Originally posted for The Pro-Choice Public Education Project

Revised January 2012

Welcome to 2012! The start of a new year always brings in new goals, positive outlooks, and another chance to take another stab at those resolutions you didn’t get around to from last year.

One goal people tend to have involves taking care of themselves, and this comes in a variety of ways: starting a new weight loss/gain program, exercising your mental health by practicing meditation/mindfulness or yoga, or letting go of bad habits (this includes people).

As women and girls, we lead very busy lives these days. We go to classes, work, are active in extracurricular and social activities, and much more. We have so much going on that at times we may forget that we should also take care of the most important person to us: ourselves. When we don’t make the time to take care of ourselves, we can become reactive instead of proactive in many areas of our lives, especially when it comes to making the best decisions for our sexual and reproductive health. Here are some tips for leading a healthier lifestyle in 2012 and beyond:

Take a “personal day”

Sometimes you need to just take time off from everything you’re involved in. I personally have taken a day (or two) off from classes, the 9-5 job, volunteer commitments, and and social activities to collect my thoughts. Try scheduling a day to do something for just for you. If you can do it each week, that’s great. If you are fortunate to have even more time to set aside for yourself, try taking an hour every day to do something just for you. You can get to that book you’ve been meaning to start reading, write in a journal, listen to music that makes you feel good, take a walk, meditate, eat your favorite piece of candy, watch your favorite movie, or even take a well-deserved nap. We can become drained when we are too busy, so use your personal day to have a heart-to-heart with yourself. Consider putting away your cell phones and laptops, and limiting your use of social networking sites like Facebook or Twitter.

Treat the inside and the outside equally

It’s so easy for us to order a Big Mac and fries because it’s fast and convenient, but having a Big Mac and fries several times a week can show up on your waistline. Fast food is great, but everything comes in moderation. If you’ve never been the one to eat tons of fruit and vegetables during the day, try slowly incorporating one or two servings of fruits and vegetables in at least one of your meals throughout the day. Along with eating healthier foods, drink more water instead of soda. Also, try exercising for 20 to 30 minutes at least 3 days a week. This can include any type of sport from walking, jogging, swimming, yoga or Pilates, skating or jumping rope. If you haven’t done any exercising in a while, start off slowly. Exercise can increase your energy level, decease stress, and make you feel good. Most importantly, get enough rest at night. If you can’t seem to get in at least 7-9 hours of sleep, try going to bed one hour earlier than you normally would. Along with exercise, getting enough sleep will make you more energized and you’ll feel more alert throughout the day.

Take yourself out on a date

Who says you need to wait around for someone to ask you out? The best dates are the ones that you take yourself on. It’s pretty interesting to go to the movies on your own, go to the park, eat at your favorite restaurant, or go to a museum by yourself. Instead of waiting for someone else to treat you to something, treat yourself. Get a manicure, pedicure, or a facial done by a professional. If you don’t have the funds to get this done professionally, do it yourself! It’s more fun that way, and it keeps more money in your pocket. It might seem strange at first, but taking yourself out on a date can actually minimize the idea that you can only have fun if you’re out with other people. After all, at least you’ll know you’re going to enjoy the company you’re with.

Say no, and mean it

We can’t do it all, even if we want to. Doing too much can stress you out. If you feel that you’re being pulled in too many directions, don’t be afraid to say no to something. Also, don’t be afraid of what one’s reaction will be. If it’s something that can be delegated to someone else besides you and that person is willing to do it, pass it off to them. Whatever you’re saying no to will get done eventually. Speaking your mind is a lot better that doing something that you don’t want to do.

Forget about it

Sometimes the smallest things can have the biggest impact on your mood. When something happens in your day that makes you feel less than fabulous, try focusing on what positive things happened throughout the day that did go well. If something or someone is getting on your nerves, try speaking with a good friend or a trusted ally. And if you can find a solution to what is bothering you, try it out and then let the situation go.

Raise Your Voice: How are you taking care of yourself in 2012? Share with us in the comments below.