Taking Care of Yourself Helps Everyone

I’m sure when the founder of the Evolve to Live organization created the idea of September as Self-Care Awareness Month, she did not make any connection between self-care and the beginning of the Jewish High Holidays.
Charlotte Jewish News September 2021
By Howard Olshansky JFS Executive Director

The idea of self-care awareness is to recognize the importance of taking care of ourselves if we are going to maximize our own functioning or help others. Self-care is often described as performing a series of actions to improve physical, mental, and emotional well-being.

As we all know, the High Holidays are a time of reflection. An article in the Washington Jewish Week newspaper references the time between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, the Ten Days of Repentance, as a period of self-betterment, healing and, of course, repentance. So it is a time when we ask for forgiveness but also when we reflect on our future. We set goals and think about how we can improve our lives and ourselves. The concept of self-betterment is what selfcare is all about. We commit to improving our physical, financial, and spiritual health.

Unfortunately, the one area that often gets missed in caring for ourselves is emotional health. Activities that reduce stress, such as carving out personal time or meditation/relaxation exercises, are often seen as indulgent or self-centered. It is a pervasive belief that time spent doing something such as relaxing and reading a book is time that could be better spent being productive. However, it is important to understand that emotional health has a direct relationship to all other aspects of life. For years, the data have shown that mental health can affect physical health, manifesting in ways such as high blood pressure, diabetes, headaches, and heart illness, but we often don’t think about this in our day-to-day lives. Emotional health also affects other aspects of daily living, such as our sleeping habits and our motivation, which then sabotage our success in endeavors such as weight management, exercise, and work productivity.

In an article in Psychology Today, Tchiki Davis Ph.D. identified the following 12 tips for self-care:

Make sleep part of your selfcare routine. Not enough sleep can negatively affect both physical and mental health. Stick to a regular schedule that ensures adequate sleep.

Take care of your gut. This can have a significant impact on your health, well-being, and feelings of vitality. The types of foods you eat crucially affect the bacteria that live in your stomach, resulting in a cascade of either positive or negative outcomes.

Exercise daily. It helps you physically and mentally, boosting your mood and reducing stress and anxiety. Any exercise will do as long as you make it a routine.

Eat right. The food we eat has the potential to keep us healthy. Some of the most amazing selfcare foods include fatty fish, blueberries, nuts, green leafy veggies, and brassicas, like broccoli.

Say no to others, and say yes to self-care. Learning to say no is really hard. However, if you’re already stressed or overworked, saying yes to loved ones or coworkers can lead to burnout, anxiety, and irritability, which will not help them or you.

Take a self-care trip. Getting away for a weekend now and then can help you disconnect, relax, and be rejuvenated.

Spend time outside. Studies have shown that getting outside can help reduce fatigue, making it a great way to overcome symptoms of depression or burnout. Getting outside can also help you sleep better at night.

Let a pet help with self-care. From providing unconditional love to companionship, pets can be hugely beneficial for self-care.

Get organized. This is often the first step to becoming healthier because it allows you to figure out exactly what you need to do to take better care of yourself.

Cook at home. Even if it’s only once a week, consider making a healthy meal instead of ordering takeout or eating fast foods.

Read a book on self-care. It will take you away from your electronic devices and provide additional tips.

Schedule your self-care time. If it’s planned and scheduled, you’re more likely to follow through.

A line from a blog by Chris Harrison, former writer/editor for the Union of Reform Judaism, sums this up perfectly, “T’shuvah is a vital aspect of the High Holidays, so it’s important to embrace these holidays from a strong foundation rooted in selfcare.”