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Center yourself

  • Rosie Matott and Elaine Clow touch their toes during chair yoga at the Boscawen Public Library.



LiveWell editor
Thursday, January 05, 2017

December is usually filled with shopping, visiting family and friends and crossing last-minute items from never-ending to do lists. You spend the whole month thinking about others. Furthermore, the days get shorter through the month, giving less time to finish those tasks.

Well, it’s January now. Days are slowly getting longer. You’ve spent the last month giving gifts and thinking about everyone else. It’s time to think about yourself.

Without taking care of your own body and mind, you will burn yourself out taking care of others and won’t be able to care for anyone.

Physical needs

When people get busy, it’s easy to forget to stop for something to eat or to sacrifice sleep to get those last-minute tasks done. However, without those taking proper care your body, you won’t have the physical or mental function to accomplish those things as efficiently as you could if you took care of yourselves first.

The amount of sleep people need varies. Adults typically need about 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night. Don’t be afraid to take a nap if you can; the to do list isn’t going anywhere. If you’re getting enough sleep, but still feel tired, make sure you’re doing restful things prior to bed, like keeping screens off . If problems persist, talk to your doctor about possible sleep disorders.

Learn more about sleep.

You also need to drink enough water each day. In general, adults need a half a gallon each day, about eight, 8-ounce glasses.

When we get busy, one of the things we sacrifice is regular, healthy meals. It’s much more convenient to visit the drive-thru or grab a candy bar from the vending machine. Those foods generally aren’t filling, and soon we’re hungry again. Healthy foods, eaten on a regular schedule, will fill you up, stop you from feeling sluggish and improve brain function.

Get moving

Moving keeps bodies in good shape and helps prevent many chronic diseases. It helps improve mental functions, too.

In Japanese medicine, shinrin-yoku, or forest-bathing, is growing as a form of preventative medicine. The practice is taking off across the world. Studies show that by spending time in nature, people are less stressed, feel more positive and have improved memory function. Even a short walk is beneficial.

Exercise can be a way for you to take care of yourself, if done correctly. Adults need about 30 minutes of physical activity each day. Exercise can mean running, using gym equipment or playing sports, but it could also be mowing the lawn or shoveling depending on your yard. Talk with an expert, like a doctor or trainer, to make sure you are exercising at an appropriate level.

Creativity

Creating art by making music, drawing, painting, building or in some other form is a way to express yourself and relieve stress. You don’t have to be a great artist to make something special.

Sue Anne Bottomley’s new book Pep Talks for the Would-Be, Should-Be Artist offers encouragement to those who are out of practice (or maybe were never in the practice) of creating art.

If it’s too stressful for you not to have perfect art, try an adult coloring book to start. There are now hundreds of different versions to choose from. All you have to do is color in the lines.

Reflection

Practices like meditation and yoga can help you organize your thoughts and decrease stress. Think of it like spring-cleaning for your brain.

When you take time to be reflective, it allows you to be more mindful in the present, freeing up energy to focus on the task at hand instead of past events or future worries.

For those who believe in a religion, prayer can also be a form of meditation to give thanks for what you have or ask for help with things troubling you.

Some people write in a journal to clear their heads, collect their thoughts and reflect on their day. Others find the concept of regular writing in a journal daunting, and write short notes to collect in a jar.

Reflection can help ground yourself when the world around you feels overwhelming.

Something new

Personal improvement is another way to care for yourself. And you don’t have to go back to school to learn something new.

Programs such as Concord Community Education, offer classes on subjects from algebra to archery and biology to basic cooking. For seniors, the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Granite State College and LINEC at New England College also offer a variety of classes. Feed your interests and try to master a new skill.

Parks and recreation departments also offer programs to learn new sports or fitness activities. Try pickleball, tai chi or become a coach for youth sport.

You could also join a hobby group – like knitting, stamp collecting, gardening or quilting – to learn more about that topic from others who are interested in it.

Have fun

One of the easiest ways to take care of yourself is to do the things you love. Watch your favorite movie. Finish a puzzle. Play with your pet. Beat a video game.

It’s easy to justify making time for things that grab at our attention. It’s harder to justify taking time for ourselves. However, by making time to take care of yourself, you can be more productive, healthier and happier.