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15 Self-Care Ideas for When You’re Feeling Down

15 Self-Care Ideas for When You’re Feeling Down

I suck at self-care. I don’t get it. Am I supposed to take care of my physical biological needs? I already do that. Am I supposed to go buy myself a coffee, sit down and journal for an hour each day? Who’s supposed to watch my kid during this? Get a pedicure? As if I can afford that. Rub my own feet? Unsatisfying. I’ve had many counselors and friends explain and re-explain the importance of self-care to me, and I’m finally begin to understand how significant it really is for my emotional well-being.

Here are my favorite 15 self-care ideas for when I’m feeling down.

1. Write

Get a journal that you keep handy to write whatever you need to. Sometimes it’s helpful to slow down and write about a problem, fear, struggle, or memory. Writing by hand will help you to slow down and process your situation more fully. But sometimes you might not want to write about the struggle or pain. It’s too difficult. So if you’re feeling like it’s too raw to process, just write about your day or make a list of your favorite candies or movies. Just write.

2. Talk to a friend, family member or even pet!

Verbalize your pain. Making yourself speak out loud about your emotions will help you to not isolate yourself or allow yourself to spiral into an emotional tsunami that is hard to escape from. If the situation feels too personal, just share it will your dog! I’m certain Spot will keep your secret, and in my experience, my dog is sometimes the very best comforter. (And she’s certainly the least judgmental listener I know!)

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3. Cry

Let the tears flow. The best way to take care of yourself is to let yourself feel the emotions you need to feel. Bottling up your sadness or anger is not going to help you move past it. If you plant pain, you grow bitterness.

4. Move your body

You’ve heard it before: exercise releases endorphins and “endorphins make you happy, and happy people just don’t shoot their husbands!” (Elle Woods, Legally Blonde) If you can get yourself to do some yoga or go for a run, then you will seriously be doing yourself a service. But sometimes, just a walk around the block is enough to care for yourself when you’re feeling emotionally raw.

5. Shower

The shower is a place to be alone and focus on yourself without forcing yourself to engage the deep stuff if you don’t want to. You can mull over your parents’ divorce in the hot water, or you could focus or lathering up your shampoo. You need both and both are good you.

6. Make food

Don’t just eat, but make food. Cooking is a tactile and productive activity that will nourish your body and mind. The physical act of caring enough to make yourself a meal is a practical way to show yourself some love.

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7. Blow bubbles or color

As juvenile as it sounds, blowing bubbles or coloring in a coloring book are simple, easy ways to ground yourself in the reality of your situation and relieve some stress. Allow yourself to return to childhood activities and feel a lightness return to your spirit. These are also great activities to engage in if you experience panic attacks or PTSD related flash backs.

8. Deep breathing

Practice breathing in for 8 seconds through your nose and exhaling for 8 seconds through your mouth. This conscious effort to slow down is a great start to gaining perspective. Plus, the added oxygen to your brain will help you calm down, lower your heart rate and quell rising stress levels.

9. Interact with an animal

Scientific studies have shown that interacting with an animal will lower your heart rate, drop your blood pressure and reduce stress. Care for yourself by caring for your pet! Your pet will thank you for it, and you will benefit greatly as well!

10. Sleep

It is not uncommon for people to slog through life on five hours of sleep or less. Our bodies are not created to thrive on so little sleep. We need a chance to turn off and recharge and if we aren’t given that opportunity in sleep, our physical and emotional health will struggle. I am extremely guilty of not giving my body the rest it needs. If I’m having a bad day or my emotions are getting the best of me, I can almost always point to the poor sleep I got the night before as the culprit. Make rest a priority and give yourself the gift of sleep.

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11. Have boundaries

Boundaries are not popular in today’s culture. We often over schedule ourselves and over commit out of a sense of obligation to others. But if you aren’t able to bring your best self to the table then you aren’t doing anyone a service by overexerting yourself. Establish healthy boundaries with your calendar, your work and your relationships. Give yourself the time you need to take care of yourself so you can better take care of others.

12. Cultivate a hobby

Teach yourself to knit. Buy a scrapbook. Start a blog. Attend a class where you drink wine and paint. Create a hobby that is just for you and brings you joy. Having an intentional activity in your life that serves no end other than to bring you happiness will go a long way to foster healthy self-care.

13. Try something new

You can care for your mental health by challenging your mind to learn and expand. You will give yourself a boost by pushing your boundaries and stepping outside your comfort zone. Take a new route home from work. Go to an ethnic restaurant you’ve never tried. Learn a language with Rosetta Stone. Challenge your mind and it will be grateful for it.

14. Meditate or pray

Accessing your spirit/soul through meditation and pray is essential to holistic human health. Allowing yourself to really think about your values and beliefs will help you to feel more solid in your identity. Even if you don’t unlock the Truth of the Universe, or completely understand God or Divinity, giving yourself to space to engage with those big questions will go a long way in your emotional and spiritual life. It’s okay to not have all the answers, but you have to start letting yourself ask the questions.

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15. Hug someone

Hug someone, or hold hands with a loved one. We need physical touch. We are hardwired to physically encounter other people, and our culture is becoming more and more digitized which is eliminating opportunities for essential non-sexual human contact. Let yourself linger in a hug from a friend or ask your partner to give you a non-sexual back rub. We need more of this kind of contact in order to be healthier and happier people.

This list is just a start! Begin the practice of consciously taking care of yourself and you will never regret it.

