You have so many demands on you. Your family relies on you for money, food, transportation, and a myriad of permission slips, bills and paperwork. You hardly get a moment to yourself at the end of each day, and even less now that school is back in session. It’s hard not to feel guilty about taking a moment to care for yourself. From the moment that your day starts, with making meals, getting ready for work, and getting the kids to school on time and yourself to work on time, you have demands on you minute-by-minute. It’s easy to start feeling like there’s nothing left for yourself, even though the benefits of self-care are well known. How important is self-care? Every time that we board an airplane to jet to another city, we are reminded of the importance of caring for ourselves before attempting to care for others. “In case of emergency, air masks will drop the ceiling. If you are traveling with a minor, please put on your own mask before helping the minor.” The reasoning is simple: if you are not in good working condition (i.e. gasping for air) then you will not be as effective when attempting to assist others around you in getting their air secured. This concept applies to everyday life, not just while soaring at 39,000 feet. Everyday you have the ability to put your air mask on first before assisting others. Now it’s easy to feel like putting your air mask on first isn’t even an option – since the dependents in your life are so good at making their needs known, and your own needs are quieter and easier to shove aside. Let’s take this moment to assess what your self-care needs are… Sleep: Getting adequate sleep is essential for good health, and doubly essential when you lead a busy, demanding life. Unfortunately, sleep is one of the easiest things to skip out on, as you attempt to get everything done each day. A normal, healthy adult needs at least seven hours of consistent sleep each night in order to function well. And while allowing yourself time to sleep may feel like a luxury, remind yourself that it is a necessity. Nutrition: Keeping your body well fed with nutritious meals throughout the day is another key component to functioning as your best self. Most of us tend to let meal-planning slide, in order to meet the immediate demands in front of us, and end up scrambling to piece together less-than-nutritious meals. Making the habit to pack a few meals that are rich in protein and veggies doesn’t actually take that much time out of your morning, and the benefit is extreme. The funny thing about meal planning is that it ends up saving you time in the long run, since it removes the need to scramble around for food throughout the day. And the steady energy that you’ll experience once your body is being consistently fueled with good nutrition is priceless. Hydration: The number of adults that are suffering from chronic dehydration is staggering. Part of the problem is that we are drinking fluids throughout the day that are filled with caffeine and calories rather than plain old water. That plain old water is what your body really needs to thrive, so remind yourself that proper self-care includes making hydration a priority. You could jazz your water up by adding in a few slices of lemon, some fresh herbs or a piece of fruit. Relaxation: Relaxation!?! What the...!? Here is where you may feel the urge to tune out of my little talk on self-care. How in the world are you going to find the time to relax with everything that you have going on in your life? I know it’s not popular to talk about giving yourself time off to relax, but the benefits of reducing your stress levels are too huge to ignore. I want to suggest that you try the technique of relaxing throughout your day by giving yourself a mental break. This doesn’t mean that you walk away from your desk at work or skip out on your responsibilities, just that you consciously take moments throughout your day to focus on deep breathing and to clear any cluttered or stressful thoughts from your mind. There is also something to be said for making a practice of relaxing when you do have time off from work. Rather than trying to do a million things on your day off, make the effort to take some of the time to simply be. Deep breathing and calming thoughts will do plenty to help reduce your stress level. Exercise: Lol, yup. You knew this one was coming! Yes, exercise is self-care. Exercise is NOT indulgent, or optional, rather it’s absolutely necessary for taking good care of yourself. Some people will tell you that their exercise time is also their relaxation time, which might not make sense when you first hear it. But when you walk into your workout with the worries of your day on your mind, and you walk out with a clear mind and the incredible rush of endorphins then you’ll understand perfectly what they’re talking about! And there you have it. Take the time to consciously practice better self-care. Remember all of your loved ones who rely on you and your stamina every single day. You’re needed, and you owe it to them to keep yourself in the best shape possible. Keep on keep'n on!