You wanna know something Americans are terrible at? Politics. BOOM. Just kidding, I don’t have the energy to tackle THAT argument right now. But in all seriousness, Americans are terrible at self-care. Our way of life here in the states is completely inhibitive of active self-care, especially compared to many countries in the likes of Europe and Asia.
Why should you care about this, you ask? Well, I’d retort, don’t you care about YOURSELF? A typical working American’s week looks something like this: Work Monday through Friday, ideally from 9-5 but we all know those hours are creeping upwards with many people starting work as early as 7 and not finishing until past 6 pm. Then go home, take care of kids, or eat dinner, and watch TV. Then when the weekend rolls around, it is some variation of a Netflix binge fest, drinking and partying, or shuttling your kids to their activities. In short, the average American is not taking care of themselves at all. You might argue that watching TV at the end of a day counts as self-care, but while I binge TV with the best of them, vegging out in front of a screen is not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about proactively partaking in things that improve your quality of life.
The factors of self-care I’m going to list below will sound like common sense to most people but how many of us are actually taking the time to do them? The fact that I know most of you are going to roll your eyes makes me believe that these aren’t new or original ideas, but that know-it-all attitude isn’t translating into DOING it all and people aren’t even doing the bare minimum to take care of themselves.
1.) GET MOVING. Like always, exercise makes a huge difference. But this time, I’m not even talking about lifting weights, intervals, or running. The healthiest countries in the world do not usually have a strong fitness culture, but they DO have a strong walking culture. People will always walk when they can and are generally active in their daily lives, and as we all know, movement is good for your heart, your brain, AND your body. Americans, unfortunately, are extremely sedentary so even short walking or dance breaks can make a huge difference.
2.) EAT A GODDAMN VEGETABLE. Now I KNOW people are rolling their eyes at this one because I sound like everyone’s mother. Remember what I said above: we are talking the bare minimum here. But not only am I encouraging people to add some leafy greens here and there, it is also important to make sure you’re eating well, and regularly. Don’t skip breakfast, don’t work through lunch, and definitely don’t binge because you skipped a meal. Eating regularly and including as many food groups as you can, will help regulate your metabolism and keep your energy levels up!
3.) GET YOUR BEAUTY SLEEP. This is the sin that most Americans fall prey to whether you’re a middle schooler or nearing retirement. We are not getting enough sleep. While the amount of sleep you need varies based on your age and other factors, seven to nine hours tends to be the recommended amount. But what’s more, is that people don’t keep regular sleep schedules. We wake up for work at a regular hour but then sleep as much as we want on the weekend which totally messes up our body’s routine. Going to bed and waking up at the same hour can do wonders for your energy, your mental clarity, and even your skin.
4.) TAKE A VACATION. A real vacation. If you’re working, or even going to school, chances are you have some kind of vacation time or arrangement. Especially for my working folks out there, TURN OFF YOUR EMAIL. Too many Americans just don’t take advantage of time off, whether it is a weekend or a full on two-week trip abroad, most of us never disconnect. We are always keeping an eye on our email and that can really take its toll. We are one of the countries with the longest work days and the least vacation days, so when you do have the opportunity to unplug, DO IT, or eventually all that work will just burn you out.
5.) RELATIONSHIPS. Nowadays we have all sorts of relationships right at our finger tips, we go to parties, work events, and social commitments all the time. However, something that can get lost in the shuffle is working on a couple quality friendships. Ideally, these friends can be found close by so you guys can go to coffee or hang out, but if they are long distance that is fine too. Relationships need love and they ultimately feed your soul. Everybody always claims to wish for more time to spend with family and friends, but somehow it ends up low on the priority list from day to day. But if you carve out a little bit of time to catch up with friends at least once a week, it can be truly calming and rejuvenating.
And that’s it! Five simple things. FIVE. We all know that these are things that we should be doing, but somehow it is just so easy to get caught up in the lifestyle of work and commitments, and when we do have some time to ourselves it is perfectly understandable that we would just want to sit around and sleep or do nothing. But carving out a little bit of extra time and effort for your own personal wellness can do WONDERS for your overall attitude and peace of mind. All those little pockets of time focused on self-care can really add up and ultimately, if you take care of yourself, everything you touch will also be much better for it.