“Take care of yourself.”

I’ve said it to many people, many times. But what exactly does it require to take care of yourself? More and more, Western medicine is understanding that the mind and body work in concert to create wellbeing. While there are some ailments we can cure with a pill, the quest for overall wellness calls for looking at the health of the whole body system, our environment of relationships and how we feel about ourselves and our purposes in the world. We at the Carpinteria Children’s Project are promoting eight components of care in the work we do with some families and they are listed below, along with recommendations. I’m finding them helpful to check on how I’m taking care of myself, and I hope you do too.

It’s easier to get healthier in some components than others, but it’s helpful to know that improvements in any one component may help you be better prepared to take on another. The last component, knowledge of parenting, is relevant for people who are raising children. Indeed, parents should help their children achieve the others. And, of course, please take care of yourself.

Quality Sleep

Try to get eight hours of sleep every day.

Cut down on your use of caffeine, especially in the afternoon.

Create a bedtime routine for yourself and your children.

Don’t take your phone to bed with you.

Balanced Nutrition

Try to eat fresh whole foods from the farmers market or your local grocery store.

Avoid foods that are very processed or contain a lot of sugar.

Make sure you drink at least eight glasses of water a day.

Regular Exercise

Get at least 30 minutes of gentle exercise every day, perhaps by walking, swimming or biking. Walking your pet counts.

Include weight-bearing exercise in your routine. Both strength and cardiovascular training are important.

Supportive Relationships

To support your relationships, practice good, honest and open communication.

Spend quality time focused on those you love. It doesn’t need to be expensive; dinners can be made special with a candle, playtime with a paper airplane.

Do or say something daily to show appreciation to those you care about.

Mindfulness/Meditation Practices

Daily take a few minutes to sit quietly, notice your breath and feel your feet on the floor.

When you are angry or upset count to 10 or take three deep breaths before you do anything else.

Financial Stability

If you can, put money from your paycheck into savings or an emergency fund automatically, before you start spending.

Set up autopay for bills or pay immediately to avoid late payment and interest fees.

Mental Health Care if appropriate

Life experiences, biological factors and family history can affect mental health.

Early warning signs of mental health issues can include trouble sleeping, pulling away from usual activities, feeling helpless and unexplained aches and pains.

Knowledge of Parenting

Parents are their children’s most important people. Showing love includes having empathy, setting boundaries and buffering children from toxic stress.

For parenting classes and support, contact the Carpinteria Children’s Project Family Resource Center (805) 566-1619 or info@carpchildren.org.

Maria Chesley, PhD, is an educator and leader who believes in the power of communities to change lives. She is the executive director of the Carpinteria Children’s Project (CCP). CCP provides early childhood education, family support services and leadership of the Thrive Carpinteria Partner Network of early education and social service providers. Learn more at CarpChildren.org. Maria can be reached at mfisk@carpchildren.org or (805) 566-1600.

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