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Beyond Basic: Getting Serious about Self-Care

We are all connected, and caring for ourselves means ensuring we are strong enough to care for those we love.

L’Oréal may have coined the slogan “I’m worth it” to sell lipstick, but it has endured because it touches on an insecurity within so many of us—are we worth it? I never fail to make a medical appointment for my daughter, yet pushing mine back does not register as a failure in my mind. And that needs to change, for all of us. I spoke to some experts to see how they recommend taking important steps to look after ourselves.


Drs. Abbey and Jake Orozco of Top of the Hill Orthodontics & Pediatric Dentistry tell us that adults are the fastest growing group seeking orthodontic care. Clear aligners like Invisalign give adults the option to do this without braces, as well as with fewer appointments and life disruptions.


“A lot of times what we’ll see is parents who take care of their kids first—they’re used to making those monthly appointments and payments—but then it’s Mom’s turn,” Dr. Jake Orozco explains. “It’s great that people are taking advantage of that, and taking care of themselves. You’re never too old to get the smile you want.”


In addition to the boost in self-confidence that patients report, there is a more serious reason behind this. Many health issues stem from dental neglect—from bacterial infections to heart problems. If your teeth are misaligned, it puts you at a larger risk for periodontal disease as it creates “food traps,” and the teeth are harder to clean. With years of specialized training that goes beyond general dental school, the doctors at Top of the Hill are able to identify these issues. “When everything’s lined up nicely, it’s a lot easier for people to clean at home, and at professional cleanings,” Dr. Abbey Orozco tells us. Plus, your smile is the first thing people notice about you!


Some people find it hard to make time—or even prioritize—self-care routines like exercise. If this describes you, consider the effect of a small behavioral change, instead of viewing it as a drastic lifestyle change: In a 2013 study, Wharton behavioral economist Katherine Milkman found that participants who could listen to an addictive audiobook only when they exercised, exercised 51 percent more than those who could listen whenever they wanted. Milkman calls this “temptation bundling,” and it is a powerful way to build self-care habits into your daily life by linking a “want” to a “should” (and removing the guilt of a “guilty pleasure” at the same time).



Another area that is so vital to meaningful self-care is sleep. Dr. Thanuja Hamilton, a board-certified sleep medicine specialist at Advocare Pulmonary and Sleep Physicians of South Jersey, tells us, “when you’re neglecting yourself and not taking care of your own health and sleep, it’s going to trickle down to affecting your kids,” including a parent’s mood, concentration, judgment, and even immune response.


“I have patients that are so sleep-deprived because they’re living their child’s lives as well as their own,” Dr. Hamilton tells us. One small adjustment she recommends is that her patients set “bedtime alarms” to put them on notice to “wrap it all up” at the same time every night. “Just like your kids have a bedtime, you should have a consistent bedtime too.”


Finally, it is important to be cognizant of your mental health, and take steps to get help if you need it. The idea of taking an hour out of your busy week and spending hundreds of dollars on therapy sounds daunting to many; but taking that time can actually save you time over the week, as you are able to more efficient and energetic, and less weighed down by everyday anxieties.


Lisa Pagano, LCSW, agrees, “You need to put the oxygen mask on yourself first. The more that you meet your own needs, the better you are able to be a good parent.” She also points out that seeking help is good modeling as a parent, to reduce the stigma of mental health care, as well as to show our kids “It’s okay to not have all the answers, it’s okay to have support.”


Far too often we equate motherhood with martyrdom, and self-care with self-indulgence. But we are all connected, and caring for ourselves means ensuring we are strong enough to care for those we love. There is nothing more important.



Photographs by Squaredpixels/iStock.

Top of the Hill Orthodontics and Pediatric Dentistry supports the Philly Family Community.


Contributing Writer