Most people associate self-care with a relaxing vacation or trip to the spa, but self-care is much more than relaxing by the pool. It’s everything we do to maintain, improve or restore our health. Setting up wellness reminders is a simple way to stay on top of your health. But you can do many other things throughout the year to stay healthy.
When it comes to health maintenance, consistent healthy habits can make a big difference. Here are some useful ways to include healthy habits in your self-care routine:
1. Protect your body’s “good” bacteria and guard against germs
Did you know that sugar and processed foods can hurt your gut microbes? We focus so much on the stuff that makes us sick that we forget to protect the good bacteria living in our bodies. Protect the good bacteria on your skin by avoiding harsh cleansers and antibacterial soaps. You can guard against harmful germs by washing your hands with plain soap and water for 20 seconds. Make sure to scrub all areas of your hands. If you cut corners, you will not remove as many germs. You can use a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol if you don’t have soap and water. If soap or hand sanitizer is unavailable, rub your hands together under the water and dry them with a clean towel.
2. Detect problems early on
You’ve probably heard that screening tests can help detect problems before symptoms appear. That’s why regular checkups are essential for optimal health. Try scheduling your next visit on a day that’s easy to remember or is important to you, such as your birthday or the beginning of the year. Add your appointment to your favorite calendar app, and create a recurring annual reminder to set future appointments. You can also ask your doctor’s office how to sign up for patient portal access to have all your information at your fingertips.
3. Schedule “wellness” reminders
We’re often reminded of what we need to do to extend the life of our cars. Whether the oil change sticker on our windshield or the “check engine” light on the dashboard, car care is always top of mind. But when it comes to our health, these reminders are less obvious.
Try setting up “wellness reminders” so you don’t miss a beat. It can be anything from reminding yourself to turn off your electronic devices at night or going to bed earlier. If you spend too much time sitting, set hourly reminders to get up and stretch. Take a walk around the block or walk over to your coworker’s desk instead of emailing or texting. If you schedule your doctor’s appointments in advance, set up a calendar alert a week or two beforehand to ensure you don’t forget. If you have a blood test, add any instructions from your provider, such as not eating or drinking anything the night before.
4. Create a bedtime routine
If you’re a night owl, science says you’re missing out on some incredible health benefits. You should get at least seven hours of sleep and adjust to an earlier sleep schedule if possible. Create a comfortable bedtime routine that includes a dark room free of electronics. We know that putting down your phone is difficult, but when it’s time to wind down, reach for a book instead. The blue light from your electronic devices can disrupt your sleep. It can even harm your vision over time. If you must study or work at night, switch your device to night mode, also known as dark mode or shift mode. If you don’t have this option on your device, you can manually adjust the screen's brightness.
5. Eat meals at home
Have you ever opened and stared at your refrigerator, feeling helpless? If you answered yes, you’re not alone. Block out an hour or two each week to prepare meals and snacks, and store them in individual containers. Meal planning can help you make better choices and stick to your desired portion size.
Start by creating a list of lower-calorie ingredients before you hit the grocery store. Your list can include non-stick cooking spray, skinless ground turkey breast, and low-fat sauces or cream soups. Check out the frozen food aisles for quick, low-calorie vegetable side dishes. You can find cut green beans, sliced carrots, and other chopped vegetables in that section. Avoid the ones with added cream, butter, or cheese sauces, as these ingredients can add calories.
6. Stay current on your shots
Vaccines aren’t just for kids. They help protect adults against serious illnesses, including the flu and COVID-19. The protection can wear off over time, so staying up to date is essential. The annual flu shot and COVID-19 vaccines are recommended for most adults. Older adults may need additional vaccines. Talk to your primary care provider about other vaccines you may need based on your age or chronic conditions.
Need more self-care ideas in the new year? Take the stairs, park far away, and have a walking meeting. The key is setting realistic goals you can commit to and achieve. If you haven’t seen your Dignity Health Medical Group doctor or advanced practice provider in a while, it could be time to schedule an appointment.
Self-care interventions for health (who.int)
Self-care interventions for health Q&A (who.int)
Disease Prevention Toolkit | National Institutes of Health (NIH)
Get Vaccines to Protect Your Health (Adults Ages 19 to 49) - MyHealthfinder | health.gov
Benefits of Meal Prep for Type 2 Diabetes | Type2Diabetes.com
Frequent Questions About Hand Hygiene | Handwashing | CDC
Planning Meals | Healthy Weight, Nutrition, and Physical Activity | CDC