Today is my 30th birthday! What better way to celebrate a personal, rather self-indulgent occasion than with a tribute to self-care? 😉 Why self-care? Because self-care is SO integral to your health.
What is self-care? Self-care is care provided for you, by you. It's about recognizing your personal needs and taking steps to meet them.
Why is self-care important? Because of the oxygen mask. You know the drill - if you're on an aircraft and are in an emergency situation, you must affix your own oxygen mask before helping others with theirs. It works the same way when it comes to health and care-giving. You are MUCH more effective at caring for and pouring into others when you are cared for and your metaphorical cup is full.
I feel like self-care has gotten a bit trendier lately, and you can often see posts on social media about massages, spa days, shopping trips and more all heralded under self-care, self-love, treat yo'self, etc. Yes, a massage sounds amazing, but that's not something that is practical for everyday life. So how do we make self-care an everyday thing?
Have a Self-Care Mindset. Know what works for you and what you need to feel and function at your best. Kasey at Well-Fed Soul says, " I've realized that self care is also a mindset too- saying no to things you don't have time for but clearing your schedule when a friend is in town."
Create a Restorative Routine. Sometimes the actions of waking up and having a routine can be restorative and set intention in your day. Rachael of Rachael's Foodie Life says, "One thing I do everyday is drink a glass of water with the juice of half a lemon and a tablespoon of organic apple cider vinegar first thing in the morning. It really wakes me up and makes me feel great!"
Carve Out Time for Yourself. When life gets busy and you have a partner, children, or even a few roommates, it can be hard to get some alone time. I've noticed that I fall more into the introverted camp, because I have to have some alone time to recharge my own batteries each day. My friend Emily Fonnesbeck agrees, sharing that "either before or after kids go to bed, I need time to myself with no one needing anything from me." I couldn't agree more!
Prioritize Exercise. A couple friends (Emily, Dana, Kasey) mentioned their need to prioritize a workout as a way to take care of themselves every day. I couldn't agree more. Self-care is about taking care of your physical, mental, and emotional health even when you may not feel like doing it. Exercise is the perfect example. Especially when I am feeling stressed or like I "don't have time for it", I need to fit in exercise even more. Not only for the physical benefits, but the mental benefits exercise provides, as well.
Call a Friend. Emily from Get Well with Em reminded me of how rejuvenating a phone call with a friend is. It's a wonderful way to pour into both yourself and your friends and family at the same time.
Positive Affirmations. Whether it's having a mantra you say to yourself, a Bible verse you're focusing on, or a quote, positive affirmations can help keep a positive mental space. Thank you Audrey and Lauren for the suggestions!
Unplug. Even if you don't have a strong online presence, with cell phones, tablets, smart watches and more, we live in a day and age where we are connected ALL the time. Unplugging and stepping away from the Internet and technology gadgets can be incredibly restorative. My friend Dana of Eats 2 Know has a great trick for shutting down and minimizing the distractions: turn your phone on airplane mode! If you're prone to needing to check your phone the second it buzzes or dings, try putting your phone on airplane mode to minimize those distractions so you can unplug and disconnect a little.
Meditation. Dana also recommends meditating for 5 minutes. My friend Jessica from Well Fed Nutrition shares, "I love my daily 10 minute meditation with the Calm app! There's a different theme everyday like 'gratitude' or 'letting go' to help with all types of life challenges."
Face Masks. Several ladies (Dana, Laiken from refocused.me, and Aimee from The A.K. Kitchen) mentioned their love of face masks for a little more regular self-care. Laiken does weekly face masks and Aimee likes to use a homemade face mask at the beginning of a stressful week or the night before a stressful day.
Tea or Coffee Break. Whether it be part of a morning ritual with a mug of energizing green tea, a fruity tea for an afternoon break, or a soothing, herbal tea before bedtime, enjoying a hot mug of tea can be soothing for the soul. Not into tea? Instagram user @p.i.williamson loves black coffee in her day. A great reminder that whether tea, coffee, water, or none of the above, you have to add what makes YOU feel YOUR best!
Hugs and Snuggles. For some people, comforting touch can be incredibly restorative. It may be a good hug, snuggles with your puppy like my friend Sarah from Bucket List Tummy loves, or sweet snuggles from my baby that make my heart burst!
Essential Oils. Many people love to use essential oils as a way to help them relax, restore, and practice self-care. I personally find peppermint and lavendar to be calming, while oils like lemon and orange can be more energizing.
Early Bed Time. Sarah recommended going to bed early as a way to incorporate more self-care, and I totally agree. Self-care isn't always fancy and glamorous, but is a huge part of the simple things like making sure you get adequate sleep. The benefits of a good night sleep (and enough sleep) are tremendous, and can help you be more mentally and physically prepared to go about your day.
Journaling. Nicole Culver shares that, "Everyday I start my day with a gratitude list and it helps set the tone for my day." Lauren from @manganiello_rd also uses a gratitude journal, sharing, "My favorite self care tip is keeping a gratitude journal. Every morning I write down 3 things that I'm grateful for and every night I write down 3 awesome things that happened that day. It only takes a few minutes but it really helps with keeping a positive mindset."
