There is no cure for stress. And sometimes when we are in the thick of it we forget to pay attention to ourselves and we might forget to take care of ourselves. Or we remember to take care of ourselves but place that priority at the bottom of our list. This is where self-care comes in. Self care is so important, because, as the name indicates, it’s the act of caring for the self. Paying attention to and caring for yourselves is one of the most important things you can do. You cannot properly engage in whatever commitments you need to tend to unless your self is in solid, reliable condition.
When you’re stretched for time, or are struggling to give yourself the care you deserve, there are some simpler activities that you can engage in to help center and show care for yourself. These self-care activities are by no mans a cure, but they might help you to feel better. Even acknowledging the fact that you need to take five minutes for yourself will help. You are an important, living, breathing, loving being, and you need to take care of yourself too.
16 Self Care Tips
1. Go for a Walk
Pressing the pause button on whatever is occupying me and going for a walk has been one of my favorite activities since I was able to appreciate the therapy of fresh air my sophomore year of college. Walking as a practice helps both aerobically and also emotionally, as the experience of walking helps to clear and reset your mind. Here’s an article that details further the benefits of walking: How Nature Changes the Brain
2. Do a Craft
If you have a go-to stress reducing craft, then by all means go for that (knitting, cross-stitch, painting). Otherwise, you could kill two birds with one stone by making a DIY heated neck pillow (DIY Therapeutic Neck Pillows). I made one of these on a rainy day and then enjoyed my work by relishing the benefits of a heated pillow on my neck and shoulders. Next, I’m going to try painting. My therapist recommended “painting my feelings” and so I’m gonna give that a whirl.
3. Drink a cup (or more) of Chamomile Tea
Chamomile tea has the medicinal ability to calm your body, and in response, slow your mind. The herbal scent and taste can provide your body with ease, and maybe enough so to aid in combatting stress and anxiety. You can find chamomile tea at nearly any grocer, or you could even grow your own chamomile flowers and concoct your own take on an herbal remedy.
4. Hug a Friend or Wrap Yourself in a Weighted Blanket
Ask a friend for a hug, and hug them tightly. This one is rather self-explanatory, and the hormone released by hugging, Oxytocin, promotes positive feelings. Alternatively, wrap yourself in a weighted blanket. I’ve been using this one while sleeping for the past several months and it’s helped me fall asleep faster, calm my twitchy/restless legs, and feel more relaxed and rested in the mornings. You can find it on amazon and there are many sizes, colors, and weights to choose from to find one that’s just right for you. Zonli Weighted Blanket.
5. Eat your Favorite Snack
We are (hopefully) all familiar with treating ourselves, and now is of course a time to continue doing so. So indulge in your favorite snack! Chocolate is a fine go-to, which many tout can actually improve your mood. Nutrient rich snacks will provide for longer-lasting benefits to your health, but a little sugar or chocolate in moderation won’t hurt either. If Reese’s cups are your guilty pleasure, let yourself have them.
6. Try Yoga
The ancient practice of yoga has been long acclaimed for its various health benefits. Aside from the athletic, flexibility, and other physical benefits, a yoga practice offers a set time you are committing to yourself. The focus on breathing and meditation in yoga also helps you to deal with stress and attain mental well-being. If a yoga class isn’t for you, or you want to try before you buy, I recommend Yoga with Adrienne (Yoga with Adrienne). She has tons of videos for all skill levels (including beginners!) as well as a variety of types of yoga. Check out her page and do some yoga from the comfort of your own home.
7. Write your Feelings in a Journal
Writing in a journal is a classic trick that will make you feel akin to the 12-year-old you that wrote your daily thoughts and activities in a diary. However, if you already like to write, I can almost guarantee that this practice will help you to feel less mentally cluttered. Try taking pen to paper and writing about how your feelings show up in your body. Expressing my feelings through words has helped me to create space between my feelings and my mind, and has helped me to understand that most of my thoughts are not as daunting as they initially seem. I hope you can find this same relieving effect.
