APH VisionAware peer advisor Audrey Demmitt R.N. has written a five-part series discussing self-care: “Eating Your Way to Health and Well-Being,” “Move Your Way to Better Health and Well-Being,” “Stress Management and Relaxation,” “Good Quality Sleep is Essential to Your Health, and “Social Connectedness Improves Health and Well-Being.” These articles offer advice and tips for everyone – encouraging us to eat better, get moving, manage our stress, sleep well, and connect with others.
The first in the series, Eating Your Way to Health and Well-Being, opens with the statement, “Healthy eating is the cornerstone of healthy living.” Choosing nutrient-dense foods and beverages from all five food groups in the right amounts can promote health and prevent diseases. Most Americans do not eat this way, but it’s never too late to change.
Audrey offers the following recommendations for improving eating patterns:
• Eat a variety of foods in each group. Try new kinds of fruits, vegetables, grains, and protein-rich foods, and eat within your calorie limit.
• Eat foods as close to their natural form as possible (an orange instead of orange juice or old-fashioned oats instead of instant oatmeal) and limit processed foods. This will improve the nutrient value of your food choices.
• Increase dietary fiber by eating more whole grains, vegetables, beans, and whole fruit.
• Choose whole grains instead of refined grains (brown rice in place of white rice or whole wheat bread instead of white bread).
• Get calcium and vitamin D with low-fat or nonfat dairy options or fortified dairy alternatives like soy, almond, and oat drinks.
• Choose lean protein sources like lean meats, chicken, fish, nuts, tofu, and beans more often.
• Focus on healthy fats (olive oil, canola oil, avocado, and nuts) and avoid or limit unhealthy fats (animal fats, saturated fats, trans fats, and fried foods).
• Limit alcoholic beverages (two drinks for men and one drink for women per day), which tend to be “empty” calories.
In Move Your Way to Better Health and Well-Being, Audrey stresses that exercising is a form of self-care and that it’s important to keep moving. She shares the benefits of regular physical activity and offers eight helpful steps to take when establishing a habit and incorporating regular physical activity.
Here are five activity “snacks” to help you get moving:
- Put on lively music and dance.
- Take your dog for a walk.
- Vacuum or sweep floors vigorously.
- Get the mail.
- Play an active game with your children or grandchildren.
Some are more fun than others, but they all accomplish the same thing. They get us up and moving!
In Stress Management and Relaxation for Better Health, Audrey discusses the physical reactions of sustained stress and how it affects our behavior. She explains the wear and tear on the body that prolonged stress causes if not properly managed.
Audrey shares seven suggestions for managing stress and activating the relaxation response, including:
- Breath awareness
- Progressive relaxation exercises
- Body scanning
- Guided imagery
- Mindfulness practices
- Cultivating gratitude and a positive attitude
The purpose is to “reset” the mind and body — starting with 10 minutes daily.
Audrey provides resources to help manage stress, including meditation and relaxation apps, YouTube videos, and books. She suggests sampling the relaxation techniques and finding what will help you build relaxation skills. Practicing just a few minutes each day will help you learn to calm yourself and cope with stressors.
Show yourself some self-care and check out these articles — your body and well-being are important.
Improve Sleep Quality
In Good Quality Sleep is Essential to Your Health, Audrey discusses symptoms of poor sleep such as:
- Insomnia (difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep)
- Excessive daytime sleepiness
- Difficulty waking up
- Depression or irritability
She covers nine strategies for improving sleep health. Below are five to whet your appetite.
Five Strategies to Improve Sleep Health
- Create the ideal sleep environment.
- Remove screens from the bedroom, such as TVs or computers–even cell phones!
- Set a regular bedtime and wake time, and stick to it.
- Avoid caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, and a heavy meal within two to three hours before bed.
- Establish a pre-bed routine that includes activities to relax your body, such as a bath or yoga.
In Social Connectedness Improves Health and Well-Being, Audrey reviews the increase in loneliness to epidemic proportions. She shares loneliness is linked to depression, anxiety, substance abuse, heart disease, dementia, and other conditions, leading to poor health outcomes, including earlier mortality.
She states that loneliness can lead to feeling deficient and unwanted, unfulfilled in relationships, and left out or irrelevant.
Audrey discusses the importance of social connectedness in overcoming loneliness and the CDC’s recommendations on improving social connectedness, such as:
- Nurture your relationships.
- Explore ways to meet new people.
- Share things you already do such as exercising or having a meal with a friend or family member.
- Volunteer with an organization.
- Get involved in your community.
Read the article to learn more about combating loneliness.