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Self-Care Isn’t About Being Selfish — It’s About Being Proactive for Your Health

July 31, 2023

For those who are accustomed to putting others’ needs first, caring for oneself might seem self-indulgent or even selfish. This can be especially true for older adults who’ve spent most of their lives taking care of other people — their children, their aging parents, maybe their spouse and possibly even their grandchildren.

The truth is, always putting other people’s needs ahead of our own eventually takes a toll on our health, whether physically, mentally, emotionally or some combination thereof. We may not realize the price we’re paying until something serious happens that forces us to evaluate our priorities and routines.

At any age, the best way to ensure you can be there for other people when they need you is to be sure you’re practicing self-care.

What Is Self-Care?

Although engaging in self-care might look different from one person to the next, the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) offers this basic definition:

“Taking the time to do things that help you live well and improve both your physical health and mental health.”

Self-Care for Seniors

In light of this description, self-care for seniors isn’t really all that different from self-care for younger people. While older adults might engage in different self-care activities and may have more time to focus on self-care, taking care of ourselves is important at every age.

Whether you’re an older adult or you care about someone who is, practicing self-care can help seniors stay independent longer and add to their quality of life.

6 Highly Effective Self-Care Steps Seniors Can Take to Improve Their Health and Well-Being

Given the NIMH’s broad definition of self-care, many of the steps on this list won’t come as a surprise. Several are standard recommendations for leading a healthy lifestyle. The key is to find easy and enjoyable ways of incorporating them into your routine so you’ll be more likely to stick with them.

  1. Make regular physical activity a priority.
    If you’re not fond of exercise, that’s all right. There are plenty of ways to be active that don’t involve “traditional” exercise. Consider dancing or gardening — as long as it involves whole-body movements and at least some moderate exertion. Swimming and water aerobics classes are good options that are easier on your joints than some other physical activities. You may also find that taking classes or going on walks with a friend, or working with a personal trainer, helps to make being physically active more appealing. Not only is being active good for your body; it helps you feel better mentally and emotionally.
  2. Nurture your relationships through social activities.
    As we get older, staying connected with others becomes increasingly important. Spending quality time with friends and family can fend off feelings of loneliness, isolation and depression. Our social circles can grow smaller after retirement, and it can become more challenging to meet new people. But with some effort and a little creativity, we can form new friendships at any age. If you want to expand your social connections, try looking into what’s offered at the senior center in your community. Volunteer at a school, food pantry or charitable organization near you. Develop some new interests by exploring classes at a nearby community college — which leads us to the next step on this list:
  • Stimulate your mind.
    In most cases, retirement opens more time for recreation, hobbies and other pleasurable pursuits. When deciding how to spend your days, be sure to include activities that will give your brain a boost. Lifelong learning courses are an excellent choice. So is learning a new skill or hobby, such as photography, painting or traveling; or when you have the opportunity to experience a different culture. Maybe you’re interested in learning how to play a musical instrument, speaking a new language or earning a degree in something you’ve always been interested in. Now that you have the time, why not go for it?
  • Focus on good nutrition and getting enough sleep.
    Eating a balanced diet that includes nutritious foods such as fresh produce, whole grains, lean proteins and healthy fats benefits your body and your brain — as does getting an adequate amount of good-quality sleep. For example, both will pay dividends in terms of your immune system, cardiovascular health, memory and mood. The National Institute on Aging offers helpful tips for better sleep, such as adhering to a regular sleep schedule every day, finding ways to relax before bedtime that don’t involve blue light from a phone, computer or TV screen, and avoiding long naps late in the day. 
  • Get out!
    Being outside can benefit your health in many ways, and you don’t have to be an avid outdoorsman (or woman) or travel to a remote destination to reap the rewards. Taking a walk in the park, a stroll along the beach or even a breather in your backyard can lower stress, provide fresh air and give you a different perspective. Pay attention to the sights, sounds and other sensations of nature: birdsong, the breeze, the bright, beautiful assortment of colors in a flowerbed, the feel of the sun on your face. In a pinch, just looking at photos taken in a natural setting (or even a view of nature from your window) can help you relax and unwind.
  • Lift your spirits by laughing more.
    It’s often said that laughter is good for the soul. Turns out it’s good for the body, too. Having a good laugh can reduce stress, improve immunity, relax tense muscles and improve blood flow to your heart and brain. Even if laughing doesn’t come to you naturally, making yourself laugh still has health benefits. If you feel silly sitting there forcing yourself to laugh, let your fingers head over to YouTube where you can watch video clips from old comedy shows or giggle at animals being goofy. Better yet, call up a friend and make plans to go see a live comedy performance.

There are many other ways to practice self-care. Think about what you enjoy doing that helps you live well and improves your mental and physical health. That’s what self-care is all about.

Ultimately, you’ll feel more satisfied with life through self-care — and that makes the effort absolutely worthwhile.

Self-Care Soon Becomes Second Nature at Emerald Heights

From the delicious, nutritious dining and the ease of forming new friendships, to the scenic natural environment and the never-ending opportunities to participate in an active, healthy lifestyle, new residents in our community soon find it’s exceptionally easy to practice self-care.

Since our staff handles all of the maintenance and so many of the usual everyday household tasks, residents have more time to prioritize self-care. It’s also easy to lock the front door and head out for a hike on our nature path, or a longer adventure, on the spur of the moment.

If you’re interested in discovering more about these and the many other ways in which we simplify self-care for seniors, complete this brief contact form and we’ll gladly get in touch with you.

Featured Image: LightPoet / Shutterstock