Have you ever heard anyone say, “You can’t take care of others if you don’t take care of yourself first”? Well, that is something I say every day to the patients I work with. Some people find it admirable to work non-stop (hustle culture) and constantly put the needs of others before their own. One of the biggest reasons I created this blog was to help people to start taking care of themselves, what we call “self-care,” so that they can lead better lives and truly care for others without resentment.
Practicing what is known as “self-care” is the best way to start. You are not being selfish by taking care of yourself, let’s be clear about that. By caring for yourself, you will begin to operate at optimal levels in every aspect of your life. By nurturing your mind, body and soul, you will emanate that positive energy to others around you, including your children. The days of “supermom” are gone. The days of working through your lunch, are a thing of the past. As wise person once told me, “When you die, nobody is going to be at your funeral saying, I wish they worked just a little harder than they did.”
Here of some of the easiest ways to start practicing self-care today:
- Take a detox bath- One of my favorite ways to relax and restore my mind and body is by taking a hot Epsom salt bath with essential oils. I am constantly buying Dr. Teals’ Epsom Salt and I really like using lavender and tea tree essential oils. You can also add Bragg’s Apple Cider Vinegar and baking soda all together or separately for added detoxing. Pinterest is a treasure trove of “bath recipes.”
- Use affirmations- You can use affirmations any time of the day. Begin with saying “I am” and add whatever it is you are seeking at that moment. Affirmations work better in the present tense to create a belief that you already have what you seek. You could say things like, “I am feeling healthy and positive today” or “I am happy and content with my life.” There are numerous sources to find affirmations on the internet and some great books and fun cards outlining the power of affirmations. In addition to the affirmation itself, really try to “feel” what you are saying. For example, I am wealthy (imaging what you would be doing with your wealth, how it feels and even what it smells like, etc.) Attaching a feeling to the affirmation really drives home the intention.
- Watch something funny- Watching anything funny whether it be on TV, online or at the movie theater will instantly make you feel better and get you out of a funk. As they say, “laughter is the best medicine.” Laughter has the ability to transform your negative energy into positive energy which in turn can have positive impacts physiologically on your body. Doing something that brings you joy is the main objective (as long as you are not hurting yourself or others in the process). This is probably the number one most useful and practical technique that my patients recommend.
- Take a nap- This one might be obvious, but when you are feeling overwhelmed or exhausted…take a nap! When you are feeling down, a nap can help you wake up with a new mindset and help you to better process what is going on. It’s been shown that napping for 10, 30, 60 or 90 minutes is ideal. Napping longer than that can cause grogginess upon waking. Just be careful that you are not napping all the time as that can be a sign of depression. Get your best nap in with this sleep mask, which I cannot live without (bonus: it also provides migraine relief) and fall asleep faster with this app; BetterSleep (click this link for a special discount). For a list of my Top 7 Sleep Apps, click here to view my recommendations.
- Listen to music- I’ve heard that listening to music activates, stimulates and uses the entire brain at the same time. Music can impact our moods significantly and trigger memories, so be mindful about what you listen to. Classical music has been shown to reduce blood pressure, reduce stress and help with insomnia, as well as many other benefits. Music helps you balance your personal rhythm. Additionally, music can release dopamine, which is the same chemical that is released when we feel pleasure. I’ve curated a “chill” playlist for you to use for free via YouTube.
- Write it down- Writing can reduce stress, improve memory, promote self-awareness and mindfulness, as well as increase our optimism. If you are dealing with something difficult, writing it down will help you purge the negative thoughts and clearly deal with the issue at hand. The goal is to write for yourself and don’t worry about it making sense or being grammatically correct. You can find some really awesome journals on Amazon that even have writing prompts.
- Talk to a supportive friend- The key word here is supportive. Friends can be amazingly support or catastrophically cruel. Choose whom to speak with wisely and watch out for those energy vampires.
- Go for a walk or a drive- Fresh air can do anyone good, so long as it’s not allergy season. We get vitamin D from sunshine, which helps boost your mood and immunity. We all know you can burn calories by walking, but did you know that you will also reduce stress, energize your body and improve your overall health and mental health. A drive can offer similar benefits so long as you are not driving angry or under the influence. Don’t forget to “add in” your favorite music while doing both of these activities for added benefits. You can create free music playlists on Pandora and Spotify. Devices like the Fitbit will even remind you to get moving.
- Drink water- Again this might be an obvious way to take care of yourself, but most of us, including myself, do not get enough water. Fifty to sixty percent of our bodies are made up of water. The list of benefits related to drinking water is nearly endless. The biggest pros include improving your mood and immunity, flushing out toxins, increasing energy and reducing pain. I prefer to drink my water ice cold, which is not necessarily better, but helps me drink more of it. This bottle has been a life saver. Adding a lemon will add additional perks, like increasing your vitamin C and electrolyte intake, clearing your skin, aiding in digestion and reducing inflammation (which ultimately impacts our mental health). More on that aspect in a future post.
- Say no- This is the best personal boundary you can develop, in my humble opinion, and the easiest way to practice self-care. Saying “no” may seem rude, mean or selfish when you are first practicing it…but it’s definitely not. It is singlehandedly the best way to start seriously taking care of yourself. This will allow you to stop overextending yourself and agreeing to do everything for everyone. There are many ways to say no without offending people, like saying “I’m sorry, but I already have plans” even if those plans are just watching Netflix. I found some more polite ways to say no on this website. You have the right to say no to anything at any time. Try to not let yourself feel obligated to anyone regardless of what they have done for you in the past. Remember “no” is a complete sentence and you are not required to justify or explain why you are saying no.
There are so many ways to practice self-care. These are some of the easiest things to start with. I encourage you to find and develop your own toolkit when it comes to taking care of your mental health and body. Self-care is necessary for everyone, but especially those that care for others. It is all too easy to forget ourselves these days with fulfilling the needs of our jobs, caring for our children and sometimes being the primary caregivers of our parents. The path to feeling and being better starts with you.
Things Always Get Better - I have truly lived. I’ve had good times and bad times. I’m a mother, a daughter, a sister, a psych nurse and a soon to be wife. I love writing about my passions, what interest me, what interests others, and sharing all of my thoughts with my readers. I want everyone to have the chance to live their happiest life.
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Thank you for these tips! I definitely need to find more time for self-care – and not only at the times when I am struggling, but also on the days when I am feeling okay or good, so that I stay that way! I especially relate to your last point, about saying no! I used to feel obliged to say yes to everything, but I’m learning that it’s okay to say no when I don’t want to do something, and I shouldn’t feel bad about it! I wrote a blog post about that if you are interested: http://thisbrilliantday.com/personal-development/saying-no-to-things-you-dont-want-to-do-and-how-to-feel-better-about-it/ 🙂
Thank you! I loved your post. May I include a link in a future post to your blog?
I’m so glad you liked my post! Yes of course you may! 🙂
Love these tips! I used to always take a nap as a way to recharge. The irony is that when I get overworked, stressed and anxious, then I don’t.
I love naps myself! I’m hoping to create a more comprehensive self-care list. If you have any other tips I would love to hear them. Thanks for the love:)
Thanks for the great ideas! Most people just assume self care is all about beauty and baths and candles, I’m glad to see someone share some great self care ideas!
Thank you! I’m hoping to keep featuring more and more things. I’d love to hear your suggestions.