Categories: health

5 Spring Self-Care Practices – Everyday Health

Your needs change over time, so not why not use your spring cleaning energy to hit ‘refresh’ on your self-care routine?
Spring cleaning is an opportunity to hit refresh on certain aspects of your life. It’s a chance to get rid of things that aren’t serving you and replace them with new things that do. It can be both motivating and energizing.
And it doesn’t just apply to your closets. People can really benefit from spring cleaning their self-care routines, too, says Silvi Saxena, a licensed social worker and a clinical trauma professional based in Philadelphia. Our self-care needs change over time because we change and things around us change — like what responsibilities and obligations we have, our schedules, and the weather.
“You can say you are doing self-care, but if you don't feel any different, it's important to think about why you keep doing the same things,” Saxena says. If your current practices aren’t working (or just not working as well as you want them to) it’s time to switch it up. Let the new season be your motivation. But put some thought into it.
“Take time to really get in tune with yourself before you think about a makeover,” Saxena says. Think about what types of self-care seem to work best for you — for example, some people like getting solo time outdoors, while others prefer to recharge in large groups of people. Consider how your current practices are making you feel during and after, then compare that to how you want to feel and make changes that bring these two answers closer together, Saxena says.
You’re the expert on what works for you, but if you’re looking for some ideas, here are a few that doctors and therapists recommend that are perfect for the warmer weather and longer days of spring.
It’s no secret that filling your plate with fruits and vegetables (and following other healthy eating habits) is good for physical health, and researchers are starting to pay more attention to how these foods boost mental health as well. A review published in Nutrients in January 2020 found that getting adequate fruits and vegetables (five servings per day) was associated with reduced depressive symptoms and distress and higher levels of optimism and self-efficacy.
Plus, mixing up your next grocery run and stocking up on what’s in season is a great way to keep things interesting and push yourself to try new recipes, which might just be the motivation you need to stick with a good-for-you eating routine, says Charisma Houston, a licensed marriage and family therapist based in Phoenix, Arizona. “I recommend connecting to the seasonal spring foods and incorporating these into your eating lifestyle,” she says.
Green vegetables like peas, Swiss chard, asparagus, and collards, as well as fruits like apricots and strawberries, are prime spring picks, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) Seasonal Produce Guide.
With spring comes more hours of daylight in the northern hemisphere. Houston recommends taking several short walks throughout the day, or even just getting outside for 10 minutes or so to take advantage of the milder weather and more sunlight.
Being outdoors (and particularly exercising outdoors) can help reduce stress and quickly boost your mood, she says. Research also suggests that being outdoors in daylight may help lessen depressive symptoms, boost happiness, decrease neuroticism, and more, according to a study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders in December 2021.
It can also boost your sleep. “Light exposure during the day can improve the quality of your sleep,” says Phyllis Zee, MD, PhD, director of the Center for Circadian and Sleep Medicine and chief of sleep medicine at Northwestern Medicine in Chicago. Getting out in the sun in the morning, specifically, helps regulate circadian rhythms, so you can get more deep, restorative sleep when you lie down at night, she says.
Part of what makes spring so magical is the way that nature suddenly comes to life after months of dark winters. Do you feel reinvigorated seeing trees or flower patches in your yard, neighborhood, or local park that have been dormant through winter months suddenly come to life?
Houston recommends bringing some of that magic into your home by planting herbs near a bright window, investing in a new plant or two, or even just buying yourself flowers regularly.
Research finds that greening up your personal space in these ways can help you feel more connected to nature even when you’re indoors. Survey data from 323 college students found that indoor greenery (aka houseplants) was associated with fewer depressive symptoms during early COVID-19 lockdowns when the students had limited outdoor time, according to a study published in the journal Environmental Research in May 2021.
“Spring is a great time to reflect and identify where in your life you might need a boundary, and set that boundary,” says Sarah Harmon, a licensed mental health counselor and mindfulness teacher based in Boston. Our routines and daily activities change with the seasons, she says, so it’s helpful to establish boundaries for the season ahead.
In particular, she recommends looking at your social media use and limiting the amount of time you spend scrolling on your phone. She also suggests creating a “no work” time and area in your house — with so many people still working from home, it can be tough to set boundaries around work hours, which ultimately contributes to burnout.
Keeping up with recommended healthcare visits is crucial for long-term self-care. In a study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine in March 2015, researchers asked participants about their reasons for avoiding medical care, and about 12 percent reported that it was due to issues with their physician. ““Doctors often make you feel like you’re stupid,” said one participant, according to the paper. Another participant answered: “tired of being chewed out for not following medical advice.”
Shirin Peters, MD, an internal medicine doctor and the founder of Bethany Medical Clinic in New York City, says that it’s important to find a primary care provider who listens to your concerns and takes preventative care seriously.
“Even minor symptoms, such as hair loss, fatigue, irregular periods, or abdominal bloating, should be discussed with a healthcare professional at a yearly checkup, so they can look for a root cause,” Dr. Peters says. Remember, your doctor works for you, not the other way around. If you don’t feel comfortable talking to your primary care provider about your health and your body, now is a great time to find a new one.
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