“A Better Me” is a series that explores ways we can look inward and be the best version of ourselves we can be. Try staying connected with yourself this year with these six easy self-care tips.
Self-care is a concept that more of us have started taking more seriously in the last year. With our lives shifting and changing in new ways, it’s only natural that many people are looking for ways to destress.
“We are taught from a young age not to prioritize ourselves, because it’s deemed to be selfish behavior,” says Megan Harrison, a licensed relationship counselor in Tampa, Florida. “Because of this, many adults inadvertently sacrifice their own happiness for the sake of others, putting their own physical and mental well–being last.”
Self-care is all about putting yourself first by paying attention to your needs and promoting healthy mindsets. When you prioritize your physical and mental well-being, you avoid burnout, are able to slow down and enjoy life, and can give more back into your relationships with others. The key to keeping up with self-care is to establish routines that bring you comfort and joy. Here are six self-care tips to make the practice a habit that helps each day feel a bit lighter.
The phrase “laughter is the best medicine” is true for a reason. Laughter can reduce stress hormones and even improve overall system function. There are many ways to incorporate laughter into your daily routine. From YouTube or TikTok viral videos, to browsing Netflix for a good sitcom, these activities actually help lower stress. There are also daily newsletters like Unreadit’s Funny newsletter that deliver much-needed laughter to your inbox daily. If you’re missing live comedy, a variety of comedians have been putting on online shows that you can livestream for a few laughs.
You can make this a social activity too. Plan a weekly get-together with friends to catch up and socialize; laughter comes naturally when you’re in good company. Or get the whole family in on it and plan a family movie night or destress together with some coloring pages and crosswords.
Invest in a food club
One major source of stress can be the struggle to eat well while being tempted by every snack in your house. To make it easier, why not try out a food club? Harry & David’s Fruit-of-the-Month Club delivers hand-picked seasonal fruit to your door every month. This removes some of the hassle of shopping and gives the easier choice to grab a delicious orange or pear rather than resorting to the candy and salty snacks you have in the pantry. With a variety of options for organic, exotic, and citrus fruits, you‘ll always have something new at arm’s reach.
Plan daily breaks
With our hectic lifestyles, sometimes we can forget to slow down until it’s bedtime. However, daily breaks have been shown to help restore creativity, motivation, and sharpen our decision-making skills. Karen Lewis, a busy mother of twins, created the blog Watered Daily with the idea of practicing self-maintenance with the same attention one might show a beloved plant or pet. “Taking just a few minutes out of my day has reduced stress, increased productivity, allowed me to better manage my mindset and boasted my energy,” she says. “Instead of survival mode, think of self-care mode and give yourself that extra lift to get through the day.”
Start with scheduling in 15-minute planned breaks every day. This can be a walk around the block, an episode of your favorite show, a chapter of a new book, or a phone call with a friend. Or it might even mean savoring some chocolates and wine after dinner, or treating yourself to a relaxing bubble bath. Regardless of the activity, it should be something that brings a sense of joy and comfort and one that shifts your mental activity for a short while.
Try meditation and mindful breathing during one of your breaks. Proper breathing exercises can help you manage stress, reduce negative emotions, and increase creativity. Even what you breathe in should be considered. Scented candles can alleviate anxiety, promote feelings of joy and ease, and support a restful sleep. And who wouldn’t want to breathe in the delicious scents of peach gardenia, cozy vanilla spice, and orange blossom?
Engage in mindful activities
Mindfulness means to be present and aware of what’s happening around you. It can be cultivated in a variety of ways. A daily yoga practice, a familiar walking route, or a few minutes of stretching are all activities that can get you out of autopilot and focused on the present moment. Start with a few minutes of a mindful practice every day (morning stretches are a good time to do this) as a way to incorporate some simple self-care.
Journal or life plan
One way to implement self-care is to explore your thoughts or future goals through writing. This gets you reflecting on what’s important to you, writing away any stressors, and considering what you’d like to achieve going forward. Journaling prompts are a good way to get to know yourself, too. Write about what gives you energy, what your ideal day looks like, or what you’d like to learn more about. If you’re the type who loves to plan, invest in a high-quality planning journal to inspire future goals.
Journaling is also a great way to become more aware of your inner narrative. Kate McGuinness, an executive coach and the author of Confidence Lost / Confidence Found: How to Reclaim the Unstoppable You, advises that instead of focusing on failures—real or perceived—make a list of your accomplishments and most redeeming qualities. “Try to see yourself through the eyes of someone who loves you,” she says. “Edit your inner monologue to minimize self-criticism.” Writing these down in a journal can draw attention to your thought patterns and allow you to explore ways to change them.
Do exercise that you actually enjoy
The point of self-care is to do something that you actually like to do, whether that means finding a streaming dance class or taking your bicycle out for a spin. Movement can be an exciting way to boost self-care, but not every workout needs to be high-intensity. Listen to yourself and if you’re feeling that cardio class, go for it! Does restorative yoga sound better some days? It’s your call! Listening to what your body needs can help your workout feel much more satisfying than dreadful.
The key to self-care is to find a practice that’s sustainable for you! That may mean beginning with five minutes of stretching in the morning before you forget, taking a short walk on your lunch break between meetings, or scheduling journaling time once a week. Starting small is okay—and setting reminders on your smartphone is helpful—because it’s more important that you can sustain your habits and slowly build on them than start too big and turn them into more “to-dos.” Remember it’s ultimately about finding what works for you, so find what self-care tips work for you and run with it. Running may actually be one of them!