Protecting our physical and mental wellbeing has to be a priority in our life, which is why taking advantage of helpful self care ideas and discovering new self care tips is so important.
The month of September is recognized as National Self Care Awareness Month so it’s the perfect time to practice self-care ideas and begin taking care of yourself.
There is plenty to be stressed about every day, particularly in these uncertain times we’re experiencing right now. Even when we don’t have an immediate stressor in front of us, our minds have a way of borrowing trouble about things that haven’t even happened yet.
One common misconception, especially in our get-up-and-go culture is that a self care routine is somehow indulgent. This is understandable, though it can also be problematic.
In an essay for the American Psychological Association (APA), psychology graduate student Jennifer Doran writes about the “mixed messages” graduate students receive about performing at high academic levels and making time to practice self care.
“Extracurricular activities can produce stress and guilt over the work that you could or ‘should’ be doing instead,” writes Doran. “This results in trainees not only feeling bad from stress, burnout, and fatigue, but also feeling bad about their perceived failure at self-care.”
Some people are better at self care than others. However, feeling shame or guilt for doing something de-stressing and actually enjoyable for us is a near universal adult experience.
What Happens If We Don’t Practice Self Care Tips and Daily Habits?
Yes, our responsibilities must be taken care of because there are others who depend on us. That said, without a regular release-valve, stress can build up and lead to a number of unwanted health issues.
According to the Mayo Clinic, health problems related to stress can include some of the following:
- Chest pains
- Sleep problems
- A drop in libido
Then there are the effects of stress on our mood, which can lead to:
- Anxiety issues
- Difficulty concentrating
- Feeling overwhelmed all the time
While this is not healthy for anybody, it may be particularly dangerous for people in recovery from drug addiction or alcoholism. Too much unaddressed stress can tip over into social withdrawal, isolation and eventually relapse.
It might feel counterintuitive at first, but practicing self care will likely make you more productive, a better partner, parent, boss or whatever it is you aspire to do because you will be healthier and feel happier.
Here are 10 Self Care Ideas Anyone Can Do
If we’re going to talk about emotional self care, one of the first things to discuss is our sleep habits. “Nighttime sleep affects daytime mood, emotional reactivity and the capacity to regulate positive and negative emotions…” write the authors of a 2014 study on sleep and emotional regulation.
As much as possible, try to keep a regular sleep and wake time every single day. Yes, even on the weekends. The goal is to get 7 to 9 hours of restful sleep nightly for optimal emotional health.
Of course, what we do during the daytime plays a role in how we sleep at night. Hence, number 2.
2. Exercise Regularly
Regular exercise is on every list for how to live your healthiest life. It can be annoying, we know, but there’s no getting around it. Even moderate daily exercise – a brisk walk, a hike, a bike ride – reduces stress, burns calories and, you guessed it, helps us sleep better.
There’s also plenty of evidence that with a habit of regular exercise, we tend to make healthier choices. Hence, number 3.
3. Maintain a Nutritious, Balanced Diet
The list of health benefits that comes with a balanced diet of lean proteins and fish, vegetables, whole grains and fruits are nearly endless. One you might know about though, is the Brain-Gut Connection.
Unhealthy bacteria in our gut may actually cause mood issues like depression and anxiety. In fact, gastroenterologists may prescribe antidepressants for problems like irritable bowel syndrome. These medications are known to ease symptoms caused by nerves in the gut.
Eating healthy may actually be considered self care for depression because of the serotonin connection.
4. Slowly Organize Your Life
Obviously, one major source of stress is feeling like nothing is in the right place or there are too many things to do at once to get anything done at all. Organization may look different for different people. Whatever the case, start slow.
It might be a fridge that needs cleaning or a closet that needs rearranging. Perhaps a new calendar to keep track of important events, as well tracking when it’s time to take care of yourself.
A little bit of organization goes a long way for removing unnecessary worry and stress.
5. Spend Time Outside
Nature is calming. For those of us that live in big cities and maybe don’t feel like there’s enough nature outside the door, take the time to go to your favorite park. Maybe this is even the time you can take to exercise, a virtual doubly-whammy of self care techniques.
Obviously, weather plays a factor, but even if it’s raining, don’t be afraid to put on those rain shoes, open an umbrella and stomp through some puddles.
Getting outside in the fresh air and soaking up some sunlight can do wonders for calming the mind and lifting our spirits a little bit each day.
An excellent method for psychological self care is helping others. Yes, it’s a little selfishly backhanded, but that’s okay because everybody is benefitting.
Look for charitable organizations that are important to you and find out how you can do more for them than just donate a few bucks. Giving our time to helping others helps keep our perspective balanced and healthy.
7. Limit or Avoid Alcohol and Recreational Drug Use
Obviously, not everyone struggles with substance abuse or addiction. Even in moderation, though, alcohol and drugs alter the brain’s chemistry and can seriously effect how the body and mind operates. It’s not uncommon for someone dealing with hangover symptoms the next day after a night of drinking to feel physically terrible and emotionally depressed.
If this has become a problem for you, or if someone you know recently relapsed, remember that there’s no shame in this. What’s important is seeking treatment for a substance use disorder.
8. Mindful Meditation is an Excellent Self Care Idea
The act of “being mindful” is about living in the present moment. This is a particularly effective self-care idea for managing anxiety. It’s also simple.
Find a quiet, comfortable spot for practicing meditation, close your eyes and spend anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes focusing on your breathing, how it flows in and out.
Mentally walk through your body, assessing how everything from your feet to your head feels. If other thoughts intrude (they will), just let them pass through your mind and get back to being mindful.
9. Take a Short Trip
Getting away for a day or two can be incredibly relaxing. It doesn’t have to be extreme, but just going somewhere like an hour, maybe 2, away from our regular haunts can be inspiring and rejuvenating.
If you’re the camping type, strap on your hiking boots and take off for a long nature walk. If you’re more of spa type, do a little research and go get that massage.
10. Do Things You Find Enjoyable
This might sound a little silly, but all too often we don’t do enough of the little things that we enjoy.
This can be reading a good mystery novel, painting with watercolors, going to the movies, eating at a favorite restaurant, or whatever you consider a simple pleasure.
Self Care Ideas For Self Care Month
During Self Care Awareness Month in September, take the opportunity to build a new habit of taking care of yourself in the most important ways possible by using some of the self care ideas outlined here.
Many of these can be done alone if you’re looking for some quality “me time,” or with friends who might need a good dose of self care as well.
Use the following hashtags when posting self care ideas to social media so others can follow along and share their own tips: