Are you really taking care of yourself?

These days there’s no excuse for not knowing how to take care of yourself. We are bombarded with health information and warnings. Food is sold in packets with nutritional information on the side, computers are sold with ergonomic instructions. Nonetheless, knowing and doing are not the same thing. It is not likely that you will be able to find many smokers who believe that it is good for their health. Most people who drink too much are in denial about the amounts they drink, not its effects on the liver, circulatory and central nervous systems.

Just like the heavy smoker and the heavy drinker, we know that a lot of our behavior is unhealthy, and yet we don’t make any real effort to change it. This can generally be blamed on the unrealistic pressures put on us by life in today’s economy. There was a time when a working-class salary could provide shelter, clothing and food for two adults and two children, with something left to spare. Things couldn’t be more different in the modern day. Parents often hold down two jobs each to provide for their kids, yet still struggle to hold on to any money by the end of the month. We spend much more time at work and have much less to show for it.

All of this means we are much likelier to compromise on nutrition, miss out on sleep, and use drugs – especially caffeine, alcohol and nicotine – to influence our moods. These are all techniques we use, rightly or wrongly, to cope with excess stress. Therefore, before eliminating our coping mechanisms, it’s important to reduce the stress we face.

One of the most important words we can use is ‘no’. As it turns out, we should be using this word a lot more than we do. Bosses, coworkers, partners, children and even strangers ask so much of us every day, that it’s important to learn to prioritize what is essential and what is not. We don’t want to be unkind or uncooperative, or make a bad impression, and so we get used to reluctantly saying ‘yes’. This goes on to become a problem – once you have agreed to do something once, it is expected that you will do so again. Learning to say ‘no’ is an important part of protecting ourselves from unnecessary stress.

Good oral hygiene is also something that many people overlook. We all know to clean our teeth after each meal, but many people don’t brush at work, or fall asleep at night without brushing. Even people who religiously brush three times a day, are often in a rush and don’t do such a thorough job. To make it easier, make sure you have at least two electric toothbrushes – one at home and one at work. Dentists agree that electric toothbrushes do a better job of cleaning our teeth than manual toothbrushes. You can find out all about the best of them by looking at the Toothbrush Best top pick.

It’s important to make sure that you get some sunshine every day. Time outdoors gives you energy, fresh air and Vitamin B. In the winter in northern areas such as Canada, Ireland, the UK and Scandinavia, this isn’t always easy to do. You might leave home when the sky is still dark, sit in a windowless office all day and then drive home after sunset. If that sounds like your job, at least try to get outside for a break – perhaps even bring a hot flask of soup or broth to work and drink it with your lunch outside. The fresh air, sunlight and blue sky not only make a different to your physical state of health, but also serve to lift your mood.

The other things to remember are, as mentioned earlier, to make sure you’re getting enough sleep at night and eating well throughout the day. In a sedentary job, it is essential to make sure you get some exercise. Drink plenty of water. Talk with others, share your problems and try to laugh and smile. It’s easy to sink into a bad mood and become disengaged. Force a smile and see how it actually does make a positive difference.