In working with my clients what I find glaringly obvious is the lack of self-care, especially as we approach the busiest time of year. Finding ways to prioritize your health was crucial during less stressful times, and it’s even more important now. Self-care is a conscious action that you take to promote your own physical, emotional, spiritual and mental health. It’s also vital to building resiliency to the everyday stressors. When you’ve taken steps to care for your mind, soul and body, you’ll be better equipped to deal with stress and not let it overwhelm you.
Self-care looks different to each of us. When looking to introduce self-care into your routine, you’ll need to develop a plan that’s customized to your wants, needs, emotional availability, and current financial situation. Before beginning a self-care regimen, assess which areas of your life need more attention and re-evaluate these needs frequently. As your life changes, your self-care needs will change, too.
When you feel tired, irritable or burned out – it’s likely you need to do what I refer to as a body scan. Check in with yourself mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually. What we most often find is we need is a self-care day. The saying is old but still rings true: You can't pour from an empty cup. Self-care days are a way to refill that metaphorical cup. We lead increasingly busy lives and it can be easy to forget to put yourself first, but looking after yourself will make you feel better. And the better you feel, the more you will be able to pour into others, into your career and into your spiritual relationship.
Benefits of self-care include:
Improved physical health
Reduced feelings of stress and anxiety
Better mental health
More stable relationships
Ability to approach stressful situations from a different perspective
So how can we implement self care practices after doing a body scan:
1. Get outside
There are serious benefits to getting out of the house or the office – one study found that spending time in nature lowers levels of the stress hormone cortisol, lowers blood pressure levels, and lowers heart rate.
2. Move your body
Exercise is good for the mind yand the body. Improved mood is one of the more immediate benefits from exercise. Exercise is known to increase “happy hormones” like endorphins, as well as serotonin, which regulates mood and appetite.
3. Try a weighted blanket
Weighted blankets are the latest fad that people are willing to try for a good night’s sleep – but there’s science behind them. Weighted blankets are heavier than your average comforter and offer what’s called deep pressure stimulation (DPS). DPS uses firm, controlled pressure to induce a feeling of calm in people with insomnia, anxiety, and autism. Cuddling up with these weighted blankets is like giving yourself a big hug – and who couldn’t use more of that these days!
4. Focus on breathing
Breathing exercises are a quick, simple, and effective way to not only reduce stress but also improve overall physical and emotional health. These exercises can soothe a racing mind and settle a nervous body throughout the day and using them as an immediate response to stress will conquer the intensity of the moment.
5. Hang with friends
Humans are social creatures. If you’re able and feeling the need to socialize, grab a couple of your closest friends for a movie night. If you’re practicing social distancing and unable to connect in person, jump on a Zoom call and catch up on one another’s lives. If you surround yourself with people who make you feel like the best version of yourself, you’ll immediately feel the self-care benefits of spending time with them.
6. Journal your thoughts
Journaling allows you to get all your thoughts down on paper, whether they’re coherent or not. Journaling helps you to prioritize your problems, fears, and concerns as well as diminishes some of the stress you may have about these things because when they’re written out, they don’t feel or look as bad. You can also track any emotional or physical symptoms so it's easier to recognize potential triggers and problematic behaviors related to stress.
7. Stay hydrated
Staying hydrated is one of the easiest ways to be kind to and care for your body. Dehydration can cause headaches, anxiety, mood swings, fatigue, and dry skin, so staying hydrated is like a daily self-care treatment. If you find plain water a little boring, dress it up with fruit, add some fizz, invest in a fun and functional water bottle, or get your hydration from water-rich fruits and vegetables.
8. Have a spa day
Spa days don’t have to cost an arm and a leg. Facial masks are available at your local markets, beauty supply store, pharmacy, and big box retailers. You can even make DIY facial masks, with ingredients you probably have in your kitchen right now (see my DIY Home Care & Body Care Products Ebook). Put on some soothing music, dim the lights, and soak in a warm Epsom salt bath with some coconut oil added. bath.
9. Take a nap
Napping does not age discriminate! A short20 minute midafternoon nap can boost memory, improve mood, make you more alert, and lower stress levels. Sleep is good for the mind and the body, and most of us are chronically sleep deprived. Give yourself the afternoon, cozy up in bed (maybe under a weighted blanket), and take a good nap.
10. Cook a nourishing meal
Even on self-care days, it’s important to fuel your body with healthy whole foods. It’s much easier to order takeout, especially when you feel like “treating yourself,” but nourishing your body with food that you took the time to prepare can be really special. Pull out treasured recipes or try something completely new, while you give yourself some dedicated time in the kitchen.
11. Get a massage
Massages stimulate the lymphatic system which in turn boosts your immune system. Most professional massages run anywhere from $65 to $180 per session. If you’re unwilling or unable to spare the cost, recruit your significant other. Massage can reduce stress and muscle soreness, promote relaxation, improve circulation, and even lower your blood pressure.
12. Diffuse your favorite scent
Not only are essential oil diffusers a great way to get your space smelling great, but many oils promote feelings of calm and relaxation as well as provide stress relief. Lavender is great for sleep, peppermint can help you focus, and frankincense relieves tension.
13. Change your sheets
It’s amazing what a freshly made bed can do for your mental health. According to dermatologists, we should be changing our sheets at least once per week and our pillowcases two or three times per week. Anyone struggling with their mental health knows that hygiene is often the first thing to fall behind during a period of heightened anxiety or depression, so try to take one small step in this area to help yourself feel better.
14. Unplug yourself
This is easier said than done, but disconnecting will get you back in tune with yourself to decide what you really need. It also gives you an opportunity to be truly present for your community, friends, family, and coworkers. Try putting your phone into airplane mode when you’re eating a meal or setting a curfew for your electronics an hour before bedtime to wind down before sleep.
Self-care is about taking care of your needs so that you can be the best version of yourself. If you have a favorite self-care activity that’s not on this list, do that instead! Self-care days can act as a reset button for when life becomes overwhelming, as a celebration after accomplishing a goal, or as a way to prepare for an upcoming event. If you find yourself needing more self-care days than usual, mental health professionals or wellness professionals like Health Coaches can help you put together a long-term plan for dealing with stress. Change is hard! What if you had a strategy, personalized to meet your needs and fit your lifestyle, from a trained healthcare expert who's been where you are and who will empower you to become all you want to be? NOW, that would be EASY. Click here to schedule your free discovery call.