Healthy Outlook: Take time for self-care

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Take time for self-care — preferably every day.

A certain column or article from a certain health writer was missing from the Journal-World last week. For that, I apologize — but I also don’t.

Here’s why: Neither you nor I nor anyone else has to be everything for everyone all the time. Sometimes, in order to save your sanity, you just have to take a break.

Last week, I spent hours poring over studies (and following ridiculous channels in pursuit of access to the full text of studies I wanted to read, but that’s another story) and trying to sift out the key points to back up a column. I’ll probably file that someday soon, but the sentences just wouldn’t flow, no matter what I did.

I realized I was simply tapped out. It dawned on me suddenly that it was physically impossible for me to write the column. It felt like the moment when you’re lifting weights that you realize your muscle just doesn’t have the strength for one more rep.

With everything in life, I think we have to know when we’ve reached our limits. It’s pretty easy to tell when you can hardly raise your arm anymore from doing so many overhead presses. It can be a little harder to know when you’ve pushed your brain too much.

In any type of work, the body can only handle so much stress. Stress is dangerous — I think it’s probably the biggest reason that despite incredible medical advances, we’re still getting sick and dying at younger ages. (Yes, life expectancy in the U.S. has declined for two years in a row, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports from 2017 and 2018.)

It’s extremely unhealthy, and I believe it’s also bad for the people around you. There’s no way you can give 100 percent at work when you’re dealing with a crazy amount of stress.

So this is my plea: Take time for self-care — preferably every day.

That does not mean you must go get some sort of seaweed wrap or a fancy manicure that involves an accent nail, although if that’s what floats your boat, absolutely go for it.

Self-care can be anything that you intentionally and actively engage in with the goal of replenishing your mind and body.

Experts are a bit more picky about how this is defined; I’m not a big fan of rules, but a quick Google search for “self-care” yields tons of articles on the subject. However, I think allowing someone else to define what your self-care should be kind of makes it a moot point — so please take the following as recommendations. Do you.

The basics are best, and probably the most important: Get plenty of sleep; make sure you’re hydrated and eating healthy food; take the time and put in the energy to exercise. That’s all part of a good routine.

I realized recently that although I often feel like I don’t have the minutes and hours in my days and weeks to exercise regularly, I don’t have enough years left in my life to not exercise regularly. And I’ve never had a workout that I regretted afterward; I’ve never wished I’d spent that time doing something else. To the contrary, I’ve been glad that I’ve done it, every single time.

Beyond the basics that you should try to incorporate into your daily life, sometimes you should set aside some extra time to do something just for you. Read, write, go for a walk, create art, play or listen to music, garden, cook, meditate, take a class (even a free online class), color, redecorate, dance, declutter, play sports — whatever it is that makes you happy, allow yourself a block of time to fully participate in that activity.

Although self-care shouldn’t involve something you despise, I have found that I often feel better after I tackle some chores, such as doing the laundry, or nagging tasks, like changing a hard-to-reach lightbulb that’s been burnt out for a month (a metaphor, perhaps?).

On the other hand, sometimes self-care for me means actively choosing to put those tasks off for another day.

Listen to your body and mind. Invest time and energy into yourself. It will pay back dividends.

• • •

Fresh Check Day at KU

On a related note, Counseling and Psychological Services and Student Affairs at the University of Kansas has organized its first Fresh Check Day. The initiative intends to check in on the mental health and wellness of college students, and it “utilizes student groups in addition to college/university staff to develop and execute interactive booths that deliver mental health and resource information in a fun and engaging way,” according to freshcheckday.com.

Its sponsor is the Jordan Porco Foundation, which was launched in 2011 in the memory of Porco, who died by suicide as a college freshman.

KU’s event is scheduled for 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday at the Kansas Union plaza and fourth floor lobby. It will include yoga and meditation demonstrations, free chair massages, giveaways, games and activities, according to a news release from CAPS.

If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24/7 at 1-800-273-8255. You can also call the Lawrence-based Headquarters Inc. directly at 785-841-2345, text KANSAS to 741741, or chat with someone online at headquarterscounselingcenter.org or suicidepreventionlifeline.org. Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center can be reached at 785-843-9192.

About Healthy Outlook

Healthy Outlook is a column written by Journal-World reporter and Health section editor Mackenzie Clark, in hopes of helping readers make their lives a little bit happier, healthier and more active.

Have questions about the world of health and wellness in Lawrence, or a health story idea? Contact Mackenzie:

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