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.
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!)
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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