It is the easiest thing in the world to get lost in your own life, especially if you’re balancing family, career, volunteer work, hobbies, etc. Life can take over and you may forget about your own needs and your own wellbeing as you prioritize getting everything done for everyone else. Until one day you find yourself tired, run down, sick or injured, or unhappy and burned out.
While these things can happen to everyone — even role models of health and wellness, taking the time for self-care is the best way to make sure you are able to keep doing what you love to do and prioritizing the things you care most about. What I mean by self-care is not just a bubble bath, a massage, or a manicure (though I encourage indulging in all of these things from time to time), I mean setting yourself up for success and investing in your own stamina and longevity by adopting habits that make you healthier physically, mentally, and spiritually.
I’ve written on related topics over the past several weeks for Medium, like the importance of treating yourself like a Corporate Athlete, or how I stay fit while traveling, or how I maximize my mornings. The feedback I’ve received about how more people are getting out of bed and strapping on their running shoes and are out the door for a morning walk or run in under 8 minutes has been so meaningful to me that I wanted to share a little more about what I do to keep myself going so I can do all the things I want to do. This to me is the ultimate freedom!
Self-care is not only beneficial to you, it’s beneficial for all who love you and rely on you. Here are some of my top tips for taking care of yourself so you can be at peak performance in life, business, athletics, hobbies, and more. What works for me may not work for you, but I always find other people’s stories are the most encouraging and inspirational, so I wanted to share mine in case it’s helpful to you. The important thing is to find your own things that make you feel more healthy, rested, and less stressed, so you can be the best version of yourself.
Nutrition + Hydration
I don’t do big meals, instead I eat several small meals a day. These meals are typically low in sugar and carbohydrates and packed with proteins and healthy fats. I don’t stick with a specific name brand diet, but focus on foods that provide me with a stable source of energy to keep me from crashing during the day. Eating a big lunch and having that classic post-lunch blood sugar crash can torpedo productivity. Plus, letting your blood sugar get too low or too high can cause you to binge on unhealthy foods, and over time will really affect your health. An easy trick to avoid being hungry is to keep a healthy snack in your bag at all times (I love a good, healthy snack bar).
In addition to eating well, what you drink is also key to your health. Water is so important, and I always have some at hand. One of my habits from triathlon training is to carry electrolyte tablets everywhere with me so when I need a boost, I can mix one up in a bottle of water. I generally avoid coffee and caffeine and instead rely on this to give me energy and needed nutrients. Most afternoons I also drink a huge mug of unsweetened herbal tea — hibiscus and berry blends are my favorite.
This is where my morning routine really helps me out. When I wake up before everyone in my family and get out the door to run, I’m not only doing that for the physical exercise, I’m doing it for the mental focus it provides. Nothing helps me clear my head, focus on what’s important, de-stress, and prepare for my day like the 30–45 minutes I have running or riding my bike in the morning. I can’t imagine what my life would be like if I didn’t invest this time in the morning. While I definitely advise you to exercise for all of the physical benefits, the mental benefits are equally huge. I once heard a quote I love and embrace, “Exercise for sanity, not for vanity!”
For me, there is a lot of truth to the idea that if you feel good about yourself and your appearance, you will be more confident and effective. For me, this starts with taking care of my skin. This is not just an outward-facing effort, because what you consume has a huge effect on your skin’s health and appearance. One of my favorite discoveries is that collagen supplements have major benefits for your skin, joints, bones, heart, muscles, and more. I’m not a supplement guru, but I take collagen daily in a health shake and have noticed improvements in how my skin looks and feels. I’m also a big believer in protecting your skin as much as possible, and I wear sunscreen when I’m outside to prevent damage and premature aging. Hats also help with this while I’m running, biking, etc. Repairing damage and restoring the skin is the next critical step and I focus on high quality skin care products to keep my skin looking good and feeling better. I love a good hydrating or tightening face mask. Not only do they help my skin look and feel better, but also provide a way to multitask so I can take a little time to relax after a long day, especially when I’m traveling.
For women, good skincare provides a solid foundation, but I also believe that appropriate makeup is a critical part of presenting a polished professional appearance. It’s important to figure out what works for you so you can become really good at putting it on and doing it quickly. Some of the best advice I’ve gotten has come from makeup artists who work the counters for my favorite brands. It’s also a good idea to carry some essential items with you at all times in case you need to get ready for an opportunity that arises at the last minute (or in case you run out of time to do it before you leave the house or hotel). I always carry some lipstick, mascara, and a special spoon my grandmother gave me to curl my eyelashes (you read that right — it works wonders!!). I can’t tell you how many airport and train bathrooms I’ve gotten ready in before important business meetings or how many cars I’ve done my makeup in as I’m headed to an event.
This is the one area that I struggle the most. As a society we don’t get near the sleep we are supposed to, and I fall into this category way too often. Between my work schedule, kids, and exercise, sleeping falls by the wayside. When I don’t get enough sleep, I know it and can feel it in so many different ways. So, when I say this I am saying it to both myself and to anyone who needs to hear it: Prioritize your sleep! The body and mind need time to reset, to recharge, and to rest. Sleep is amazing, so much goodness happens during that time, and it must be protected. Arianna Huffington wrote an incredible book on the importance of sleep. She is an entrepreneur I admire, and I know that she works extremely hard. For her to talk about the importance of sleep despite everything she does underscores how vitally important this topic is!
Spending time with my husband, our four kids, and our dogs is the most refreshing and reinvigorating thing I do, and I am extremely protective of my time with them. It doesn’t happen as often as I’d like, which I think is how every mom feels, but I take advantage of any time we can get the whole family together. We love to have cookouts with our extended family who live close to us, those are some great times. Sometimes the best form of self-care is spending time with people you love! Investing time with them is what makes so much of the daily hustle worthwhile.