September is Self-Care Awareness Month: How Do Dietitians Practice Self-Care?
September is Self-Care Awareness month and also happens to be my FAVORITE month of the year! Here in West Virginia, the sky is a certain kind of blue and the weather seems perfect. When I sit in the warm air and see that perfect September sky, I feel a sense of peace and calm like no other. I look forward to September every year, but am always sad to see it go. With self-care, I’m finally learning how to experience that September feeling all throughout the year.
Self-care can be anything that nurtures your mind, body, and soul. It’s vital to your overall health and practicing self-care can improve your quality of life beyond anything you can imagine. I'm a perfect example of the power of self-care. I battled autoimmune disease for my entire life with no real acceptable solution from conventional medicine. Once I found functional medicine, I learned my increased level of stress (likely due to worrying about my troublesome symptoms and trying to keep up with daily life) was affecting my ability to reverse my symptoms and heal my body. Once I added certain self-care techniques to my routine, my entire life changed. The key is really to find what works for you personally. Be flexible and know that your self-care techniques need to be adaptable. We change as we age and our bodies require different things at different points along the spectrum. But, one thing is sure, if you neglect yourself today, your body will make it obvious!
Not taking care of ourselves can manifest in many different ways and it’s different for everyone. For me, I experienced digestive distress, extreme fatigue, psoriasis, moodiness, PMS, headaches, muscle and joint aches, brain fog, jaw and neck pain, and vision and sleep disturbances. Other symptoms may include stubborn weight gain, depression, anxiety, high blood sugar, high blood pressure, leaky gut, and hair loss. If this sounds like you, self-care techniques are vital for symptom reversal.
When it comes to self-care, I have two rules:
First: we must commit ourselves to self-care and not waiver in that commitment.
Second: self-care should provide an overall healthy effect today and in the future. So, it goes without saying that self-care should not involve drugs, alcohol or other risky behaviors.
I practice some type of self-care every day and often times combine self-care techniques (i.e. yoga, outdoors, with the sun on my face) to maximize my time and the benefits. Here are a few of the ways I care for myself:
I try to follow my biological clock. I feel best when I go to bed at 8:45pm and wake up at 6:00am. That is natural for me and I try to stick with that. It’s obviously not always possible due to work schedules, family commitments, and everything else that can interfere with sleep. But, try to make restful sleep a top priority every day.
I nourish my body with healthy foods. Unmanaged stress and lack of sleep can have a powerful effect on your hormones and appetite. One way to combat these disruptions can be to choose an overall healthy diet that works for you. There is not one eating style that’s right for everyone, but there are a few universal nutrition-related principles that I recommend: Avoid sugar, processed foods, and unhealthy oils. This will help improve your energy level, weight, mood, and so much more. Add in at least nine servings of vegetables every day, 1-2 fermented foods, and several healthy sources of fat for an even greater effect. I drink a green smoothie every day, it’s one way to maximize nutrient intake, but is also a little treat. Check out my favorite green smoothie recipes here.
I try to meditate every day. Even if just for a few minutes. It has been so healing and has restored a healthy stress response for me. Don’t make it complicated, just take ten minutes each day to sit quietly with your eyes closed and focus on your breath. Breathe in for four counts and breathe out for six counts, repeat until your ten minutes is up. You’ll be amazed at how much better you feel and how much better you handle stressful situations.
I stretch my body. I try to practice yoga every day. I do this at home because I don’t have extra time to spend in a yoga studio. I do free YouTube videos, my favorites are Alo Yoga, Fightmaster Yoga, and Five Parks Yoga. If yoga isn’t your thing, simply perform stretching exercises to keep your body flexible.
I move my body in mindful ways. I used to exercise excessively whether I felt like it or not. This just compounded my symptoms of autoimmune disease and caused unnecessary achiness. I still love exercise, but I take the appropriate amount of rest and switch up my routine frequently. If traditional exercise isn’t your thing, find something active you do love and stick with that. Just as long as you aren’t sitting down all day.
