National Self-Care Awareness Month – Part One
Updated: Dec 11, 2020
National Self-Care Awareness Month Background
Self-Care Awareness Month was founded by Evolve to Live. This organization advocates for self-care and self-prioritization. Evolve to Live has an in-depth explanation of its mission on their website. To define “self-care” in one sentence, they state that “self-care is really just about becoming an advocate for yourself.” Becoming an advocate for yourself includes paying attention to your needs and emotions, setting healthy boundaries, and living your life joyfully. The push for self-care is based on the understanding that we must take care of ourselves first and foremost. In light of Self-Care Awareness Month, we will be sharing two blogs on self-care.
Tiers of Self-Care
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a theory in psychology proposed by Abraham Maslow in his 1943 paper "A Theory of Human Motivation." The hierarchy shown in the pyramid below is thought of as a model of human needs. Lower-tier needs must be fulfilled before higher needs can be fulfilled. For the purpose of our self-care exploration, we will be referring to this pyramid as a structure for our self-care practices. Our self-care journey will begin with physiological needs and safety needs. Next week we will explore self-care through love, esteem, and self-actualization.
Food as Self-Care
Filling your body with the necessary nutrients to live a healthy life is at the core of self-care. Our bodies pull their energy from what we consume. If you have the means to do so, you should make intentional choices to fill your body with the good stuff. This means incorporating more plants and less processed food into your diet. A good diet is one with balance. Every body is different and it is advised to consult with your doctor when introducing new health practices.
The American diet is generally protein and carb-heavy. This imbalance can lead to numerous health issues and energy deficiency. In addition to an emphasis on protein and carbs, the American diet is also highly processed. Ultra-processed foods often contain high amounts of sugar, salt, and fat. It’s important to note that canning, cooking, freezing, and dehydrating food all count as processing. The issue is not processing food, the issue is how food loses its nutritional value with unhealthy processing. Choosing to eat whole foods that have gone through minimal processing, should be the emphasis of your diet's self-care initiative. This article in Harvard Health Publishing is a great quick-read on processed food.
It feels critical to highlight that a plant-based, whole-food diet is inaccessible to many in our county. Food swamps and food deserts make it difficult for communities to access the necessary nutrients to maintain a healthy diet. Any attempt that you can make to incorporate balance into your diet is a self-care effort. If you have the access to a healthy diet and your body is now full of the good stuff, it may be time to consider how you can help others gain access to the same resources.
Another important part of food as self-care is forming a healthy relationship with food. As mentioned above, a good diet is a balanced one. This is connected to the way that we allow ourselves to indulge. Allowing yourself to enjoy less healthy food, in moderation, is a great way to form a positive relationship with food. You can choose to forego indulgence if you please, but for those of you who want dessert – have your dessert. Yes, we have reached the “treat yourself” portion of self-care. Having your cake and allowing yourself to enjoy eating it without guilt is self-care.
Drink your water! Your body will thank you.
Sleep as Self-Care
The human body needs different amounts of sleep at different stages of life. The National Sleep Foundation states teenagers should aim for 8-10 hours and adults should aim for 7-9 hours of sleep. Your body needs a good night’s rest in order to start the new day refreshed. People often experience difficulty sleeping whether due to life stressors or everyday hassles. Falling asleep with ease and staying asleep throughout the night can be helped by proper sleep hygiene. Here’s a list of helpful sleep hygiene practices provided by Kaiser Permanente:
Maintain a regular sleep schedule. A consistent wake-up time is most important.
Use your bed only for sleeping and sexual activity.
Do not take naps during the day. If you do, nap only for a maximum of one hour.
Engage in a relaxing activity for one full hour before bedtime.
Do not drink caffeine within 3-6 hours of bedtime.
Limit your use of alcohol, medications, beverages which might interfere with your quality of sleep or ability to sleep.
If it takes longer than 15-20 minutes to fall asleep, get up and do something soothing.
This is an awesome and quick video explaining the relationships between caffeine, alcohol, and sleep.
Illness Prevention as Self-Care
Maintaining a balanced diet and regular sleep schedule are two components to creating a lifestyle that will support health. However, the prevention of some illnesses requires more than that. Currently, people around the world are wearing masks while in public, cleaning hands frequently, and changing social behaviors in order to protect themselves and others from COVID-19. Some of these precautions should be taken even when there is no pandemic.
Practicing proper hygiene plays a vital role in illness prevention. In order to protect yourself from an illness, you should take the necessary precautions. After coming into contact with any potential contaminant you should wash your hands with soap and water or use hand sanitizer. By keeping your hands clean you can prevent the spread of illness-causing germs. Self-care can be practiced by trying to keep yourself out of harm’s way. Simply keeping hand sanitizer nearby can be a huge form of self-care. Purchasing hand sanitizer that is moisturizing and great smelling will help create a positive association with hand cleaning. By creating a positive experience with hand sanitizer you are caring for yourself.
The Next Steps to Self-Care
Now that some fundamental self-care practices have been highlighted, we can explore higher-tier self-care practices. This blog is in no way an exhaustive list of fundamental self-care practices, but it’s a great start. Thank you for coming on this self-care journey with us. Check back next Monday to hear about self-care through healthy relationships.