Sanford’s “Five A Day” For May

Last week, Stacey and I declared May Self-Care Month, and asked you to pick a self-care tip from our Top Ten Tips Plus Two to practice for the month. Many of you responded by saying you agreed.

Long before this blog was born, I discovered the only way to take good care of those we love is to take good care of ourselves. That’s how I developed my “Five A Day”- self-care skills critical to health and well-being. Since several of you mentioned working on these, #2 on our self-care list, here they are:

1.    Nutrition.  Eat at regular intervals to keep your body fueled and substitute healthy snacks for meals when needed.   Consume food mindfully without distractions like TV or cell-phones.  Eat healthy 75% of the time.

2.    Sleep.  Research shows that we need 8-9 hours of sleep for mental and physical health.  So, create a bedtime routine which quiets your mind instead of working until your head hits the pillow.  Lack of restful sleep diminishes  physical and emotional health.

3.    Physical Activity.  Recent studies indicate there are many successful ways to exercise from 15-20 minutes daily or  3-4 times weekly for an hour.  A combination of cardio, strength, and flexibility is best. Remember, exercise improves mood and longevity.

4.    Rest.  Take breaks.  Periods of activity/energy expenditure require periods of recuperation.  Our bodies aren’t designed to run full-tilt 24/7.

5.    Stress. Be aware of physical signs of stress: muscle tension, headaches, and GI symptoms.  If these occur, do something restorative-nap, workout, read, or whatever soothes you.  Don’t wait!

As a mom, wife, and daughter, I know it’s easy to neglect our health needs while insisting that our loved ones attend to theirs. I remember when my children were young, eating what they left on their plates for my meal. Taking a break was throwing in a load of laundry or picking up. I joke with friends that I didn’t exercise for 15 years although every day was a workout. With regard to stress management, suffice it to say I didn’t.

Please join us in declaring May self-care month. It’s worked for us. It can work for you.

Self-Care Brings Holiday Cheer

With Hanukah tomorrow and 6 days until Christmas, holiday stress is peaking. So this week, we’re focusing on self-care basics to preserve health, happiness, and your remaining sanity. First, make time to eat; your body can’t run without fuel. Exercise once or twice by going to the gym, walking your dog, or riding your bike. Recharge your emotional engine by making time to savor what you enjoy-a  great cup of coffee, a manicure, or visiting a friend. Feed your spirit by walking in nature, positive affirmations, and giving to others.

Second, practice relaxation. Take breaks in the day. Stop running around at record speeds. The “perfect gift” doesn’t exist so stop and breathe. Close your eyes and spend 5 minutes, breathing in to the count of 3, holding for a couple seconds and then out to the count of 3. If a thought creeps in, let it go. Focus you attention on your heart spreading calm and warmth through your body. Repeat 2-3 times a day. Studies show that relaxation boosts immunity, lessens pain and improves mood.

Finally, spend your time wisely. Choose one activity which makes the holidays special for you and Do It! Maybe baking or caroling or watching a holiday DVD. Don’t let your “to do” list consume you. Prioritize what has to get done, and cut out what you can. Stop and think “Will doing this make me feel good” or tired and stressed. The better you feel, the more you’ll enjoy the holidays and so will those around you.