Life is hard, and making healthy decisions can seem overwhelming. And I always find that winter takes the wind out of my sails a bit, draining my motivation to choose better options than sitting on the couch and watching Netflix. But spring is here, at least on paper (even if there's still a fair amount of snow outside here in the north), and I am a firm believer that little changes can add up over time, and every movement makes a difference. So here's a list of nine easy ideas for ways you can take better care of yourself this week:
1. Grate a carrot into it. This became my cooking motto last year when I went on a mission to eat better. It works in most recipes from chili to spaghetti to chicken soup, and adds some extra bulk to whatever you're cooking. It cooks down nicely and you might not even notice that it's there. Cut up some peppers and add them too. Maybe some spinach while you're at it. Trying to completely overhaul your diet overnight will never work long-term, but you can choose to consciously add vegetables to the things that you would normally be eating anyway. It's a little step that makes you feel better, and can be part of the gradual shift you want to make toward eating more whole foods.
2. Go outside. Take a walk, sit in the park down the street, skip rocks into the lake. We spend so much time inside and staring at screens, and we end up falling into the mindset of Edmund in the 2005 adaptation of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, when he protests the fresh air because "it's not like there isn't air inside!" But seriously, make a point of going outside and getting some vitamin D. It will do wonders for your sanity.
3. Stop hiding from carbs - just eat better ones. Somewhere along the line, we developed a strange cultural movement that declared carbohydrates to be the root of all evil. It's strange because our bodies actually do need carbs to function properly, but like in so many things, we have accepted low quality substitutes that aren't good for us. Instead of declaring an all-protein diet over yourself (which can have its own health consequences), try stepping away from the ultra-processed white bread diet and choose some whole grains.
4. Talk to someone about the things rattling around in your brain. Find someone you trust and have an honest conversation with them. It doesn't have to be long or complicated, but make sure you're regularly connecting with the people who care about you. Community is so important, and isolation only magnifies the things that stress us.
5. Turn off the notifications. I deactivated my Facebook for a while last year, and it was wonderful. But then life happened and I found that it was really difficult to get ahold of some people without it, so I reactivated it. The big difference, though, was that I turned off the notifications on my phone so I'm not constantly bombarded with updates. It's amazing how easier it is to take a step away from social media when your phone goes silent for a while. It's so freeing, being able to check Facebook when I want to and have time to, rather than feeling compelled to open the app every single time someone comments on a post.
6. For goodness sake, drink some water. Lots of it. The stuff that doesn't have any added flavors or the kind that's had coffee grounds filtered through it. If you're dehydrated, you're just about guaranteed to feel tired, headache-y, and unfocused, and that will do nothing to help your productivity or stress levels. Buy yourself a cute water bottle and take it everywhere with you – if it's in reach, you'll use it so much more.
7.Make a list. Put all the things you need to do this week on it, and sort it by priority. Do the things you can right away, and then do the rest along the way. By getting all those thoughts onto paper, you've already begun to take active steps towards accomplishing them, and it helps to get a visual on the things that are actually important.
8. Stop feeling bad about guarding time for yourself. Consider this the permission you need to take an afternoon every now and then and tell people you're unavailable, even if it just means that you're taking a couch nap and reading a book. Wash your hair and eat some vegetables, whatever it takes. You can't take care of anything or anyone if you're constantly running yourself into the ground. Self-care is not selfish!
9. Try to become okay with not having it all figured out. Sweeping change doesn't typically happen overnight, so learning to be content in the process is essential. Focus on the little things that you can change and the progress that you're making. Remember that we're often so much harder on ourselves than we would be on anyone else and that you'll get there eventually.
What are you doing this week to take care of yourself? Even if it's not something on this list, I'd love to hear about it - let me know in the comments!