What I’ve Learned About Self-Care That I Wish I Knew as a Young Adult
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What would I like to tell my twenty-something-year-old self about all of the ways self-care can improve a person’s life?
There were so many things I took for granted all those years ago that I wish now I had paid more attention to. One thing was that I did not always practice good self-care.
I’ve put this list together based on what I wish I had started in my 20s and committed to. Imagine the competence I would have had I been practicing certain habits for 30+ years at this point!
But you know what? Those habits I didn’t create back then? I’m working on them now.
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It’s never too late to focus on good self-care habits. As my 50-something self would like to talk to my 20-something self, I can see my future 80-something self talking to my present self. And she would say, “Now is a good time to start taking better care of yourself.”
So, if you are a young adult, here are some really essential self-care habits to begin now. If you stick with them throughout your years, know that future you will appreciate it.
And if you are not a young adult, start where you are. Start now. Because that’s just fine, too. It is never too late to take care of yourself!
Take Care of Your Skin
Your skin is your largest organ, and in today’s chemical-laden world, it takes a beating!
Do everything in your power to feed and nurture your skin. Your skin’s health will directly impact every other part of your body, so caring for it really is essential. Don’t delay on this one.
How can you best care for your skin?
Keep it clean – Use the most natural products you can find that do the job. Remove all makeup before going to sleep – every night. Develop a consistent cleansing routine. Products take time, so consistency is more important than any one type of product. Find what works for you and your skin type.
Keep it hydrated – Moisturizer, Eye Cream, and Night Cream are your friends. Even oily skin needs hydration.
Keep it protected – Sunscreen, every day. Again, you will have to put a little time in to find the brand and delivery method that works best for you.
Experiment with different products, and be open to new techniques that may be unfamiliar. Think Retinol, Vitamin C, Dry Brushing, MicroNeedling, and Facials, for starters.
Above all else, drink plenty of water, eat a reasonably healthy diet, and get enough sleep. All the skincare products in the world can not replace those three requirements for maintaining healthy skin.
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Get Appropriate Medical Care
Even if you feel you are at your optimum health, wellness visits are important to establish a doctor-patient relationship, evaluate your baseline health statistics, and enable you to get face-to-face medical advice and recommendations.
Annual generalist visits and bi-annual dentist checkups are your minimum. Depending on your situation, it’s likely you will also consult with a dermatologist, gastroenterologist, naturopath, or any of a host of other specialities.
Preventative care is always easier to manage than curative care.
Follow the recommendations of your medical professionals and remember, you are setting the stage for your future health and wellness.
Practice Your Balance and Posture
This may be the recommendation that seems least important to you, but just trust me on this one. Balance and posture are use-it-or-lose-it and losing either one really sucks.
The good news is that you only need to spend a very few minutes each day focusing on these areas in order to maintain them. Learn a few basic balance exercises, take up yoga, or find a Youtube video to follow daily.
In addition to your later-in-life concerns such as limited mobility and falls, focusing on these areas will benefit you now. Working on your balance and posture will strengthen your core, improve muscle tone, and make you appear taller, thinner, and more confident. Who doesn’t want that, at any age?
Find a Sport and a Hobby You Love
You probably participated in sports and clubs pretty actively in high school, and maybe college as well. But as you move into adulthood with all its demands, sports and hobbies tend to move to the back burner.
Rather than eliminate either, seek out ways to keep them a part of your life.
Sports will help keep you active, mobile, and healthy. They are a fantastic way to develop and strengthen friendships and a source of stress relief. The sport you choose doesn’t matter as much as that you find time to participate.
Join a kickball team, take golf lessons, swim at the local pool.
If you don’t have a favorite sport, learn one. It’s okay to not know the rules or have any talent when you start out. You will learn.
As with sports, there are plenty of hobbies out there for you to explore. Take the time to try some out. Hobbies boost your creativity, build self-confidence, introduce you to new people, and tend to be very relaxing.
Try photography, weaving, watercolor painting, hiking, geocaching. Some hobbies can be pursued independently and some are better in groups. Find something you enjoy that you will make time for in your life.
Save for Retirement
Maybe it seems like a long way off (and maybe it really is), but as a young adult, retirement savings is as much about creating good habits as it is putting money away for the future.
You may only have a dollar a week to put aside – but that’s enough to start. Put it in a shoebox in your closet, or a savings account. It may seem pointless when it’s a small sum, but it’s teaching you about planning habits and long-term goal setting.
Take a class or learn online about investing, IRAs, debt management, stocks, bonds, annuities, and more. Become confident in your financial knowledge, and put it to use in your life.
Keep Up With Family and Friends
Throughout childhood and young adulthood, friendships tend to be easy to develop and maintain. But with the whirlwind of adulthood, it’s all too easy to lose touch with those you care about.
Demanding jobs, children, long-distance moves all come into play, and suddenly you realize you haven’t spoken to your college roommate in two years.
Friendships – and even family relationships – require effort to maintain. It’s natural to go in different directions and lose track of some people, but those you want to keep in your life, you must work to keep.
Make it a habit to email your grandmother once a month. Text your best friend every few days. Gather your college friends into a weekly trivia team at the local bar. These people are your history; don’t let them disappear for lack of attention.
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Find a way, find a time, and go. If you must choose between travel and material possessions, nine times out of ten, travel is the better choice.
As with everything, the definition of travel depends on you. If you are a true adventurer, you may want to live in a foreign country for a time. Others may be satisfied exploring a new city in their home state.
Traveling, especially if traveling alone, can be intimidating to many people. (I used to count myself in that crowd, but not anymore!) Go anyway. Be intimidated. Feel the power of moving past the fear, and reveling in the experience.
Think of travel as a muscle – the more you use it, the stronger and more capable it becomes. No matter what else you do in life, you will never regret giving yourself the experience of travel. Pinky swear.
Get Comfortable Being Alone
Everyone spends time alone. Not everyone is comfortable with being alone.
Life throws us curveballs at every opportunity, and the only person you absolutely know will be around for your entire life is you.
Get to know who you are. Really explore what makes you tick. Are you an extrovert or an introvert? Do you love socializing, or quiet spaces, or singing in the shower, or working with children? What are your values, where do you draw lines in the sand for your relationships, how important is honesty to you? How do you like to spend your free time?
Learn to control – or live with – your annoying habits, addictions, and quirks. Learn what makes you different from everyone else, and what commonalities you have, too.
Understand that there are no wrong answers – you are you.
Once you are comfortable with yourself one on one, go out in public alone as often as you need to until it’s second nature. Dinner in a restaurant, beer at the local pub, watching a movie, shopping. Whatever you do, be confident doing it alone.
Final Thoughts on Self-Care
Self-care is not synonymous with self-indulgence. These activities all involve caring for yourself as an individual, and responding to your individual needs. Remember, you are a whole person, and you need to nurture all of the special, unique parts that make you, you.
I hope you will find a way to build time in your life for each of the self-care activities I’ve identified above.