Proper self-care boils down to investing in five key life areas. These are sleep, diet, exercise, hygiene, and well-being. Take care of them, and you’ll feel much better about yourself and your current situation. It’s that simple.
Let me unpack each area and give some practical tips on how you can rebuild or improve it.
1. Getting Your Sleep In Order
A couple of tips:
1. Get at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night. If you’re not hitting those numbers, you’re opening yourself up to a diminished ability to think, make decisions, and problem-solve. Not to mention memory problems, mood swings and tamper tantrums, impaired physical performance, a shit ton of health issues, and, of course, a stymied sex drive.
2. Stick to a consistent sleep schedule. Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends. This helps regulate your body’s internal clock and establish a consistent sleep-wake cycle, which is overall a great benefit for your health.
3. Sleep in a pitch-black room. Invest in black-out curtains or a sleep mask, remove any device chargers that emit an LED light, flip your phone on its face, and cover any indicator lights on your other gadgets with tape or something. Kill the lights and add to the darkness. Because your eyes, even through closed eyelids, sense any light spilling into your room, which disrupts the release of melatonin from your pineal gland, and as a result, fucks up your sleep.
4. Sleep at the right ambient room temperature. The sweet spot is usually around a cool 65–70 degrees Fahrenheit (that’s about 18-21 degrees Celsius).
5. Avoid screens at least 1 to 2 hours before bedtime. Screens like those on phones, tablets, computer monitors, and TVs all produce a blue light that disrupts melatonin production much like high-intensity daylight does, making it harder to fall asleep and get quality sleep.
6. Use natural sleep aids. Melatonin pills, magnesium tablets, and chamomile tea are all effective and safe. As for nonedibles, try a white noise machine. It’s essentially a glorified speaker that outputs, as the name implies, white noise, which is proven to aid sleep. It’s a bit of a niche product so to get your hands on it, take a gander at Amazon. It’s unlikely your local hardware store will have it in stock.
7. Limit napping, especially in the late afternoon or evening. And if you’re for some reason so exhausted that you can’t help but nap, keep it short (around 20-30 minutes only) and avoid doing it too close to bedtime.
8. Manage Stress. This is a hard one to follow. Because, if you’re like most people, you’re probably stressing the fuck out right now. I get it. Breakups suck, there’s no doubt about it. But it’s your responsibility to reel some of that stress in and deflate it. Thankfully there are a myriad of ways you can do this: meditation, journaling, gratitude practices, breathing techniques, and therapy, among many others.
9. Consume responsibly, especially 3-4 hours before bedtime. Meaning, avoid stimulants like Adderall and Ritalin, as well as anything with caffeine in it like coffee, tea, chocolate, or energy drinks. Also, cut back on stodgy foods like pasta, burgers, and steaks. And limit alcohol intake — at best, quit altogether. All of these things interfere with your ability to fall asleep and cause nothing but discomfort during the night.
2. Taking Care Of Your Diet
In a nutshell, have a healthy one. This boils down to eating mostly unprocessed, natural, fresh foods that humans are biologically designed to eat. Foods like meats, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and fats. Avoid everything else — or at least limit it.
To be more specific, avoid or limit the following:
- Anything with large amounts of sugar in it (any sugar — table, grain, fruit, milk, corn, liquid, solid, etc.). The obvious exception here is fresh fruits.
- Artificial sweeteners, cheap dried fruits (usually filled with artificial sugar), fat-free foods (also typically jammed with sugar).
- Processed food like most fast food as well as cheap granola and energy bars, frozen meals, canned soups, salad dressings, condiments like ketchup, pasta sauce, flavored yogurts, and most breakfast cereals. • Solid grains like wheat, corn, rice, barley, rye, and oats.
- Liquid grains like beer, cider, and whiskey.
- Bread like toast, baguettes, bread crumbs, breading, pita, tortillas, bagels, pizza, burek.
- Pasta like spaghetti, linguini, lasagna, and tortellini.
- Flour-filled desserts like cakes, cookies, pies, muffins, donuts, and brownies.
- Snacks like crackers, pretzels, tortilla chips, corn chips, and bagel chips.
On the flip side, eat more of the following:
- Protein like eggs, poultry, beef, pork, lamb, fish, shrimp, and shellfish.
- Legumes and starches like lentils, black beans, pinto beans, potatoes, and sweet potatoes.
- Vegetables like spinach, asparagus, peas, carrots, broccoli, green peppers, beans, and just about any type of plain salad.
- Fermented or pickled foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, pickles, pickled vegetables, fish sauce, miso, kvas, unsweetened yogurt, kefir, sour cream, and raw cheese.
- Nuts and seeds like sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, almonds, walnuts, cashews, hazelnuts, and macadamia nuts.
- Fruit like apples, oranges, cherries, plums, bananas, blueberries, strawberries, pears, grapes, limes, pomegranates, and lemons.
- Good fats and oils like butter, bone marrow, fish oil, coconut oil, olive oil, avocado, and flaxseed oil.