Featured photo credit: Ed Gregory via stokpic.com

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Emily Myrin

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Last Updated on August 20, 2019

Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

Most of the skills I use to make a living are skills I’ve learned on my own: Web design, desktop publishing, marketing, personal productivity skills, even teaching! And most of what I know about science, politics, computers, art, guitar-playing, world history, writing, and a dozen other topics, I’ve picked up outside of any formal education.

This is not to toot my own horn at all; if you stop to think about it, much of what you know how to do you’ve picked up on your own. But we rarely think about the process of becoming self-taught. This is too bad, because often, we shy away from things we don’t know how to do without stopping to think about how we might learn it — in many cases, fairly easily.

The way you approach the world around you dictates to a great degree whether you will find learning something new easy or hard. Learning comes easily to people who have developed:

Curiosity

Being curious means you look forward to learning new things and are troubled by gaps in your understanding of the world. New words and ideas are received as challenges and the work of understanding them is embraced.

People who lack curiosity see learning new things as a chore — or worse, as beyond their capacities.

Patience

Depending on the complexity of a topic, learning something new can take a long time. And it’s bound to be frustrating as you grapple with new terminologies, new models, and apparently irrelevant information.

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When you are learning something by yourself, there is nobody to control the flow of information, to make sure you move from basic knowledge to intermediate and finally advanced concepts.

Patience with your topic, and more importantly with yourself is crucial — there’s no field of knowledge that someone in the world hasn’t managed to learn, starting from exactly where you are.

A Feeling for Connectedness

This is the hardest talent to cultivate, and is where most people flounder when approaching a new topic.

A new body of knowledge is always easiest to learn if you can figure out the way it connects to what you already know. For years, I struggled with calculus in college until one day, my chemistry professor demonstrated how to do half-life calculations using integrals. From then on, calculus came much easier, because I had made a connection between a concept I understood well (the chemistry of half-lifes) and a field I had always struggled in (higher maths).

The more you look for and pay attention to the connections between different fields, the more readily your mind will be able to latch onto new concepts.

With a learning attitude in place, working your way into a new topic is simply a matter of research, practice, networking, and scheduling:

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1. Research

Of course, the most important step in learning something new is actually finding out stuff about it. I tend to go through three distinct phases when I’m teaching myself a new topic:

Learning the Basics

Start as all things start today: Google it! Somehow people managed to learn before Google ( I learned HTML when Altavista was the best we got!) but nowadays a well-formed search on Google will get you a wealth of information on any topic in seconds.

Surfing Wikipedia articles is a great way to get a basic grounding in a new field, too — and usually the Wikipedia entry for your search term will be on the first page of your Google search.

What I look for is basic information and then the work of experts — blogs by researchers in a field, forums about a topic, organizational websites, magazines. I subscribe to a bunch of RSS feeds to keep up with new material as it’s posted, I print out articles to read in-depth later, and I look for the names of top authors or top books in the field.

Hitting the Books

Once I have a good outline of a field of knowledge, I hit the library. I look up the key names and titles I came across online, and then scan the shelves around those titles for other books that look interesting.

Then, I go to the children’s section of the library and look up the same call numbers — a good overview for teens is probably going to be clearer, more concise, and more geared towards learning than many adult books.

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Long-Term Reference

While I’m reading my stack of books from the library, I start keeping my eyes out for books I will want to give a permanent place on my shelves. I check online and brick-and-mortar bookstores, but also search thrift stores, used bookstores, library book sales, garage sales, wherever I happen to find myself in the presence of books.

My goal is a collection of reference manuals and top books that I will come back to either to answer thorny questions or to refresh my knowledge as I put new skills into practice. And to do this cheaply and quickly.

2. Practice

Putting new knowledges into practice helps us develop better understandings now and remember more later. Although a lot of books offer exercises and self-tests, I prefer to jump right in and build something: a website, an essay, a desk, whatever.

A great way to put any new body of knowledge into action is to start a blog on it — put it out there for the world to see and comment on.

Just don’t lock your learning up in your head where nobody ever sees how much you know about something, and you never see how much you still don’t know.

3. Network

One of the most powerful sources of knowledge and understanding in my life have been the social networks I have become embedded in over the years — the websites I write on, the LISTSERV I belong to, the people I talk with and present alongside at conferences, my colleagues in the department where I studied and the department where I now teach, and so on.

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These networks are crucial to extending my knowledge in areas I am already involved, and for referring me to contacts in areas where I have no prior experience. Joining an email list, emailing someone working in the field, asking colleagues for recommendations, all are useful ways of getting a foothold in a new field.

Networking also allows you to test your newly-acquired knowledge against others’ understandings, giving you a chance to grow and further develop.

4. Schedule

For anything more complex than a simple overview, it pays to schedule time to commit to learning. Having the books on the shelf, the top websites bookmarked, and a string of contacts does no good if you don’t give yourself time to focus on reading, digesting, and implementing your knowledge.

Give yourself a deadline, even if there is no externally imposed time limit, and work out a schedule to reach that deadline.

Final Thoughts

In a sense, even formal education is a form of self-guided learning — in the end, a teacher can only suggest and encourage a path to learning, at best cutting out some of the work of finding reliable sources to learn from.

If you’re already working, or have a range of interests beside the purely academic, formal instruction may be too inconvenient or too expensive to undertake. That doesn’t mean you have to set aside the possibility of learning, though; history is full of self-taught successes.

At its best, even a formal education is meant to prepare you for a life of self-guided learning; with the power of the Internet and the mass media at our disposal, there’s really no reason not to follow your muse wherever it may lead.

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Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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