I use essential oils every day. They are perfect to bring down that stress response and support a sense of calm. Young Living essential oils are my go to and some of my favorites are Deep Relief, Lavender, RC, Citrus Fresh, Clove, Cinnamon Bark, Nutmeg, Raven, Breathe Again, and Stress Away. It really depends on my mood and this is just a small list of the oils I use. I use them topically, aromatically, and internally. Check out my page if you want more information on how to use Young Living essential oils.
I get outside every day. Even if the weather isn't all that great, I try to spend at least a few minutes outdoors. Some days it's a walk with my husband and dogs, some days, it's yoga in the sun, some days it's a walk downtown on my lunch break. When I have more time, my husband and I will go for a bike, hike, or kayak session. Being in nature is both healing and therapeutic.
These are just a few examples of how I take care of myself on a daily basis. When you struggle with chronic disease, a good quality of life can elude you as it did me for years. Once I began to understand the importance of self-care, I was able to reverse so many negative symptoms that had plagued me every day. So, remember: self-care is not selfish. It's actually one of the best ways you can express love to those around you. When you feel your best, you're more available emotionally and physically for those who need you.
Since we all have different ways to practice self-care, I asked some awesome dietitian colleagues to share how they care for themselves daily. From the responses I received, dietitians seem to be a group of family and pet-loving, outdoor/activity enthusiasts who prioritize sleep, bath time, and creativity! Check out some of these awesome self-care ideas and try to incorporate the ones that speak to you:
"Part of self-care is allowing yourself to be YOU. It's so easy to get into the comparison trap of "why am I not doing this or that?" We all have different gifts. Celebrate yours and be thankful for who YOU are." - Lisa Cicciarello Andrews
"I like to find the time to do something creative, it could be a crafty hobby like crochet, painting, or sewing or my approach to cooking or baking. Even de-cluttering and rearranging things has a creative element" - Melissa Altman-Traub
"I try to keep my morning and bedtime routine the same each day. It feels good to not have to think when I'm most tired and it brings a sense of calm to my day." - Bri, RD Frugal Minimalist Kitchen
"I do yoga, stretching and weights every morning." - Darlene Scarso Holop
"I walk every morning for at least 3 miles. I take 90-minute mornings for myself - coffee, reading, email - before I consider working." - Diana Dugan Richards
"I play USTA competitive tennis in numerous leagues year round both singles and doubles." - Toby Amidor
"I don't over schedule myself or take on too many jobs or projects. I try to keep a regular wake and bedtime schedule and work in some exercise." - Darla Moore Warfield
"There are two things that are super important for me and my self care. One is that I take "me time" every day to exercise and this time is blocked in my calendar and does not get interrupted. The second one (super important) but that has made me a world of difference is setting boundaries and saying "No." - Marissa Mekelburg, MS, RDN, CLT, HHP - Wholistic Works, LLC
"Tap dancing and adopting rescue pets." - Janice Baker
"An hour of jogging 3 days a week and this is a routine, a bushwalk/hike over the weekend (~15 km). Do a little painting if I get the chance or get a pedi and mani done (only if there's a weekend I'm not working) - Hana Niyaz @healthywithhana
"I try to make "me" time (which is usually running or working out) first thing in the am. Otherwise, I tend to put is on the back burner in order to accommodate my kids schedule." - Lisa Hetrick Corman
"I crochet blankets for rescue dogs. Been doing it for a year now. Been a comfort to me knowing they go to a new family with something made with love." - Ellyn Silverman Linnetz
"I incorporate some kind of movement activity every day...walking, yoga, and sometimes heavier cardio. I have regular appointments with like-minded health practitioners (even a dietitian) so I can step back from being my own practitioner and allow others to speak into my health and wellness." - Jennifer Reese Zucconi
"Twice a week I practice Aikdo (martial arts), run 7-8 miles per week and play in a basketball league on Monday evenings. It allows me to be congruent with what I profess to my clients." Adam Lax
"Along with some of the other comments I enjoy just sitting on the lanai with my pups, looking at the plants in the yard, watching the birds, listening to nature, and sometimes reading some thought provoking quotes or playing a word game to stimulate my brain." - Debra Indorato