Note that the above are only guidelines, not unwavering rules you must follow. Take them seriously, but not too seriously. For the record, even I only follow these guidelines about 70-80% of the time — and I came up with them!
Why? Mainly because I give myself one cheat day per week where I can eat anything. You should probably do the same. I found it keeps the cravings at bay and your sanity in check. Think of it this way: every exercise plan has a rest period built-in. Thus, every diet, and, by extension, a healthy eating lifestyle, should have cheat periods built-in, too.
3. Getting Serious About Exercise
This is the closest thing to a magic pill for health that I found. It eases anxiety and depression, improves focus and mood, helps you sleep, causes you to lose weight, guarantees you live longer, and makes you more attractive. Oh, and it’s free and has no known side effects.
So I suggest you leverage this magic pill and make it a permanent habit of your day-to-day. Whether your goal is to lose weight, get in shape, or simply reap the various health benefits of exercise, here are some pointers if you have no idea where to start.
- Move your body every day. Consistency is key here — and far more important than occasional intense workouts.
- Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity per week.
- Incorporate various activities into your exercise routines: jogging, running, cycling, swimming, hiking, weight lifting, yoga, long walks in nature, team sports, combat sports, etc.
- Shut up and join a gym. The motivation boost you get from working out with others in an environment promoting an active and healthy lifestyle is indispensable.
- If you have the means, hire a personal trainer or some qualified fitness professional to help you progress and keep you accountable.
- Go slow and start with exercises and activities that match your current fitness level, then gradually increase intensity, duration, or resistance as your fitness improves. This helps prevent overexertion and reduces the risk of injury.
- Pay attention to your body’s signals during exercise. If you experience pain, dizziness, or shortness of breath, take a break, and consult a healthcare professional if necessary.
- Like with cheat days for diets, have rest days. Give yourself a day or two to allow your body time to rest and recuperate from all the physical exertion.
4. Straightening Out Your Hygiene
I won’t dwell on this topic for long because you probably got it somewhat handled. But for those who don’t, here are some rapid-fire tips.
- Shower and bathe at least once a day.
- Cut and clean your fingernails.
- Keep your feet clean.
- Brush your teeth at least twice a day.
- Keep your hair clean, neatly cut, and tidy.
- Have a face care routine.
- Invest time in proper skin care.
- Take care of your eyebrows, nose, and ear hairs.
- Manage body odor.
- (Ladies) Practice good menstrual hygiene.
- (Guys) If you’ve grown a beard — like with hair — keep it clean, neatly cut/trimmed, and tidy.
- Wear clothes that fit you — not too tight, but also not too loose.
- Wear clothes that aren’t dirty or worn out.
- Invest time in developing an interesting style, clothing-wise.
In short, be clean and presentable. A breakup is no excuse for being a slob. Remember: conspicuous precision in hygiene is a key signal of conscientiousness, which is sexy as hell.
5. Bettering Your Well-Being
Some tips for making a meaningful update:
1. Consider living on your own. If you still live with your parents but are of ripe age and have the means for it, get your own place. You’ll feel much more confident because of it. That, and your ex (or just about anyone) will take you more seriously for it.
2. Gather up some meaningful responsibilities. These can be getting a job, working on a business, child-rearing, studying, taking care of the environment, or contributing to the betterment of your community through volunteering, donations, or other forms of service.
3. Get your financial life in order. Earn enough money to live comfortably and manage personal finances responsibly, including budgeting, saving, paying bills on time, and avoiding excessive debt.
4. Take your work or education commitments seriously. Be diligent, punctual, and hard-working. Perform to the best of your ability and meet deadlines. Continuously develop skills and knowledge to improve your professional or educational growth. In other words, do something productive and meaningful with your life, something you can excel at eventually and that enriches you and others around you.
5. Recognize the importance of maintaining a healthy work-life balance. Prioritize your physical and mental well-being and create time for relaxation, hobbies, and meaningful connections. In other words, don’t be a damn workaholic. Diversify your identity instead. Care about a variety of things unrelated to work. So that if work ever fails you — you lose your job or your company goes bankrupt — you still have things in your life that you care about, sources of meaning that keep nihilism and with it, hopelessness, misery, and depression at bay.
6. Manage your free time wisely. Learn to say “no” to people. Cut back on booze and drugs. Limit or quit social media, especially if it makes you anxious or afraid you’re missing out on something. If you’re consuming things that piss you off — like the news — stop consuming them. Get new hobbies and/or re-engage in your old ones. Reconnect with friends. Make new friends. Spend more time with family than usual. Just don’t suffer alone.
Some Closing Thoughts
The last thing I’ll say about engaging in self-care post-breakup is that — contrary to popular opinion — it’s not selfish. It also doesn’t make you a narcissist, or a bad person. Don’t let anyone convince you otherwise.
Self-care is, in fact, a necessity — a requirement. You must take care of yourself, all while taking less care of others. Sometimes dramatically less. Sometimes it even means cutting certain people out of your life. It’s either that, or letting the breakup eat you alive. And you don’t want to be eaten alive, do you?
So drown out the hate and self-doubt, and go apply what you’ve learned so far. Good luck.
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