s where you find yourself. You’re giving your eyes a break by taking them off the screen, and your body a break by moving it out of doors a bit.

At the end of the workday, give yourself a decompression period: perhaps this is when you go to the gym, take a run through the park, or head to yoga class. If your workday ends with a commute, consider a calming music playlist for the route.

Make dinnertime a device-free zone so that you can interact with family or friends, or simply appreciate the food.

Develop a routine that signals to your body that it’s time to sleep. Unplug from all devices an hour before bed. Try a candlelit bath or shower. Listen to soothing music. Read an inspirational book. As you settle into bed, look back over the day and appreciate your victories and blessings, however small. Consider the ways you contributed: the help you offered, the smiles you generated. If nothing else, you’ve survived! That is no small thing. Thousands of people did not.

Sleep well!

At least once a month—and if you can, once a week—give yourself the gift of a massage, a facial, a restorative yoga class, a guided meditation, or other healing practice. These allow your body the time to perform deep maintenance and restoration work—key to long-term health and well-being.

Happy New Year!


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