"Self-care is important for balance. It is no selfish. How can you care for others if you are not in a good place yourself? A monthly massage is scheduled on my calendar as well as time for physical movement daily. I also like to relax in an Epsom salts bath and take time to be creative as a foil to all the science and numbers we deal with as dietitians." - Julie Chudak RDN, CPT, CLT Lifelong Nutrition and Fitness
"Martial arts (Jiu Jitsu) 2-3 times per week. Once a week I stay for yoga class afterwards." - Sarah Carter Duke
"I wake up early and go for a jog or walk at the lake near my house. It's gorgeous to watch the sunrise over the lake and be in nature!" - Alicia Galvin MEd, RD, LD, CLT, IFNCP
"Yoga is definitely my savior! I go most days of the week to the first class of the day so I can start my day with focus & intention. Taking my dog for walks during the day is important because it forces me to step away from the computer and clear my head. And I purposely aim to keep weekends work-free by not opening the laptop or doing work-related things so I can be fully present for my family. Setting boundaries and honoring them yourself are definitely important when it comes to self care." - Mandy Enright MS, RDN, RYT
"I've written so many posts about this I have a section titled "Happiness" on my blog" - Ann Scheufler www.peasandhoppiness.com
"A simple daily meditation and grounding technique help keep me balanced along with my yoga practice and getting out in nature for a walk or a hike." - Tracee Yablon Brenner, RDN
"I keep a running list of my self-care "activities" which includes pampering, hobbies, sports, etc...and make sure to make room for at least one of them each weekend to center back to myself - mani/pedi, massage, facial, farmers market shopping, yoga, shooting range, horse back riding (my sport). As healthcare providers we do so much for others and can so easily get lost in the lack of time for ourselves. I have to schedule my self-care time to ensure nothing else fills the space." - Chole Paddison RDN, LD www.cureativenutrition.com
"I take my dog for a walk and just enjoy the scenery. Me time." - Peggy Korody
"I make sure to read before bed every night and workout about 5 days a week." - Kourtney Johnson
"I run a few days a week, eat a sit down meal with my family nearly every day, and walk outside as needed. Before I had my son (he is 11 months), I would meditate semi-regularly but as of now he is generally climbing all over me when I sit down so it might be awhile before I get back to that." - Liz Burkland
"I make sure I get my sleep. Sleep is an important part of wellness, along with healthy eating and physical activity. I can't function if I am overly tired. And research shows that people who are being sleep deprived tend to weigh more than people who respect their 8 (or 7, or 9, or...) hours of rest." - Christine Svec
"I get a mani every other week and run at least 3x/week. Exercising outside and being with nature is amazing for de-stressing." - Melissa Mitri, MS, RD https://melissamitri.com
"Self-care of me starts in the morning daily with my morning routine! Silence, meditation prayer, exercise, reading and journaling. Besides that I aim to do something I enjoy whether at least 1x/week. Can be as simple as taking a walk and enjoying nature." - Sandy Roberson
"I walk with my rescue pups every night. I enjoy the scenery while being able to decompress. Of course the pups also need the exercise and they bring such joy and laughter - which is also great for self-care." - Kim Pierce, MS, RD, LD, CDE www.outdoorsdietitian.com
"I'm a working mom of 4 kids and also completing my Masters online. Despite never having enough hours in the day, I make sure I get between 7-8 hours of sleep at night. I've learned how important sleep is and our lack of functionality and well-being if we try to go on too little sleep. I also enjoy my weekly Saturday morning bath with essential oils before the kids wake up to have some me time!" - Jennifer Enloe
"I practice yoga or swim (almost) daily. I eat what I enjoy and do not ban my favorite foods. I focus on portion control rather than calorie counting." - Lisa Young, PhD, RDN
"I try to have a meditative state of mind when working and during relaxing...it helps me get to a place where I find calm in everything I do, which is also described as self-hypnosis. It helps me be more focused and engaged with my clients." - Heidi Moretti, MS, RD www.thehealthyrd.com
"Surrounding yourself with the right people, giving yourself credit for your accomplishments, daily exercise (for me biking, weight lifting and yoga). I was on an antidepressant for 12 years and have successfully been off for 8 months. These practices have been essential"
If you need help finding your own personal West Virginia September day i.e. creating a personalized plan for self-care, contact us for a free 15 minute phone consultation! Self-care is vital to your health-span and quality of life!