With 2020 finally behind us (seriously, good riddance!), we should have a fresh, clean slate and an opportunity to create a happier, healthier year. But so far, 2021 is looking and feeling pretty similar to 2020, at least on a day-to-day basis around here.
And, I think it’s important to acknowledge that many of us have started this new year feeling fragile, vulnerable and just plain not ourselves, after so much stress, uncertainty and loss in 2020. And we still have months ahead of winter, lockdowns, limited social interactions and activities (depending where you live of course), and a lot more working from home. For many of us, this puts strain on our physical and emotional health, and makes it harder to thrive.
Which is why, this year, even more than ever, committing to self-care is absolutely crucial. Self-care is absolutely not selfish; you cannot pour from an empty cup, and to support your loved ones, you need to first support yourself.
These are my personal top 5 self-care strategies, and I guarantee if you make them your own, and really stick to them, you will set yourself up for a significantly better 2021.
If you’ve read my sleep blog you already know that I see good sleep as the foundation of self-care. Nothing else you do will really move the needle without enough good quality sleep. For most adults that means averaging 7-9 hours each night, and waking feeling rested, not exhausted. Even before the pandemic, one in three Canadians were not getting enough sleep, and in the 18-64 age group as many as 55% reported difficulty falling or staying asleep. I’m sure that has only worsened during 2020. Poor sleep is associated with a multitude of negative health effects including obesity, diabetes, depression, cardiovascular disease and reduced overall well-being. If you haven’t been sleeping well, here are a few quick tips on how to change that, but if this is ongoing definitely talk to your doctor or naturopath for more help.
- Practice good sleep hygiene – regular bedtimes and wake times, no daytime naps, no screens at least an hour before bed, practice a wind-down routine (bath, mediation, reading, journaling – whatever works for you)
- Make sure you are sleepy when you turn out the light, and if you can’t sleep or wake in the night and can’t fall back to sleep, read with a small reading light or get up and do something quiet – don’t just lay there “trying”.
- Consider a natural sleep aid – Sleep Like Buddha contains 3 trusted and proven natural ingredients to reduce stress-related sleep issues and help you fall asleep easier and stay asleep, without morning grogginess.
Whole Food Nutrition
This one is pretty obvious; the old adage “you are what you eat” still holds. But with the New Year we often see healthy eating resolutions surge. It’s a good time to cut way back on the holiday style eating, especially the sugars in cookies and desserts that make the holidays feel festive. But be realistic; extreme diets are notoriously hard to sustain, keep it simple, avoid sugar and processed food, respect any food sensitivities you have, and stick to real, whole food. As Michael Pollan says, “Eat food. Not too much, mostly plants.” And above all, cook! Homemade food is nurturing both physically and emotionally. We do like a takeaway once a week though, as a little break and an opportunity to support our local restaurants and enjoy some new flavours.
We all know that exercise is important for health. It has been proven to improve mood and sleep, reduce stress, increase energy, and extend life span by reducing the incidence of many diseases. To get the benefits, aim for 30 minutes of physical activity every day. It doesn’t have to be crazy intense, even a brisk walk counts. But do your best to log some exercise or movement daily. Find something you enjoy, whether it’s yoga, walking, HIIT, running, cycling or hiking. And for extra motivation, make it social, either outdoors in person, or taking a live online class.
There are so many yoga and fitness studios offering great classes – and they need our support. So, sign up, schedule it in and commit to yourself.
Reflection, Learning, Gratitude
2020 has tested us beyond our wildest imagination. And while we are not all in the same boat with respect to the resources we had to weather it, we were all in the same storm and it affected us all. As we close the door on this year, we may be tempted to shut it from memory, but I think that would be a mistake. It deserves some reflection. Consider making a list of the learnings you took away from the year; about the world and about yourself. What were your silver linings? I can tell you that mine were mostly to do with family; time with our teens that we would not have otherwise had, an appreciation for how important my parents are to me and how much I miss hugging them, and gratitude that I married the right person, and got to go through this with him by my side. (Literally by my side, Every damn day). :)
For so many of us, the most challenging part of 2020 has been the limitations on human connection. Sure, it has been annoying having to line up for everything, not enjoy our favorite restaurants, get our hair or nails done, or go on the trips we hoped to. But really, it’s the people I miss. Those first few months of lockdown were still so novel; they were hard, but I don’t think I grasped how long it would be. We managed to safely enjoy outdoor time with friends and family all summer, but as the cold came back, it got harder and harder. And we are all sick of Zoom. But that connection is so important for our mental health, so it’s crucial to make the effort. Call your parents, grandparents if you have them, and friends when they are in your thoughts. Take the time to speak, not just text. A few laughs on the phone or video chat can greatly improve your mood, and that of the person you chat with. It’s win-win.
I’m a huge proponent of self-care, having personally experienced the burnout that results from neglecting it. And I have many more self-care tips that I try to follow. But these are the ones that I feel are most important right now, for 2021. I hope these help you stay healthy, manage stress, and just feel good, most days. If you need extra help with managing the feelings of stress and overwhelm that are so common right now, Daytime Zen Stress Support might be helpful for you. With a blend of natural adaptogens (plant medicine that helps your body adapt to stress), one capsule daily will help you feel calmly alert, allow you to focus, and reduce the symptoms and feelings of stress.
Love & Peace,
 Statistics Canada Health Reports. Jean-Philippe Chaput, Suzy L. Wong, Isabelle Michaud. Duration and quality of sleep among Canadians aged 18-79. Statistics Canada, 2017
 Institute of Medicine Committee on Sleep Medicine and Research. Colten HR, Altevogt BM, eds. Sleep Disorders and Sleep Deprivation: An Unmet Public Health Problem. Washington, D.C.: The National Academies Press, 2006.