Time to start putting away the Christmas bulbs and coil up the lights — the holiday season is coming to an end. On one hand, this is an extreme bummer. After all, 2020 has been so unpredictable that there is comfort in the ritual of tradition and celebration. On the other hand, you have your house back and you can focus your mind on the new year that lies ahead.
Since the world’s definition of what constitutes a “terrible year” has taken a hard left, why don’t you do yourself a favor and not make any resolutions this year? They’re too much to live up to. If you feel like you must, though, then we recommend an important one that anyone should try and follow: Improve your overall health and wellness in 2021.
Deciding to look after yourself is not a terrible thing; this is about taking a look at your daily activities and lifestyle patterns but enhancing them. We don’t mean eat more salad and go jogging every day — that’s on you, buttercup. What we are referring to here are the everyday activities in your life that could, for better or worse, be affecting your health.
1. Pump Up the Volume
Look, some songs are dictated by unwritten law that you must turn them up too loud and sing along:
- Down With the Sickness (more or less 2020’s anthem)
- Bohemian Rhapsody
- Uptown Funk
- Anything Disney
But unfortunately, loud music can affect your body in negative ways, too. As much as you love to listen to your music at top volume, your ears could be suffering for it. If you’re noticing that you have to ask people to repeat themselves, you need to watch TV at a higher volume, or are just overall not hearing well, it’s time to visit the doctor. Your general health practitioner can only do so much, though, so expect a possible referral to an audiologist. These specially-trained doctors are focused on the health of your ears and can prescribe things like specialty medications and hearing aids.
No shame! Car karaoke is one of the best pastimes out there. And if you’re a metalhead with a penchant for going to moshpit-ridden concerts with heavy bass, more power to you! Music is one of the oldest human art forms in existence, so there’s a reason why it speaks to the soul. Those songs that you love to bump up make you happy and put you in a better mood. Music (pun intended) rocks! But make sure that you’re enjoying responsibly, and that you take care of any health issues that your music might be causing you.
2. Your Workout Clothing Isn’t Working Out
If you like to lift, jog, do yoga, or otherwise have a daily or weekly workout routine, then you’re already taking steps to improve your health. That’s awesome! While your bodily health is improving as you build muscle and endurance, don’t discount the importance of what you’re wearing while doing it.
Quality running sneakers with tight laces and grippy, bendy soles protect your feet while you work out, so spend good money on workout shoes. Easily breathable clothes are perfect for letting you move around and sweat comfortably, and should always be a stipulation when you’re choosing workout gear. But even the most comfy clothes and accessories are not the best idea for your health during a workout. Ensure that you avoid certain items like:
- 100% cotton clothing. Although it’s super comfortable and absorbent while you’re wearing it dry, after a heavy workout you start to understand why most towels are made with cotton. Damp or wet, heavy clothes are the epitome of discomfort when you’ve already worked out for the day. Save your loose cottons for cold winter nights.
- Improperly fitted sports bras, or bras made of rough material. Whether you’re top-heavy or not, chafing is an absolutely real struggle during a health and fitness routine for everyone. Invest in a sports bra that can handle a lot of friction and movement that will prevent your most sensitive areas from cracking and bleeding.
- Makeup and jewelry. As much as the K family likes to make everyday activities a glamorous affair, believe us when we tell you that nobody is paying attention to you at the gym. Everyone is so focused on their own thing that you are just another spandex-clad human in a sea of others, so don’t feel the need to dress up for a workout. Besides, there are practical reasons behind these suggestions: Makeup will melt off of your face as you sweat, and jewelry can present a danger. (Think tangled necklaces during crunches and earrings/rings caught in exercise equipment.) You’re already a beautiful soul, there’s no need for enhancements while you work out.
Opting for good-quality, well-made workout clothing will help your workout experience to be a more positive one. You’re improving your bodily health by getting your blood pumping, but the right clothing can help your topical health as well.
3. Spreading the Joy…Or Germs
We’ve all heard the statistic this year more times than we can count, but here it is again: Your hands spread almost 80% of germs that can make you sick. That means that regularly washing your hands and wiping down commonly-touched surfaces are two crazy important steps for keeping yourself and everyone else’s health in peak condition.
But it’s not always you that you need to worry about; not everyone else is as regimented as you are. This means that wiping down places that are commonly touched by strangers, servicepeople, neighbors, or whomever should be given just as much attention as anyplace else. Some places you should definitely be washing, rinsing, and sanitizing are:
- Locks and doorknobs. Whether your next-door neighbor came over recently to water the plants or the locksmith has visited recently, you need to be wiping down interior and exterior doorknobs and locks. Every morning or evening, ensure that you have a clean rag and an all-purpose solution handy and wipe down all the doorknobs and locks in and out of the house. Take the time to scrub them and get rid of any buildup or gunk, since scrubbing is what kills the germs. To sanitize, spray with a bleach solution or wipe down with a Clorox wipe (if you can find them anywhere).
