Life can be demanding. We feel stress when there’s too much to do, when there’s not enough to do, when we haven’t slept well or overslept, and when we worry about finances or relationships. In response to stress, our bodies automatically increase blood pressure, heart rate, respiration, metabolism, and blood flow to muscles. Without making adjustments for self-care, stress can threaten health and well-being. Putting “me time” on the back burner is a big part of why we can feel run-down and overwhelmed with everything going on.

Self-care is something we need to add to our daily routine. But what exactly does that mean? There isn’t a single definition of self-care; it can mean different things to different people. The important focus is that the activity in some way improves physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing. Practicing self-care means working to eliminate triggers of stress and promote a healthy relationship with ourselves. By taking the time to recharge, we develop behaviors that lower the amount of stress in our bodies. These behaviors provide balance in an increasingly overstimulating world. Self-care should be an essential part of our lifestyle that keeps us healthy, happy, and in tune with our minds and bodies.

We are all guilty of not taking enough time for ourselves. We easily confuse self-care with self-centered behavior. We feel selfish for dedicating moments to doing something that makes us feel better. Checking in with the mind and body isn’t a bad thing. Far from selfish, it helps us become better people. When we take good care of ourselves, we’re likely to see an improvement in many aspects of our lives, including our physical health and our relationship with others. We must be kind to ourselves and allow good, nourishing things into our life. Being nice to ourselves puts us in a place where we can be nicer to the world around us.

If you are unsure about how to practice self-care, you can start by just closing your eyes and taking a deep breath when you feel anxious or stressed out. If in need of ideas, here are a few ways you can reduce stress, boost happiness, and improve your overall health. Practice any or all of these self-care behaviors daily, weekly, or even hourly—whatever feels best to you.


  • Eat Healthier–If you want to live better, you need to take care of the body. Don’t just live for today, live for tomorrow as well. Eat more vegetables and fruits to help fight against diabetes, osteoporosis, heart disease, and certain cancers. Adding more fruits and veggies to our plate is a great way to practice self-care throughout the day. Choose your daily meals at Sonoma Hills with fruits and vegetables in mind, and avoid sugars and starches as much as possible.
  • Get enough Z’s–There are many things that can interrupt our sleep, but skimping on shut-eye may lead to diseases like heart disease and diabetes. Prioritize snooze time for a healthier, happier you—even if it’s just a quick cat nap during the day!
  • Ditch the indoors–Spending time outside is a great way to improve mental and physical health. Research suggests that even just looking at pictures of nature sparks positive activity in the brain. So, if you can’t head into the wilderness, take a look out the window as viewing green space is associated with greater life satisfaction. Or try an outdoor workout class. Studies have found that outdoor exercise makes people feel more revitalized and energetic, as well as less tense, confused, depressed, or angry. Exercise in general is linked to decreasing symptoms of depression, so sign up for one or all of the outside exercise classes at Sonoma Hills each week.
  • Breathe the Right Scents–We may know that good breathing techniques can help us relax, but what we breathe might be just as important as how we breathe. Research suggests that citrus scents, orange, in particular, can help reduce stress and anxiety. Rosemary may even boost memory. Find your favorite fragrances and have them on hand, as it can help you create an environment of calmness.
  • Be Mindful–Focusing on the present can be a very healthy practice. Known as mindfulness, studies show that getting in tune with ourselves improves well-being and brings down stress. Meditation is proof that it doesn’t take a ton of time to do a mind and body good. Just a few minutes of quieting your mind can help relieve stress. Sneak some meditation or quiet time into your day-to-day life.
  • Find a Hobby or Try an Activity–Is there a hobby or activity you have always wanted to do? Learning something new requires courage while having a hobby can help you recharge and make you happier. Think about playing bingo or jeopardy, or attending scrapbooking or craft classes to learn something new. Whatever you choose, find an outlet where you can experience creativity.
  • Become a Bookworm–Reading is really good for our health. Research suggests that reading on a regular basis keeps the mind sharp as it ages. Reading fiction in particular makes for a more creative mind. Cracking open a book may also improve sleep.
  • Help Others–It’s nice to be important, but more important to be nice! By helping others, we actually help ourselves, too. Lending a hand not only boosts mental health but may also lead to a longer life. Volunteering can also positively affect self-confidence, self-esteem, and general wellbeing.
  • Turn up the Tunes–If you’ve ever noticed that certain songs bring a smile to your face, you’re not alone. As it turns out, research shows that listening to happy music helps stimulate creative thinking. Plus, jamming out can also improve heart health.
  • Be happy–Often easier said than done, happiness is genuinely great for your health. When you’re healthy, you’re happy, and vice versa! Research suggests that feeling happy may even prevent diseases, including heart disease. For those who find “be happy” just a little bit of a reach, it turns out there’s actually a simple way to feel more upbeat: Just crack a smile or laugh out loud. There’s a reason people say laughter is “the best medicine.”Chuckling and giggling benefit our mental and physical health. It can improve our overall quality of life while getting goofy with other people can help us connect with the people we laugh with and foster our relationships.
Life has its ups and downs, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy it. The first step is wanting to see a change in your day-to-day life. If something’s not right, fix it. The most important part of all this is being kind to yourself. Don’t punish yourself for forgetting to do some self-care every day, or for being too busy to sit down with a book. It’s more important that these changes are sustainable and nourishing, rather than a chore and a drag. The important thing is to find things that make you happy and, in turn, your health will benefit!
Blog written by Debi Kopman, Life Enrichment Director for Sonoma Hills Retirement