These days, it feels as though we’re all in the midst of a self-care crisis.
“Me time” almost always means looking after other people, focusing on workplace projects, or dealing with issues that aren’t related to our emotional, physical, and mental needs. In fact, we constantly tell ourselves that we don’t have enough time for self-care.
While we never seem to have a problem dropping everything to help a friend or family member in need, dropping everything for our own needs is much more difficult. We convince ourselves that self-care is somehow selfish or makes us look weak. But the truth is, we simply can’t be our best selves unless we dedicate some time to support our emotional, physical, and mental health. Without self-care, we become exhausted, overwhelmed, and unable to accomplish our goals.
So, here are 8 simple things we can all do to start taking better care of ourselves:
#1. Get Outside
Home can be an incredibly comforting place, but that doesn’t mean you should spend your entire life within the same four walls. Ditching the comfort of your couch for a couple of hours can be a powerful way to improve your physical and mental health. After all, regular physical activity gets your blood pumping, and fresh air supplies your brain with fresh oxygen.
Additionally, research suggests that being out in nature more often can make us happier. It’s hard to feel miserable when you’re surrounded by beautiful greenery and warm sunshine. Even a walk on a cold winter day can be enough to pick up your mood. If you struggle to find an excuse to get outside, try moving your indoor workout outdoors. Or take a neighbor’s dog for a walk. (Even better, rescue a dog from your local shelter for a never-ending reason to get outside!)
#2. Improve Your Work/Life Balance
These days, work/life balance is an important component of a successful self-care routine. When you’re constantly focusing on work projects and impending deadlines, it’s easy to forget that you need to take care of yourself too. If you struggle to switch off even when you’re away from the office, try setting aside specific time slots when you’re not allowed to check your email or think about your schedule.
A good way to make sure that you stick to these work-free moments is to make time with friends and family instead. It’s hard to race back to your computer throughout the day when you’re with your loved ones, and you’ll find that maintaining your work/life balance is much easier.
#3. Use Mindfulness to Stress Less
We all know that stress is bad for our health, but do you know about secondhand stress? That’s right. Research suggests that stressed people can make others around them experience higher degrees of anxiety. Chances are, if you think you don’t have stress, you may be fooling yourself. The constant pressure of juggling work and family life makes stress a common part of most of our lives.
One way to reduce your stress—at least throughout certain periods of your day—is to engage in a little purposeful mindfulness. Focusing on the present can be a liberating way to relax your mind and minimize feelings of stress and depression.
#4. Drink a Cup of Broth or Herbal Tea
A hot drink also helps you slow down, because you can’t simply drink it in one gulp. You must pause long enough to sip your way through it. During that time, you can slow your breathing, relax your mind, and allow your body and brain to regenerate and face the rest of the day.
#5. Boost Happiness with Meditation
Despite what most people think, daily meditation doesn’t mean you have to sit around and chant for an hour. In fact, you can spend as little as five to ten minutes on meditation to reap the benefits.
Just a few moments to quiet your mind can be enough to eliminate stress and help you deal with complex challenges. Many of us try to push ourselves through one issue after the next, without taking any time to simply relax and recuperate. Unfortunately, this “all-go” approach to life quickly leads to feeling exhausted and overwhelmed. Take a few minutes every day to relax, close your eyes, and let your mind wander. When you’re done, crack a smile and start filling yourself full of positive energy.
#6. Notice Your Nutrition
Good nutrition is a critical component of maintaining a healthy body, mind, and spirit. After all, food is the fuel that keeps you going every day. Unfortunately, not all fuel sources are created equally. While it might be tempting to eat fast food when you’re rushing from one project to the next, it’s important to find time for good proteins and fats, fruits, vegetables, and mineral-packed foods like seaweed.
Planning your meals makes it much easier to get nutrient dense foods into your diet so you can improve your physical health. At the same time, planning also gives you checkpoints to work toward during your day as you’ll need to schedule at least thirty minutes during lunch and dinner to make and eat your healthy meals.
#7. Find Some Quiet
Sometimes it can feel like life is screaming at you from all directions. Your kids are loud. Your job is loud. And when you’re dealing with the constant strain of stress, even your own mind is loud. It’s important let yourself enjoy the experience of quiet from time to time. As we live in an increasingly noisy world, silence can be one of the best ways to relax your mind and spirit.
Sitting quietly in a room or under a tree with nothing but your own thoughts is a great way to help rebalance yourself. It gives you a moment to think about your wants and needs rather than constantly respond to the demands of everything and everyone around you. You don’t need hours of quiet time to see the difference—just twenty to thirty minutes a day can be enough to help you wind down and refocus.
#8. Add Relaxation to Your Schedule
While self-care isn’t always easy, it is essential. That’s why it’s so important to add a period of relaxation into your hectic schedule no matter how busy you are. You can use that R&R however you like. Go for a walk in the sun on a warm day. Treat yourself to a massage once a week. Find something that works for you and give yourself permission to do it.
Depending on what’s going on in your life, the amount of time you can devote to relaxation will go up and down. If you already have some time off work, you can really double down on your self-care. During those more hectic periods, you’ll simply need to be patient with yourself and relax whenever you have the chance.
Image from iStock/ElenaNichizhenova.