- Mailboxes. We aren’t saying that you should be cleaning yours every single day, but scrubbing it down every so often is not the worst idea in the world. Your mailbox is the landing zone for items that travel all over the world, and have been touched by more hands than you can probably imagine. Following the all-purpose and bleach solution regimen inside and outside of it will kill whatever’s lurking, protecting the mailperson and you too.
- Light switches. Look closely at the most commonly-used light switches inside your house. Do you see a slight layer of…something? Calm down if you do; this is just a signal that you need to wipe them down like you did with your doorknobs. Human hands naturally transmit skin flakes and oils (and germs), and when you haven’t wiped your switches down in a minute, then that’s the layer you’re seeing. Make sure that you’re using a clean cloth for this job so that you’re not transferring germs to other surfaces.
Gross. While it’s such a small task, regularly wiping down surfaces is a direct contributor to your health. Your immune system has been built up enough, thank you very much. Kill bacteria that could be making you sick before it spreads around your house — and to other people.
4. Take Care of Your Skin
Cold, dry climates can do a number on the health of your skin. Peeling, cracking, and chapped skin is so uncomfortable, and if you also get the dry itchiness then you have even more discomfort in the winter months. Even if your nightly skin care routine consists of washing your face and hands with simple soap and water, it’s a smart idea to make slight alterations to improve your skin’s health.
One way that you can do this is to check what kind of soap you’re using. Highly scented soaps can irritate your skin and cause you to break out, which can in turn dry you out even more. Try and find soaps with more natural ingredients that are gentler on the skin; brands like Dove and Cetaphil can be purchased at any grocery store, and they were made with dry skin in mind.
Instead of traditional lotion, try coconut oil. Coconut oil is good for many, many things — cooking, homesteading, survival, and yes, even your health. For very dry hands, arms, legs, or anyplace else, rub just a small amount of it into your skin as you would with any other lotion. Remember — a little bit goes a long way. If you are curious about it helping your face, use it at your own risk. Some reports claim that it’s a “miracle” oil and makes skin brighter and clearer, but others report that it clogs the pores and causes breakouts. Either way, it is proven to be extremely beneficial as a moisturizer for your entire body below the neck, and you can also find it at your local grocery store.
5. A Clean Home Is a Happy Home
At least, that’s what Grandma always said — and, by golly, it’s true in more ways than one! We aren’t saying you need to have a Pinterest-perfect home that never gets dirty, but we are saying that keeping a sanitary home is very important. Not for appearances — it’s your house, who cares what other people think? — but for the sake of your personal health.
A buildup of dust and dirt is not good for anybody. These are two major allergens, which can present an even bigger hazard to somebody who suffers from allergies already. Regularly dust your surfaces, blinds, and molding/baseboards with a microfiber cloth or duster, and keep your hardwood floors swept and cleared. Dirt, dust, and pet hair can collect in a hurry, so make it a habit to sweep and dust at least once a week.
Show your appliances some love, too. Have you ever cleaned your dishwasher? What about your washer and dryer? If the answer is “no” or “Yes, but I don’t remember when,” it’s time to get your appliances clean too. Think about it: These are items that you depend on for keeping you clean and sanitary. If your washing machine, for example, needs appliance repair, how good of a job is it doing keeping your clothes clean? Ugh. Don’t let your health suffer thanks to unkempt appliances.
Don’t overlook your faucets and sinks, either. Remember what we said about commonly-touched areas earlier? Your faucets are harboring germs and other nasty things that might be making you sick, so regularly wipe them off to kill those intruders. Drain cleaning is an important task as well, since backed up pipes and dirty drains are some of the bacteria’s favorite hiding places. Sprinkle about a cup of baking soda down a clogged drain, add two tablespoons of Dawn dish soap, then pour half a cup of vinegar on top of it. Let it bubble and foam. Once it’s mostly settled down, carefully pour a kettle of boiling water down the drain. This will not just sanitize your sink, but it should also alleviate some (if not all) of the clog.
6. Don’t Insist You’re Fine When You Aren’t
You don’t need to lie to yourself anymore; it’s okay to admit when life is really, really hard. Everyone has suffered this year, and even if other people have it worse than you do right now, that doesn’t devalue what you’re going through. Remember, your mental health is every bit as important as anybody else’s. You go to the allergist in the spring, the urologist for bladder problems, and the GP for a checkup. Why shouldn’t you visit a mental health specialist as part of your health care routine?
Coffee and cannabis can only help so much on their own, friend. You might not even realize how wound up you are until the physical signs start showing: Things like thinning hair, weight loss or gain, changes in your sleep patterns. If this sounds familiar, it could be time to seek help. Look at your insurance provider to find out what kind of mental health resources are available to you, and if you don’t have insurance, ask your family doctor. There are plenty of free or low-budget options to help you find someone to talk to, especially now.
If you need someone to help you get your priorities straight this New Year, here’s your sign. Don’t be afraid to put your personal health first. You are as important as anybody else on this crazy planet — and if nothing else, you can’t take care of your loved ones if you don’t take care of yourself first.