8. Go for a Swim
Swimming isn’t for everyone, but if you know how to swim and feel comfortable going to your local pool, (or a natural body of water if you have the access!) I highly recommend it. I’ve been a swimmer my whole life, and although I had my frustrations with the sport, I cannot deny the peace and ease that literally washes over my body every time I jump into the pool. Contact with water has been shown to improve mood and instill a state of “blue mind” where you feel freed from your daily distractions and stimuli and enter a state where you can find peace.
Meditation does not need to look like sitting on the floor in silence for 30 minutes whilst thinking about nothing. This mental image, what I thought “meditation” is supposed to look like, is what kept me from trying it for so many years. My current therapist was the one to finally convince me to try the practice. Having a background in science and health, I was intrigued by the potential meditation has for changing the way the brain works, and receives and relays information. I like to use this app: Insight Timer Meditation App, as you can select how long you have to meditate and go from there. (Combine walking and meditating for a 2-for-1-stress buster). My favorite meditation guide is Sarah Blondin. I recommend any and every meditation by her. Some meditations are as short as 5 minutes! And I know everyone can make 5 minutes for a meditation. Another good (and free!) app for meditation is Headspace Meditation App.
10. Take a Bath with Epsom Salt
I first tried taking a bath with Epsom salt after it was recommended to me after a massage several years ago. Epsom salt is lauded to relieve aches and pains and also aid in relaxation. If the act of taking a bath was not relaxing enough, adding Epsom Salt to your bath will take it to another level. And once your bath is over, your body will reap the calming benefits well into the next day or two. Further the benefits of your bath by lighting a lavender or other serenely-scented candle, like this one I recently snagged for a bargain at Target (Be Peaceful Candle). Engaging additional senses in your stress relieving practice will increase the benefits you feel. Taking a bath is particularly helpful if, like me, with stress you tend to clench certain muscles or parts of your body. Relaxing your body will help to relax your mind.
11. Scream into your Pillow
I just recently saw the movie Wild, where, during her hike along the Pacific Crest Trail, Reese Witherspoon screams into the void of the wilderness. This scream looked absolutely exhilarating, and I thought, how could I practice that kind of release? If you don’t have a “wilderness” or a “void” handy to scream into, instead try screaming into your pillow. This is a quick fix, but boy does it feel fantastic.
12. Go for a Run
This practice isn’t for everyone, but I do know many people that tout the mentally clarifying effects of running. If it’s for you, you know what to do. If not, you don’t need to run for long! As little as 10 minutes can get your heart beating and your brain pumping those feel-good endorphins.
Reading a book is still one of my favorite ways to distract myself from stress or anxiety. It might not stand as a healing practice, but sometimes a practice like reading a book can help you slow down and center yourself enough to engage in another, more healing practice. A light, yet captivating story makes for a good stress-reducing read. Conversely, return to a book you know you enjoyed and relive the magic all over again.
Laughing always makes me feel good, or at least better. If you have the time, several shows that I go to for some laughs are the Office, Parks and Recreation, or Arrested Development. Episodes are usually only about 20 minutes! The act of laughing releases Endorphins (natural pain killers), Serotonin (prevents agitation and worrying), and Dopamine (creates blissful feeling), amongst other feel-good hormones.
15. Call or Talk to a Friend
Call a friend, and do more listening than talking. I have found that when I can be there for a friend, it helps to distract me from getting in my own head or magnifying my own problems. And so, calling a friend might not be a cure for your stress and anxiety but listening to a friendly voice, and knowing that you are still strong enough to help them will help you to feel at ease.
16. Take a Nap
If you are exhausted, let yourself take a nap! Being tired is your body’s way of telling you that you need sleep, and you shouldn’t feel guilty about indulging that. If it’s the middle of the day or light outside, try this eye mask, which has done wonders for my nap game (Imak Eye Mask). Use a weighted blanket for an even better nap experience.