By Julie Vargo, Editorial Contributor
#SelfCareSunday may be the trendy hashtag, but nurturing body and soul should be a daily deal, says Dr. Meredith Watson-Locklear, an OB-GYN with Orlando Health Physician Associates. “My number one rule is ‘Make time for yourself,’ ” she says. “Even if it’s just 15 minutes a day. Everyone can find at least 15 minutes in their day, every day, to devote to self-care.” Hitting the pause button on your day doesn’t have to be complicated. To commit to self-care, schedule time each day to focus on yourself. Program it into your schedule, if you have to. When the time comes, walk around the block, listen to a podcast, take a bath or grab some crayons and color. Meditate. Call a friend for a quick chat. Take a power nap.
Healthy, Not Indulgent
“Everyone is so stressed and tired, but it’s important to your mental health to take time for you,” says Dr. Watson-Locklear. “Giving yourself permission to shake off stress is healthy, not indulgent.”
For some, working out is as meditative for the mind as it is good for the body. “Exercise is not a luxury,” says the doctor, who suggests hitting the gym, doing yoga or pounding the pavement at least 30 minutes 3 to 4 days a week. “Set a goal of exercising for six days a week. You will begin to feel better — mentally and physically — almost immediately.”
Good nutrition also can affect self-wellness. “Weight concerns are more than aesthetic, they can create or signal health issues,” she says. “When patients want to modify their behavior with food, I suggest they make one better choice each day — add a piece of fruit or another veggie. Bypass the extra cookies.”
If one food change a day seems too stressful, no problem. Aim instead for one big change a week. “If you are a soda drinker, cut out soda for a week and see how it goes,” she says. “Or swap soda for water, which is a healthier beverage.”
In addition to eliminating empty, sugary calories, drinking more water helps cleanse toxins from the body and improves skin tone, circulation and digestion. “Most women are dehydrated and don’t realize it,” says Dr. Watson-Locklear. “I keep a water bottle with me during the day. If I see it, I will drink and refill it. ”
Covering the Basics
While lighting candles, soaking in a tub and doing a face mask currently get the bigger #SelfCareSunday play, scheduling your wellness exams, bloodwork and annual physical are essential — yet often overlooked — self-care biohacks.
“The danger for women is we put off important, health-related things longer than we should,” she says. “But preventive screenings such as well-woman exams, colonoscopies, bloodwork and mammograms are a huge part of self-care.”
Dr. Watson-Locklear also advises that you listen to your body. Note the monthly patterns of your menstrual cycle to understand PMS, ovulation or menopausal symptoms. Commit to getting more sleep, increasing by 10 minutes a night until you reach the adult recommendation of 7-9 hours nightly. Take your vitamins.
Most importantly, enjoy life. Use the good china, the expensive perfume, the beautiful lingerie, even if you sleep alone.
“We need more than one day a week to self-focus,” says Dr. Watson-Locklear. “If a woman is not taking care of her health — the internal workings of her heart, her lungs, if she isn’t getting enough sleep or drinking enough water or eating healthy — then it doesn’t matter what the outside package looks like … or how many apps are on her phone.”
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