Over the weekend, I participated in a daylong, mini-retreat, dedicated to forming deep connection, healing and self-reflection. I donated a candle and some self-care tips to the swag bag and wanted to expand on them here.
There is an unfortunate misconception that self-care only counts when you are spending time or money to take care of yourself. Sure, spending the day at a spa or getting a mani/pedi are great ways to take care of yourself if you have the time and resources to do so. But if you do not have the luxury of time or additional income, it is easy to make excuses about why you can’t take care of yourself. Instead, it is more important to find realistic ways to take care of yourself everyday.
Here are six self-care tips that you can practice everyday (that doesn’t include a pedicure).
1. Cultivate meaningful relationships
Building and maintaining strong relationships, help create a healthier you. Let’s admit that a bad relationship is draining and can lead to feelings of stress, negativity and an overall emptiness. A good relationship; however, can be a huge stress buffer and can also help improve your physical health. Research suggests that social ties are just as important to your long-term health as diet and exercise.
Meaningful or strong relationships are those relationships that make you feel good. These relationships fill you up; give you new energy and light. Creating them takes a certain amount of openness and vulnerability. Maintaining them involves continued work and positive interactions.
When I think about an interaction within a strong relationship I think about two questions: 1) How do I want this person to feel about me at the end of my interaction; and 2) How do I want to feel about this person at the end of this interaction. If you are constantly meeting a friend’s needs, but she is never meeting yours; she might feel great about the relationship; however, you may have a more negative view about it.
Creating and maintaining meaningful relationships does take some effort. But the payoff is well worth it. Meaningful relationships have a strong physical and emotional component. Laughing with your friends can actual reduce stress hormones and increase infection-fighting antibodies, as well as release endorphins that make you feel good all over. It is the strong connections that we make with others that helps us to continue our own purpose.
2. Think before reacting
We have the ability to think before we react, yet so many of us react on impulse. Being so reactionary can wreak havoc in our lives. When we don’t think things through we may make impulsive decisions, stick our foot in our mouths, unintentionally hurt someone we care about or be self-destructive.
All of us have an internal pause button. This allows us to stop, think and respond mindfully in every situation. Yes, every situation. In one therapy session, I suggested to my client to “take a beat” before responding so defensively in her relationships. “Taking a beat” as her internal pause button became an effective tool for her. She shared that she would sometimes say to herself, “take a beat” before answering a work email, scolding her children or talking back to her husband. This helped her to react to situations with less anger, irritability and defensiveness.
Of course, you will have negative reactions and responses and sometimes these reactions are warranted. But by allowing yourself time to regroup and reconsider, you may have an easier time regulating your emotions. So the next time you are about to react, try grounding yourself by counting to 10, engaging in some breath work or simply thinking before reacting.
3. Learn to say no
Learning to say no is very difficult. Many of us feel obligated to say yes when someone is asking for our time or energy. However, if you are already stressed and overworked, saying yes to a friend, loved one or coworker can lead to anxiety, irritability and burnout.
Saying no does not have to be curt. Rather saying no should be respectful, kind and consistent. Outlining your own boundaries and limitations can make saying no, seem easier and in line with taking care of yourself.
Saying no to others takes practice, but once you can learn to politely say no, you will feel incredibly empowered by the new control you have over your own life. By not giving away your time and energy to others so willingly, you can commit to self-care and doing things that you want to do. It is so important to learn to say no to others and yes to yourself as a practice of self-care.
4. Prioritize Sleep
I hear many people say they do not need a lot of sleep. Sometimes they even brag that they can sleep very few hours and still function. While perhaps this is true for very few people, the truth is that someone who is not sleeping is not functioning—at least not functioning at their potential. To me, this indicates that the person is not taking very good care of himself or herself.
Sleep has an impact on both your emotional and physical health. Not getting enough sleep can lead to major health problems, including the increase in mood disorders, such as depression, mania or anxiety.
Start making sleep part of your self-care routine. Develop good sleep hygiene. Sleep hygiene are the habits and practices that are conducive to good sleep. Good sleep hygiene may include turning off lights throughout the house, staying away from caffeine, sugar and alcohol close to bedtime and avoiding screen time—research has found that exposure to blue light (the light found on your smart phone or iPad) suppresses the production of melatonin (the sleep hormone).
So the next time you hit the sack early or get your full eight-hours of sleep, know that you are practicing good self-care and properly preparing for the next day to come!
5. Practice Mindfulness
5. Practice Mindfulness
There are so many ways to practice mindfulness. Mindfulness is the practice of being present and aware in the moment—letting go of all distracting thoughts and feelings, without judgment. This shift in mindset will amplify your self-care routine and boost your mood as well.
Here are some ways to practice mindfulness
Just notice and observe
Get off of your phone or device
Enjoy good company
Exercise without judging yourself
Eat and really taste your food
Do one thing in the moment
When you treat yourself, relish in it
Take the time to be present where you are
Actively tune into music
Walk outside without any distractions
Journal without censoring yourself
Do a body scan
Lose yourself in a story
Focus on the exhale and inhale of your breath
Look out the window
6. Honor Your Emotional Health
It can be difficult to honor your emotional health in general, and it can be even more difficult if you suffer from a mental illness. Learning to honor your emotional health is a freeing and caring experience. It takes a lot of self-love and self-compassion.
To honor your emotional health be real about what you are truly feeling; grant yourself permission to feel; and get emotional support. You can do something every day to honor your emotional health and respect your current state. If self-care tips are not helping you manage your mental and emotional health consider getting support from a mental health professional and seeking therapy.