08 Feb The ABC’s of Self-Care and Stress Reduction
There is no better time than today to adopt a self-care practice. Science shows taking time to tune in to your own needs leads to emotional stability, a stronger immune system and better relationships with others. Many people forget to take care of themselves before helping others, but it is vital. In the time it takes you to scroll through your social media feed or read an article about a celebrity, you could have been practicing self-care (and yes, sometimes trashy magazines count as a self-care practice).
Two Types of Self-Care Activities
You are likely already engaging in some self-care activities, so keep up the good work! Remember, self-care isn’t always “luxurious” or relaxing. There is boring self-care too, but this counts and can have so many benefits to your mind and body. I like to put self-care activities in two categories. There is instant self-care, which is the stuff that feels good while you’re doing it or right afterward, like playing with a puppy or taking a bath. The other type is boring self-care like organizing your junk drawer (so you can finally find what your looking for). These activities reduce emotional vulnerability, improve confidence and help you feel in control.
I’ve created an alphabetical list of many ways to incorporate self-care activities into your life no matter how busy you are. It’s important to be mindful of the things you are already doing that count as self-care activities, from taking a nap to scheduling your next doctor appointment. Self-care is important to your wellbeing so make sure you’re keeping track of what you are doing to ensure you’re getting enough emotional self-care.
The ABC’s of Self-Care Activities List
Use the alphabetical list of self-care activities below to pick one or two activities that you want to try today. Aim for one each day to start a self-care practice and improve your mental health.
- Airplane mode. Allow yourself time to disconnect from your phone. Try putting it in airplane mode for 15-20 minutes (you can set the alarm, so you don’t forget) and engage fully in your life.
Bend and stretch. Take a minute to tune into your body and place your attention on areas that need a little TLC.
- Clean up an area of your home. Take five minutes to organize that sock drawer that causes you to feel frazzeled in the morning. Taking time to help your future self feel less stressed is a huge deal.
- Drink more water and keep track of how much you are getting today. Make an effort to help your body detox and get hydrated.
- Edit who you follow on social media. Take five minutes to delete people or profiles that trigger you. Also, exercise for a few minutes—even five minutes of sweating activates endorphins.
- Find a deal. It feels good, makes you feel in control of your life and saves you money. Go online for a few minutes before you head out for holiday shopping or before buying anything. See if you can find a coupon or discount code.
- Give away something. It feels good to give to others, doesn’t it? Donate your time, some gently used coats or toys to a shelter in your neighborhood or a few dollars to an organization.
- Hug someone, a friend, an animal or yourself for a full 10 seconds. Oxytocin is released when you are feeling love—this a chemical in your body that grounds you and helps you feel safe.
- Intense exercise for two to five minutes. Exercising for a short period will help your body get rid of negative energy. Try walking at a fast pace, doing jumping jacks, or try the ‘7 Minute Workout.’ Exercise naturally releases endorphins, which will help combat any uncomfortable emotions like anger, anxiety, or sadness.
Join a group. An online forum that offers support for something you’re struggling with, a community cause that is important to you, even a book club brings connection and a new activity to look forward to.
- Kundalini Yoga. Try a short Kundalini yoga video on YouTube, their meditations often help you feel more energized and self-aware.
- Listen to your body—what does it need? More veggies? Some H2O? How about vitamins? When you tune in your body, it tells you what’s up—respect it and it will respect you. Or, listen to soothing music or a guided meditation to help your mind get clear so you can listen to your body.
- Meal prep a few days ahead of time. Chop, package, freeze or order items so you can enjoy the process of cooking or eating rather than stressing out about time or the items you forgot to buy.
- “No.” It is a complete sentence and it’s a major act of self-care. It’s hard to do and many people have a hard time putting themselves first and feel uncomfortable flexing their assertiveness muscle, but it is key to building self-esteem. When you take on too much, slide into the role of people-pleaser or you simply don’t want to do something, saying no is important.
- Organize something. Take a minute to clean out a drawer, your bag or arrange a corner of your home so that it’s pleasing to your eyes.
- Play with toys, games or crafts. Activate your creative side and honor your inner child.
- Quiet time. Spend five minutes without distractions and tune in. Your brain will benefit big time and your nervous system becomes more regulated (less anxiety and more happy vibes fill your body). Or, quit something. Is there a membership you are paying for that you never use? Quit it and save some money.
Read a real book (or magazine). Remember the smell of paper and holding the weight of a book? This engages your senses and helps you feel grounded. Do this for a few minutes and see how you feel.
- Schedule appointments or set reminders so that you are coping ahead with schedule changes and routines. Make the dentist appointment, set up a reminder for your credit card, do something proactive for your mental and physical health.
- Try a delivery service. Amazon, local supermarkets, and many online retailers have made life easier with scheduled deliveries (weekly or monthly), and many are less expensive than traditional shopping. Save gas, time and a trip to the store.
- Use the good towels or fancy condiments. Don’t wait for the guests or the ‘right time’ to use the items that you’ve been saving. You deserve to feel special today, not tomorrow.
- Validate yourself. Remind yourself how well you are doing. Give yourself some credit.
- Write out your intentions and spend a few minutes with paper and a pencil. When you write the old school way, your brain remembers and activates the creative side of your brain.
- XOXO. Show yourself or someone in your life some love.
- Yap away. Talking can transform your mood and help you feel connected to others. Call a friend or FaceTime with a family member. The connection is vital for self-care so make sure you’re talking and taking time to listen too.
- Zen out. Take a meditation break, do some deep breathing, light the incense and carve out a few minutes to just be with yourself.
Which activities for self-care will you try this week? Remember you must take time to put yourself first, schedule it, plan ahead and make sure you are giving your body and mind the love and support it needs.
Authored by: Emily Roberts, MA LPC