Let’s face it. There is only one person who has constantly been with you for your entire life and that person is you. Given this history, doesn’t it make sense that you truly become your priority?
So much of what we typically do over our lifetime is to focus on everyone and everything but ourselves. We become too busy to pay much real attention to our health and well-being. When we are younger, we get so involved with family, friends, school, work, church, and balancing a hundred things all at once that we often forget about our personal needs and wants. By the time we get older, we have forgotten what it means to focus on caring for ourselves. And, in later life, why bother, especially if we are simply trying to get through each day or we find ourselves in the role of being the primary caregiver to our spouse who is ill, or grandchildren who now live with us, or an adult child with disabilities.
Care for Yourself
At all points in your life, taking care of yourself is paramount to your overall health and well-being. Essentially, your physical, spiritual, and emotional health are all connected and supporting one supports the others. When you take care of all aspects of your life, you are more likely to experience less mental and physical challenges as you age. If in your younger years, you engaged in abusive behaviors such as smoking, overeating, drug abuse, poor health practices, etc., you will most certainly pay the price in the years to come with chronic health problems, depression, and poor self-esteem. While we all can recite exceptions to this rule like “Uncle Harry” excessively smoking cigars and drinking whiskey for most of his adult life and living until 90, these are simply the RARE exceptions. So even though you weren’t the best at taking care of yourself in the past, start now and in the future. It can only help with your overall well-being.
Some tips for self-care include:
- Keep a positive mindset and avoid being around stressful people and/or lifestyle. Establish positive goals and develop a meaningful life.
- Live healthy, eat healthy foods, get enough sleep, exercise regularly, and avoid drugs and alcohol. Manage stress and go for regular medical check-ups.
- Practice good hygiene. Good hygiene is important for social, medical, and psychological reasons in that it not only reduces the risk of illness, but it also improves the way others view you and how you view yourself.
- See friends and family to build your sense of belonging. Consider joining a support group to make new friends.
- Try to do something you enjoy every day. That might mean dancing, watching a favorite TV show, working in the garden, painting or reading.
- Find ways to relax, like meditation, yoga, getting a massage, taking a bath or walking in the woods.
Personal barriers that limit your ability to care for yourself include:
Many times, attitudes and beliefs form personal barriers that stand in the way of caring for yourself. Not taking care of yourself may be a lifelong pattern. Breaking old patterns and overcoming obstacles is not an easy proposition, but it can be done—regardless of your age or situation. The first task in removing personal barriers to self-care is to identify what is in your way. Ask yourself the following:
- Do you believe that you deserve happiness and well-being?
- Do you think you are being selfish if you put your needs first?
- Is it frightening to think of your own needs? What is the fear about?
- Do you have trouble asking for what you need? Do you feel inadequate if you ask for help?
- Do you define yourself by how busy you are, how much you earn, your work, or what others say about you?
If we hope to live a productive, responsive, and healthy life, it is essential that we take care of ourselves as a key priority. That certainly doesn’t mean that we stop there. Others depend upon us. However, we will not be much good to anyone if we focus on everything but ourselves and systematically destroy our chances for good health and well-being as we age.
Always remember…you are worth successful living.
Written by: Patricia K. Flanigan, Founding Director, Smart Strategies for Successful Living
Patricia K. Flanigan has worked in higher education for over 28 years. She holds a doctoral degree in Organizational Leadership from the University of La Verne as well as a M.A. in Latin American Studies and B.A. in Anthropology from the University of California, Los Angeles. Before retiring and moving to Idaho in 2015, she served as the dean of online education and learning resources at Saddleback College, a large community college in Southern California. She currently consults in higher education, volunteers for AARP, writes for a local magazine, and serves as an Affiliate Faculty member at Boise State University and on the Board for LEARN Idaho. Since February 2017, she has been the founding director for Smart Strategies for Successful Living, a community-based website designed to promote quality aging. As an educator, her focus is to inspire others to live and age well.