You know how the tasks of life can add up.  You’ve booked your family’s dental appointments, loaded the dishwasher, paid the bills, prepared for tomorrow’s meeting, walked the dog, packed the kids’ school lunches. It still probably feels like something is undone.  Why do the lists always seem longer than the available minutes in the day?

If you’re expending all of your physical and emotional energy taking care of others, you’re probably not investing enough in taking care of yourself. While you may feel like a superstar today, in the long run, you’re doing everyone, including and especially  yourself, a disservice.

Taking care of yourself is not self-indulgent. If you’re not taking care of yourself and letting stress get the best of you – you’re putting yourself at risk for serious, even life-threatening, illness, including heart disease and other illnesses.  In fact, constantly burning that candle at both ends can weaken your immune system, making it easier for you to get sick.  

Unfortunately, too few of us make time for essential self-care. Here are a few ways to take better care of yourself:

Respect yourself. Others (including your family, your friends, your boss and co-workers) are worthy and deserving of your time and attention, but so are you. Take time out of your busy day to recharge your batteries. Life is a marathon, not a sprint.

Achieve work-life balance. Whether you work in your home or outside of your home, workaholism isn’t impressive, it’s unhealthy. Overworking can leave you stressed, exhausted and physically and emotionally drained, all of which can lead to myriad health problems, including anxiety and depression, insomnia and heart disease. Manage work-related stress by establishing boundaries, taking breaks and not taking work home, if possible. By doing so, you’ll stay sharp, motivated and healthy.

Carve out some ‘me time.’ Take a few minutes each day to relax. Breathe. Take a walk, meditate or do yoga. Take a painting, writing or beading class. Journal. Take a bath. Find something you enjoy doing, just for you, and make it happen. If necessary, put it on your calendar with all your other ‘important’ appointments.  You are the most important appointment to keep!  

Get proper sleep. This is a big one, friends.  Sleep deficiency is linked to many chronic health problems, including heart disease, hypertension, kidney disease, diabetes, stroke and obesity. Make a commitment to get a good night’s sleep, every night. You’ll awake alert and refreshed, ready to tackle the day.

Learn to say ‘no.’ Our lives are full of infinite possibilities, but our time is finite. Choose to spend your time meaningfully. Simplify your schedule. Empower yourself to say ‘no’ without regret. It’ll even get easier in time.  

Practice preventive health management. Schedule and keep annual checkups. Know your health numbers, including your cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar and body mass index numbers, and your family medical history. They can be key indicators of your risk for serious illness.

Self-care is crucial for your physical, emotional and mental well-being, but it doesn’t just happen; developing a practice to nurture your mind, body and soul takes effort. With February being a traditional month of love, ask yourself, aren’t you worth it?  The answer is yes.