Self-care is a conscious act you make daily for your physical, mental, spiritual, social, and emotional health. In the darker, colder winter months, amidst a pandemic and with bad news swirling around us, it is especially tempting to withdraw from the world and not take care of yourself.

But self-care doesn’t mean that you have to try to accomplish everything at once. Instead, you can commit to a steady improvement in your self-care activities and habits, as well as begin thinking about ways to encourage and guide yourself to a better you.

Pursuing these easy self-care activities daily often can lead to positive changes in your life.

Physical Self-Care

To feel better about yourself mentally and emotionally, you need to feel better physically. Though bad weather may preclude some outdoor activities, you still have a variety of physical activities you can perform indoors.

(Please consult your physician before beginning any exercise routine.)

People in their 70s, 80s and even 90s can do strength training, which research shows can reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke in people who train at least twice a week. The weights can be standard barbells, dumbbells, elastic bands, your own bodyweight or even canned goods out of your cupboard.

You can walk outside or inside your house, climb stairs, or do some light mobility exercises to get your heart rate up to a moderate activity level 20 to 30 minutes a day. You can consider going to a facility with a walking track. Even doing a few knee bends during a TV commercial or performing housework can count as exercise!

Get a sufficient amount of sleep, 7 to 9 hours per night. A loss of sleep not only drains your energy, but tempts you into eating high-calorie and high-carb foods during the day.

Winter holidays are tough on diets, but get back into a healthy swing of things. Give the rest of the cookies away and focus on eating fruits, vegetables, lean meats, fish, and whole grains. Make your food a fuel for your body to thrive on instead of foods that leave you asleep on the couch.

Try beginning a new morning routine by drinking green or black tea. Regular consumption of green tea lowers your “bad” cholesterol, and studies have shown black tea lowers the risk of developing heart disease.

Mental and Emotional Self-Care

Clear the clutter in your home. Go through the mail, hang up your clothes, do the dishes, take out the trash. This activity makes you feel better about yourself—more in control of a less cluttered and better organized environment.

Create a daily list of the things that made you happy during the day. For example, sharing a laugh during a call with a friend, a visit from a relative, a funny thing your dog or cat did — anything that caused you to have a pleasant memory. The connections between mind, emotion, and the body has been widely proven, and thinking about positive things is definitely healthy.

If the weather is warm enough to go outside, take a cup of your green or black tea and sit in the backyard. Take some deep breaths, watch the squirrels scamper about. It’s a wonderful mental and emotional break from being indoors hour after hour.

Discover a new podcast you like or even take an online course and learn something new. When you are engaged in learning, you’ll spend less time dwelling on negative thoughts and emotions.

Social Self-Care

Socialization is key to self-care. Sharing moments with a friend or relative can lighten your mood and promote a sense of belonging and security. It also provides you with the opportunity to confide in others and let them confide in you. Depression can be eliminated or reduced, and the bad habits of substance abuse and overeating can also be avoided.

Social interaction empowers and encourages you to remain physically and mentally active.

If you can’t arrange an in-person visit with a friend or family member, pick up the phone, or send an email or text. You should find a way to maintain frequent contact with others.

Spiritual Self-Care

Practice mindfulness. One technique is to sit back and think about what your senses are experiencing at that moment. What do you hear, see, smell or feel? It’s a great way to find peace in the current moment.

Others find inspiration through prayer or religious observances.

Whatever touches your spirit, studies have shown inner peace has physical benefits. Among those benefits: It slows the heart rate, helps to control pain, lowers blood pressure, decreases muscle tension, and enhances the immune system.

You can begin your self-care program any time. It may take a little effort at first, but once you get your physical and mental momentum going, you’ll find that it becomes easier and very rewarding.

Maintaining great mental health is more important for seniors now than ever. For more resources, visit Bethesda’s Health & Wellness blog.