Shower Aromatherapy. Instagram user Alex at @alg1113 shares that aromatherapy helps her practice self-care by helping her relax. She loves to use the Luxe Aromatherapy Shower Tablets from Ulta Beauty for a spa-like shower. (I asked and she recommended the Verbena + Lemon Grass scent!)
Epsom Salt Baths. Multiple friends and family are always heralding the relaxing benefits of an epsom salt bath. Lauren at @laurenslovelykitchen says she takes one a few times a week! I love the idea of a relaxing bath, and need to add some epsom salts and lavender and peppermint essential oils next time!
Prepare for the Day Ahead. @maggies_mix shared a self-care tip that always leaves me more prepared and less stressed for the day ahead. She swears by packing her bag for the next morning before she goes to bed, including outfits for work and working out, lunch, and snacks. "Prepping and skipping the Netflix marathon is my form of selfcare."
Focus on Finding Joy in Your Day. Sarah (@sa.rah.rah on Instagram) made such a great point that sometimes self-care means getting intentional with finding joy. Sometimes our circumstances make us feel angry, small, and frustrated. Sarah says getting back to hobbies and finding joy made a world of difference for her.
Laughter. Sarah also shared one of my personal favorite daily activities - laughing! The joy that comes from laughing and making others laugh is priceless, and scientifically can often be beneficial for lowering stress and anxiety. Sarah says, "whether it's a funny episode, a book, watching blooper reels of my fave shows...I need to laugh."
Watch a Show. Just like sometimes self-care means parting from a Netflix binge to prepare for the next day, sometimes self-care is taking time to watch one of your favorite shows. I'm not really advocating for a long show binge, but watching a show after work or while on the treadmill can be a fun way to unwind.
Get Fresh Air. Whether you live in the country or in the city, sometimes self-care means getting outside and enjoying some fresh air. @sa.rah.rah says she needs to get fresh air, "no matter what the weather. I need to get outside. Walking in the snow in the winter and laying in the water for hours on end in the summer makes me SO happy."
Mindful Breathing. I grew up training to be a professional flutist, and something I constantly focused on was my breathing and regulating it to maximize my music performance. There is something that is immediately calming and stabilizing by being mindful of your breath. HealthyPsych has a 5 Minute Mindful Breathing Exercise you can try. Don't even have five minutes? When I was working in public health and seeing 45+ clients a day, sometimes I would just pause long enough to very slowly count to ten while slowly inhaling and exhaling, and it's a great technique to center yourself and take the edge of stress away.
At-Home Pedicure or Manicure. This really doesn't have to be fancy, but a fun way to practice self-care is give yourself a little at home pedicure or manicure! I love keeping a pumice stone in my shower and taking the time to care for my feet. After showering, putting on a new coat of nail polish and then some favorite lotion is an incredibly easy way to show yourself some TLC that can sometimes feel so indulgent.
Coloring. Adult coloring books are all the rage, and for good reason! The different colors can be mentally stimulating and satisfying (one reason I love focusing on color in foods in nutrition!), and the process of coloring and creating a work of art can be very therapeutic. Not into coloring books? Try sketching, painting, or scrap-booking.
Brain Games. My husband really isn't into coloring or painting, but things like Sudoku puzzles and crossword puzzles are more his steam. Find free games online or purchase a book with pages galore!
Tidy Your Home. Some people, myself included, can be super distracted by clutter and messes. If there is physical clutter around me, I feel mentally cluttered, too. Sometimes just spending ten minutes after dinner, quickly tidying and putting clutter back in its spot can be a ten minutes so well spent. Have kids? Make it a family affair, and see how fast each family member can tidy their room! 😉
Forget the Dishes. Sometimes self-care means tidying up, and sometimes self-care means taking a night off from the laundry or dishes to go on a walk with your spouse, cuddle your kids, or go to game night with friends. Self-care isn't black and white, it's all about YOU and what YOU need in that moment.
Read a Book. There's something soothing about setting down phones, computers, and tablets and picking up a book instead. Kasey loves reading as a way to wind down, and I couldn't agree more! I've always thought of reading as like a vacation for the brain.
Get a Change of Scenery. Sometimes when you're hyper-focused on a single task it's important to take a little break so you can keep focused, mentally sane, and keep it in perspective. Sometimes I'll go for a quick walk outside or switch rooms that I'm working in. Before working at home, sometimes I would walk to a bathroom at the other end of the building just to get out of my department, stretch my legs, and get a change of scenery.
Ask for Help. Sometimes self-care means knowing when you need to call for back up. Maybe that means finding a gym that offers daycare so you can prioritize your workout and have childcare covered. Maybe that means calling a friend to be a shoulder when you mourn a recent breakup. Or it can mean picking up dinner on the way home after a long, stressful day at work. And sometimes self-care may mean recognizing you can't do it all on your own (no one can!) and calling a therapist. Or maybe your eating isn't so intuitive and isn't providing the self-care it should, and you want to look into working with a dietitian like myself.
There are hundreds of ways more you can practice the art of self-care, but bottom line, you need to focus on what you need to be your best, and helping yourself get there. What are ways that you practice self-care? Leave your favorite self-care tips in the comments below!