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Cigna 2017

Self-care is a term for the things we do for ourselves to manage stress and to maintain or improve our health.

But we're diverse people from all walks of life, so self-care naturally means something different to each of us. In recent years, the self-care conversation has attracted everyone from fitness trainers to spiritual coaches to activists.

But what might an actual health expert have to say about self-care?


Meet Stuart. That's short for Dr. Stuart Lustig, M.D., M.P.H.

Lustig harvests greens from his backyard garden on a sunny day in San Francisco, California. Photo by Maz Ali/Upworthy.

Lustig is a psychiatrist for children and adults and supports doctors all over the country. Self-care, as you might guess, comes up in his work pretty frequently, for all sorts of reasons and for both patients and health care professionals. Over the years, he's stood by one piece of advice when it comes to self-care and stress management: "Have a PLAN for yourself."

PLAN is an acronym representing the most basic components of a sound self-care strategy.

P is for a period of time.

Image via iStock.

"It should be regularly planned time that's yours alone to do what you want with it," he says. On most nights, for example, Lustig knows he can count on at least 30 minutes of relaxation once his kid's tucked in and his wife starts her own self-care rituals.

L is for a location.

Image via iStock.

Think of it as your "happy place." Have a few locations in mind that put you at ease and that are easily accessible and reliably there for you, whether it's your bedroom, your favorite café, your gym or yoga studio, or the nature trail just beyond your fence. One of Lustig's go-to places is his backyard, amid the beauty and abundance of his garden.

A is for an activity.

Lustig also happens to be a beast on the piano. Photo by Maz Ali/Upworthy.

"When we ask people, 'What's your activity?' we'll get responses like, 'brushing my teeth,'" he says. "Sure, that's good hygiene, but it's not long enough, and we kind of have to do that. Or we hear things like, 'going on vacation.' But how often can you do that?" Instead, he says, choose activities you want to do and that you can integrate into your regular schedule. As for Lustig, he finds escape in the intricacies of classical compositions right from his piano bench.

N is for the name of someone you can count on.

Image via iStock.

"For some people, it’s their mother or their best friend. For some, it’s a therapist," Lustig says. The idea is to have that someone who will listen to what you’re going through, empathize with you, and share with you in that moment to help relieve stress.

How will you know if your self-care practices are actually working?

According to Lustig, to commit to better self-care is to acknowledge that you deserve time to yourself, to accept that it's OK to indulge a little — so long as it doesn't engender too much guilt — and to "turn off" the parts of your brain that are overworked.

Image via iStock.

If you're doing self-care well, you'll feel it. Your stress will become more manageable. You'll tackle the tasks and challenges of your day with greater ease. And you may even begin to feel better physically.

"When we’re stressed mentally, we have a lot of physical problems as a result," he says. "We have more headaches, we have more ulcers, we have more back and joint pain, and we go in for all sorts of other things."

Mental stress also triggers behaviors that can make matters worse, like eating more unhealthy foods or retreating into extended periods of inactivity. "As a result, your cholesterol goes up, your blood sugar goes up, and so on," he says.

Cigna's Go. Know. Take Control.℠ preventive health campaign educates people about their four health numbers: blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, and body mass index. Images by Cigna.

Self-care has the potential to make the world a better place — one person, one family, one community at a time.

"When we’re in a good space, we do a better job of communicating and understanding each others' perspectives," Lustig says, channeling his own experience as a husband and father. "When it’s been a long day and we’re exhausted, we are not terribly empathic."

Image via iStock.

"When we feel we have everything we need for ourselves, we’re more generous and willing to share what we have more openly and lovingly," he adds.

He then closed with a final doctorly reminder to take good care: "Get your needs met — your physical needs, emotional needs, spiritual needs, cultural needs, community needs, all of it — and we’ll all be much better off.”

All images provided by Bombas

We can all be part of the giving movement

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We all know that small acts of kindness can turn into something big, but does that apply to something as small as a pair of socks?

Yes, it turns out. More than you might think.

A fresh pair of socks is a simple comfort easily taken for granted for most, but for individuals experiencing homelessness—they are a rare commodity. Currently, more than 500,000 people in the U.S. are experiencing homelessness on any given night. Being unstably housed—whether that’s couch surfing, living on the streets, or somewhere in between—often means rarely taking your shoes off, walking for most if not all of the day, and having little access to laundry facilities. And since shelters are not able to provide pre-worn socks due to hygienic reasons, that very basic need is still not met, even if some help is provided. That’s why socks are the #1 most requested clothing item in shelters.

homelessness, bombasSocks are a simple comfort not everyone has access to

When the founders of Bombas, Dave Heath and Randy Goldberg, discovered this problem, they decided to be part of the solution. Using a One Purchased = One Donated business model, Bombas helps provide not only durable, high-quality socks, but also t-shirts and underwear (the top three most requested clothing items in shelters) to those in need nationwide. These meticulously designed donation products include added features intended to offer comfort, quality, and dignity to those experiencing homelessness.

Over the years, Bombas' mission has grown into an enormous movement, with more than 75 million items donated to date and a focus on providing support and visibility to the organizations and people that empower these donations. These are the incredible individuals who are doing the hard work to support those experiencing —or at risk of—homelessness in their communities every day.

Folks like Shirley Raines, creator of Beauty 2 The Streetz. Every Saturday, Raines and her team help those experiencing homelessness on Skid Row in Los Angeles “feel human” with free makeovers, haircuts, food, gift bags and (thanks to Bombas) fresh socks. 500 pairs, every week.

beauty 2 the streetz, skid row laRaines is out there helping people feel their beautiful best

Or Director of Step Forward David Pinson in Cincinnati, Ohio, who offers Bombas donations to those trying to recover from addiction. Launched in 2009, the Step Forward program encourages participation in community walking/running events in order to build confidence and discipline—two major keys to successful rehabilitation. For each marathon, runners are outfitted with special shirts, shoes—and yes, socks—to help make their goals more achievable.

step forward, helping homelessness, homeless non profitsRunning helps instill a sense of confidence and discipline—two key components of successful recovery

Help even reaches the Front Street Clinic of Juneau, Alaska, where Casey Ploof, APRN, and David Norris, RN give out free healthcare to those experiencing homelessness. Because it rains nearly 200 days a year there, it can be very common for people to get trench foot—a very serious condition that, when left untreated, can require amputation. Casey and Dave can help treat trench foot, but without fresh, clean socks, the condition returns. Luckily, their supply is abundant thanks to Bombas. As Casey shared, “people will walk across town and then walk from the valley just to come here to get more socks.”

step forward clinic, step forward alaska, homelessness alaskaWelcome to wild, beautiful and wet Alaska!

The Bombas Impact Report provides details on Bombas’s mission and is full of similar inspiring stories that show how the biggest acts of kindness can come from even the smallest packages. Since its inception in 2013, the company has built a network of over 3,500 Giving Partners in all 50 states, including shelters, nonprofits and community organizations dedicated to supporting our neighbors who are experiencing- or at risk- of homelessness.

Their success has proven that, yes, a simple pair of socks can be a helping hand, an important conversation starter and a link to humanity.

You can also be a part of the solution. Learn more and find the complete Bombas Impact Report by clicking here.

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