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Beyond "Treat Yourself:" 8 Simple Ways to Practice Real Self-Care

After those bright-eyed, shiny first few weeks of the new year, we're faced with the already-tired and slightly rumpled gray days of February. Vaccines are here (yay!), but still out of reach for many (sigh!). Recent record snowfall was fun for a while, but quickly losing luster as the dirtying piles (and stretches of arctic cold) make it harder to leave the house. I'm all for hygge - thick woolen socks and hot cocoa beside a crackly fire - because comfort definitely helps. But times like these call for real self care, and real self care requires more.

What is "real" self care and how does it differ from the warm bath and spa-day variety? (No disrespect intended - I love and value both!) Real self care goes deeper, lasts longer and has greater impact. Take this overly-simplistic example: Self-care can be as easy as arnica and ice for a recurring backache; real self-care may require physical therapy, core-strengthening exercises and/or better body mechanics to get to the root of the problem and keep it from coming back. We need to give ourselves all kinds of care. So let's nurture ourselves this February and start doing the work that will bring longer-term results.

Here are 8 ideas to up your self-care game:

1. Automate your bill payments. Bill paying isn't anyone's favorite chore, but it's essential. An easy way to save time (and save money on late fees!) is by automating your bill payments. This means you don’t have to worry about writing checks or missing due dates. Automate bill payment through your credit card (if you don’t have debt), through your bank or directly through the billing company. If all else fails, set up due-date alerts on your phone so you always know when your next bill needs to be paid.

2. Reward yourself. First, commit to setting up automatic savings to a savings account or mutual fund. Then give yourself a treat, whether a one-time purchase of an item you’ve been coveting, or ordering food from a special local restaurant.

3. Talk about it. If you are in a relationship, setup a weekly time to talk about money. It might be uncomfortable ... but it will definitely strengthen the relationship.

4. Boost your immune system. Go beyond just Vitamin C. First thing in the morning take a probiotic with a large glass of filtered water. This will help your digestive system and microbiome prepare for the day. Our digestive system has more surface area than any other organ - even the skin - and its exposure to environmental toxins can't be escaped. More than 60% of your immune system is in your gut. The good news is that your gut is resilient and with proper attention you can keep it - and you - as healthy as possible.

5. Get to sleep before 11 pm. We all know how important a good night sleep is. But what we often overlook is how integrated our circadian rhythm is not only for regulating our sleep cycle, but also regulating our hormones! That means getting more sunlight. Getting up with the sun and looking for 8 hours of sleep means being in bed by 11 pm!

6. Eat more FIBER - and eat a variety - easily found in fresh veggies, fruits, nuts and beans. No "healthy" processed food can replace the natural fiber, vitamins and phytochemicals found in these fiber-filled gifts of nature. More fiber in your diet will keep your digestive system healthy and help to remove estrogen from recycling back to the liver where it can raise your risk for hormone-driven cancers.

7. Go beyond the file cabinet. Beyond securely storing your personal financial and legal documents, go further and ensure that key documents and information are accessible to the people who'd need them in an emergency. For example, give your health care representative access to your advance directives and physician contact information. Provide copies or use an online storage system like FIDSAFE.

8. Know your worth -- and ask for it. Women lose more than $81,000 over a 30- year career (more than a full year’s salary!) due to the gender pay gap. And more than 40% of women accept salaries without negotiating at all. Do your research - start with Glassdoor's Know Your Worth Calculator, Payscale Salary Calculator, and/or The Salary Project - and "anchor" your negotiation to a salary that reflects your skills and experience.

Self-care is more than a buzzword. It's part of everything we do at Woman's Compass Forum by providing brilliant women with tools and motivation to take better care of themselves, their money, legal rights and obligations, and their bodies and minds. You can still register now for the 3-month online course that started February 2. All webinars are live and recorded so you won't miss a thing!

Go ahead. Take real care. Get grounded for life.

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