“You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.” -Buddha
When was the last time you carved out time for yourself? Many of us are living jam packed lives working full-time, caring for children or family members, cooking, cleaning, commuting, shopping, driving kids to and from school and other activities the list goes on. Our days are more packed than they have ever been and yet we live in a time where technology and modern comforts are seemingly supposed to have simplified our lives and freed up our time. We are accustomed to carving out time to do the things we must do versus the things we want to do. Let us talk more about why it is important to carve out time for self-care and what that time might look like for you.
Self-care is a buzzword that we often see on health bloggers sites, all over instagram and throughout advertising. When we hear the word self-care we often think of bubble baths, getting a massage or a day at the spa. Those activities certainly embody what it means to practice ‘self-care’, but it is SO much more than that. Self-care is not about breaking the bank and treating yourself to a day at the spa for $500, self-care is simple, it is about taking care of yourself. The way we each practice self-care looks different and we will dive into different self-care practices and how to create your own. First, let us talk about why it is important.
Now, more than ever self-care is crucial. We have been living in a high stress world and let us be honest, the stress has only risen since we rang in 2020. Pandemics, social injustices, natural disasters and a major election are just a few of the things we have all been dealing with. Oh... and this is all on top of our normal everyday lives. So why should you even have a self-care practice? Practicing self-care reduces our stress levels and helps us stay grounded, happy and healthy. Making time for ourselves and using that time to do things we love and enjoy contributes to an overall sense of well-being which means less stress. Stress is the number one cause of all disease; and what better way to combat it than to carve out time to do something you enjoy. If you have ever felt anxious or all over the place, having a self-care practice you engage in and look forward to is the key to helping you feel a deeper sense of peace and groundedness. Finally, self-care contributes to our overall physical health. Think about it, if you are happy and thriving you will most likely be healthier because you are experiencing less stress. Self-care is not just a buzzword, it is a way of living.
Self-care looks different from person to person, there is no one size fits all. A good place to start when it comes to creating a self-care routine is to ask yourself what do I enjoy doing? Create a comprehensive list of things you love spending your time on and from there narrow it down to your top three. The next question you want to ask yourself is how much time do I have to dedicate to these self-care activities? There is nothing worse than self-care turning into one more thing you have to check off your to-do list because you “committed” to doing it. Make sure that you are carving out enough time for self-care activities but not to the point where it turns into something you are unable to maintain for the long term. You want your self-care practice to be one that is sustainable and something you can do daily or several times a week.
If you have no idea where to start when it comes to self-care and need some ideas, I’ve got you! Below are some of my favorite self-care practices. They are simple and easy to incorporate into your routine. What is even better is that they do not take up too much time and they make a huge difference in the way you feel physically, mentally and emotionally.
If you are a parent or someone with a super busy schedule this one is for you. Take five minutes everyday to just sit in stillness. If the quiet freaks you out turn on some relaxing, ambient background music. There are also dozens of meditation apps out there you could download if you prefer a guided meditation.
This is the most simple self-care practice you can do and it literally takes anywhere from one to three minutes. If you are anxious, stressed or just having a crazy day take a minute to close your eyes and take three deep breaths. Deep breathing activates your parasympathetic nervous system which is responsible for our bodies rest and digestion response.
Walks in Nature
Taking a bath is one of the most relaxing things you can do after a long hard day. If you are someone that is on your feet all day or if you hold a lot of tension in your body long baths are the way to go. Buy yourself a few luxurious bath essentials (soaps
, epsom salts and oils) and spend 30-60 mins soaking in your tub. This is the easiest way to create a spa experience without breaking the bank.
Walking in nature is one of the most healing things you can do for your body, mind and soul. You can go on a walk and get in a bit of exercise or just take off your shoes and ground on the earth for five minutes. Spending 5-10 minutes in natural sunlight, fresh air and amongst beautiful trees is a great way to unwind and reduce stress. In a study on ‘Levels of Nature and Stress Response’ the following was discovered: “Findings suggest that visiting natural environments can be beneficial in reducing both physical and psychological stress levels, with visitors to a natural environment reporting significantly lower levels of stress than their counterparts visiting a more urbanized outdoor setting or indoor exercise facility” (Ewert and Chang, 2018). This is a great self-care practice for those of you that commute to work by car, train, bus, etc. and work long hours at a desk all week.
Dancing or any type of moment you enjoy is such an easy and fun self-care practice to add into your day. If you just got out of a stressful meeting or feel a lot of negative energy building up try turning on your favorite song and moving until the song ends. Dance and moment releases endorphins in the brain which increase our feelings of happiness and relaxation. This is a great self-care activity to do solo or with your loved ones which turns it into a fun dance party!
We have all done it. When we are alone in the car or taking a shower we have belted out our favorite song pretending we are one of the top performers on American Idol. Singing is one of those simple and amazing things that instantly uplifts your mood while also increasing vagal tone. The vagus nerve is the longest nerve in your body that connects your brain to other organs. Essentially, you want to increase your vagal tone because when you do you activate your parasympathetic nervous system (our rest and digest system). If you are someone that spends a lot of time in the car commuting to and from work this one is for you; sing your heart out and in the process flex your vagus nerve and reduce your stress.
Some of the most inspirational and creative individuals made naps a part of their regular schedule. Feel free to check out this article to find out who they are. Taking a nap is the ultimate way to reset your body and your mind. This is a simple self-care tool that goes a long way. While you cannot necessarily catch up on missed sleep, you’ll wake up feeling super refreshed after a 20-30 min nap mid-day.
Whatever you decide to do, the key is to make sure you are doing something you enjoy and something that makes you happy. If you can, try to make self-care a part of your everyday life; start with 5-10 min and build from there. Let your family and friends know when you are going to be engaging in your self-care practice for some extra accountability and to ensure that you will not be interrupted. In order for us to show up to our lives every day and give to others we must be filling up our own cup and the only way to do that is to carve out time for yourself.