Rachel is a lifestyle writer who specialized in women's health, fitness, and wellness.
What Is Self-Care?
Self-care is any activity we do that improves or maintains our mental and emotional health. Today we are all so busy and often stressed, that self-care is falling by the wayside. While some people might consider luxury spa getaways or indulgent shopping sprees to be self-care, there are many (less expensive) ways to relax and recharge.
Need Help Now?
Self-care is at the forefront of mental health conversations. Personal, political, and environmental events can lead to unprecedented levels of grief, social isolation, and financial wreckage. If you're struggling to cope, you are not alone. The NAMI HelpLine can be reached Monday through Friday, 10 am–6 pm Eastern at 1-800-950-6264.
Free Ways to Nurture Your Wellbeing
- Take care of something. A dog, cat, fish, or even a plant. Caring for another living thing sparks a sense of growth and motivation.
- Decorate. We spend a lot of time in our homes these days, and many personal spaces have been converted to home offices or classrooms. Sprucing up these areas with some thrifty decor or pictures printed from your camera roll can bring a sense of calm and peace to a space that sometimes leaves you feeling stuck. Pinterest has loads of budget-friendly decorating ideas!
- Create a gratitude list. This activity can help remind you of the good in your life. You don't have to stop with just one list—you can keep a daily journal to record events, emotions, and memories.
- Meditate. You've probably heard this one before, and you might think it's not for you. There's a lot of misconception and misunderstanding around this ancient practice. All you really need is 15 minutes and a pillow to clear your head and refocus your energy. Try a meditation app, or search for guided meditation videos on YouTube.
- Get crafty. Anybody can make art! Grab some paint, crayons, coloring books, canvas—whatever you can borrow from your kids' supply stock. I personally despise glitter because of how messy it can get, but the choice is yours! You might not know what you intend to create, but that's perfectly fine. Just let it flow, and focus on nothing but that masterpiece. Turning on some soft music might help fuel a creative atmosphere, too.
- Disconnect. This one is much easier said than done, but it has a profound impact on our mental health. With so many apps, calendars, social media sites, and text messages flooding our brains each day, we experience tremendous sensory overload. Do you look at your phone first thing in the morning when you wake up? Put it on the other side of the room and check it after breakfast. Start with one hour of device-free time per day. No phone, no television, no computer. See if you can increase that time to 2 or 3 hours.
- Go outside. Take a hike, walk barefoot through the grass, smell the flowers. Try to be quiet and focus on the sounds of nature. This is an effective way of resetting your sensory system.
- Get physical. Exercise has countless physical health benefits, but it's good for your mental health, too! It doesn't have to be anything intense—walking, dancing, or a yoga class will do the trick. You've heard the phrase, "Dance like no one's watching," right?
- Make time for friends and family. The pandemic has completely changed the way we approach time with our loved ones. While it's not possible to be physically close to the people we care about right now, we can still stay connected via phone, email, and video chat. A simple, casual Zoom chat over coffee can positively alter your mood for the entire day.
- Meet new people with shared interests. Social gathering apps like Meetup are adapting to our current state of social distancing to offer virtual meetings with interesting groups. Connect with like-minded people who enjoy art, writing poetry, or learning to code. Once we're able to safely gather in person again, you'll have new friends to try outdoor activities or dining experiences!
Wellness Benefits of Self-Care
- Increased productivity. Slowing down and concentrating on our mental wellbeing helps us refocus on the present moment. We can prioritize better, and tackle our to-do list with renewed energy.
- Self-discovery. What do you LOVE to do? Do you know? Some people can answer this pretty easily, but many cannot. Somewhere along the line, as our responsibilities grow and our plates become more full, we lose touch with ourselves and what makes us happy. Self-care is a way of reconnecting with ourselves.
- Compassion for others. When we neglect our own needs, we put ourselves at risk for low self-esteem, and feelings of resentment. This unhappiness can, unintentionally, spill over onto those we care about. Taking time to care for yourself regularly can make you a better friend, parent, spouse, or boss.
When we're overwhelmed by our jobs, home life, or social obligations, self-care is usually the first thing to be cut from our agenda. Self-care is crucial. It helps reduce stress and burnout, and enables us to refocus.
The most powerful relationship you will ever have is the relationship with yourself.
— Diane Von Furstenberg
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This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2018 Rachel Hezel