So much of 2020 was spent with an external focus, a focus outside of ourselves. We were glued to media sources and trying to find any sliver of normalcy and certainty in our days. When immersed in chaos for an extended period of time, we sometimes forget what ”normal” feels like and we get used to being hardwired with worry, which may take a toll long-term. When we become emotionally drained, we lack the energy it takes to care for our basic needs including making healthy meals, remembering when we last went to the dentist, and finding the drive to do things we know are good for us. For some, late-night worrying boosts bouts of insomnia, pushing us further into a cycle of self-neglect.
As if caring for ourselves wasn’t hard enough, many of us are caregivers in other ways, whether working in healthcare, caring for family members and loved ones, providing friends with emotional support, or volunteering in the community. We are wired to experience connection and find value in interacting with and caring for others. If we’re meant to care for others, then the opposite is also true: we’re also meant to receive care. Here at Valley, we want to send out this gentle reminder: if you aren’t caring for yourself, you’ll be unable to sustain caring for others successfully. It starts with YOU.
A new year brings new energy, a fresh start, and opportunity to think about what is most important to you right now. Because of the pandemic, we suggest your focus this year should be YOU, and supporting the emotional and physical health of the body that carries you through your great journey in this world. When people are experiencing added daily challenges, our routines and habits are also likely to be impacted, and we may need to look inward to find a sense of calm amongst chaos. Where to start? Sometimes the best way to overcome not knowing where to begin is to just take the first step. Use this wellness checklist as a guide to assist you in making some selective changes that prioritize you and benefit your health this year.
- Clear some space to make room for good in 2021. Your living space is a good place to start, but this can also include head space. Explore creating awareness around any self-limiting beliefs you may have: reduce negative self-talk about body image or set yourself up for success when it comes to habits you’d like to kick. If it’s something you can reasonably eliminate and it isn’t bringing you joy, let it go. Replace it with scheduled moments for calm and other healthier options bringing you happiness. You schedule other important appointments and events in your life, right? Make sure you’re on your own schedule too!
- Breathe. If we aren’t breathing at our best, we are struggling to get the energy we need, forcing our body to work harder to get basic activities done each day. Set time aside each day to breathe deeply. Step outside for a walk or some exercise to send fresh air to the far reaches of your lungs. You may also find a meditation or breath exercise video online to guide you.
- Annual Screenings: Talk to your doctor about which screenings you are due for and which are most important during this time. Do not ignore dental checkups and eye screenings—check with your provider to find out how they are safely offering services. For a place to start, view this list of generally recommended annual screenings. Safety during outings is of the utmost importance. Please know that many hospitals, clinics, and offices, like Valley Medical Center and Clinic Network, are now offering convenient telehealth appointments to reduce community exposure during the pandemic. Certain types of appointments like annual physicals will typically still be completed in-person and can be done so safely.
- Schedule a Wellness Check-up. A wellness check-up is an appointment with your primary care physician where you can discuss preventive care, screening, and review Advanced Care Planning. This is also a great time to troubleshoot current barriers in your routine that are making it difficult to adopt healthy lifestyle habits. Scheduling this type of appointment aims to reduce the likelihood that you’ll need more urgent care in the future because of medical problems. Avoiding medical issues makes you more independent and able to spend time doing the things that bring you the most joy.
- Take inventory of how your body is feeling. Pause for a moment. Do you have any persistent aches and pains you’ve been ignoring and delaying seeing a specialist about? Consider scheduling an evaluation with a physical or occupational therapist to address issues with how your body moves and pain that makes it harder for you to carry out daily activities. Pain management is a big part of these specialists’ scope of practice! Find ease in 2021!
- Consider lifestyle-based help such as nutrition counseling, diabetes education, virtual fitness classes, and prescriptive exercise specialist information sessions in your path to wellness. These approaches are often covered by your insurance. If you’re interested, call your insurance provider to see if you are eligible for these services.
- Try something new. Netflix only has so many episodes of that TV series you love, and we’re all looking for unique ways to add interest to our days. Make a list of things you have always wanted to try, whether it is a new vegetable you see in the produce aisle at the grocery store, meditation, or a new morning ritual. Opportunities for online classes or groups are abundant now. Trying new things in a safe environment can help you improve brain function, avoid boredom and make each day feel more fulfilling!
Self-care looks different for every single person. You’re more likely to continue with a positive change and make it a habit if it is especially meaningful to you and brings you happiness. Find ways to care for yourself that nourish you and refill your cup—just don’t be overwhelmed by making every change you want to make in one week. Begin by taking the first best step for YOU.