Self care is more than bubble baths and other hard-to-imagine luxuries. It’s a way to recharge your mind, body, and spirit. It is an absolute must for caregivers, parents, and other people with emotionally intense jobs, but is something that is worth doing with intention no matter what your daily challenges look like. One of the biggest problems with doing consistent self-care is finding the time! Here are some ideas for self-care that you can do on your break, at a stoplight, or even in a crisis! Try these strategies, then incorporate your favorites into your daily routine.
- Stretch. No need to break out the yoga mat, just stand up and do some gentle stretching of your shoulders, neck, and lower back, stomach area, and legs. Emotional stress is often held in the body as tension. Releasing it physically can help. Just remember to be gentle with yourself, especially if you’re feeling a great deal of tightness.
- Develop a mantra. This isn’t as far out as you might think. Sometimes having a short, positive phrase to say can help you stay focused and cope with feelings of overwhelm. Examples include, “I’ve done well, I don’t have to be perfect.” and “I feel grateful for ________.”
- Pray. If you’re spiritual, prayer has tremendous benefits and can reduce feelings of isolation, anger, and despair.
- Drink some water. Dehydration can contribute to brain fog, fatigue, unhealthy food cravings, and many other unwanted effects. People often forget to drink enough water in times of stress, especially when they are traveling and out of the normal routine. It’s helpful to have water nearby and take sips regularly throughout the day.
- Breathe. Take deep slow breaths. In times of stress, we tend to take more shallow breaths that can actually create more feelings of anxiety. Deep breathing will help release some tension and will energize you. For best results, try breathing slowly into your belly. Just be careful, some people report feeling a bit dizzy for a moment when they try this.
- Hug. Sometimes it’s hard to find the right words to ask for or receive help. The physical connection of hugging can be the perfect solution. Just make sure it’s a real hug, heart to heart and not the quick polite hugs we tend to give. Hugging for 30 seconds or more might feel strange at first, but it has powerful therapeutic effects. Hugging can relax muscles, boost self esteem, increase serotonin (the happiness hormone), and stimulate the release of oxytocin (the love hormone which helps us feel more connected and less lonely).
- Cry. It’s okay to cry. Really. Many people are afraid that if they cry, they won’t stop or they will appear weak. You’ll stop, but you’ll also be honoring the full spectrum of your experience and lightening the emotional load. Being honest about what you’re feeling can help you manage the task at hand and can let others know how to help.
- Tidy up. Not the whole house, but just one small area. Examples include making the bed or throwing away some trash floating around your car. No need to push yourself to do more. Just one small task can be a boost.
- Accept a compliment. You are more amazing than you realize. When you dismiss someone’s complement with an, “oh, that was nothing,” you diminish the emotional benefit. If a person says something nice to you, accept it with gratitude!
- Give back. This one may sound counterintuitive, especially if you’re at an emotional breaking point; however, saying or doing something nice for someone can boost your mood and provide comfort. If you see a stranger with nice shoes, or you saw someone do something nice for someone else, a few kind words can benefit you both!
- Go outside. Get some fresh air and sunshine. It can give you a new perspective, stimulate creative ideas, and provide a mood-boosting dose of vitamin D.
As the saying goes, you can’t pour from an empty cup. Incorporating these self-care micro-strategies will help you quickly feel better emotionally and physically so that you can be there for the ones you love.
Dr. Kelly Morrow-Baez, aka The FitShrink, is a Licensed Professional Counselor and health motivation expert from Columbus, GA. You can learn more at www.fitshrink.com.
Originally published at medium.com