You’re doing everything: facemasks, bubble baths, and Netflix nights. But afterward, you still feel bleh. You’re not alone! These days self-care seems to solely revolve around the bathroom or couch. And while these household hubs definitely have a place in the wind-down world, they’re not the only options. In fact, one might even say that they’re a waste of time.
Let’s face it – if your self-care isn’t filling your cup, it’s not really self-care. It might just be a Friday night habit. To reap the most benefits, it needs to be personalized for you. And since everyone has their own unique stories and struggles, we all respond to different techniques. So, in the spirit of a lil’ TLC, here’s a step-by-step guide to finding what works best for you.
Hello, *Actually* Helpful Self-Care. Use These 4 Steps to Find What Fills You Up
Step #1: Suss Out Your Stressors
What’s with self-care in the first place? Studies show it helps to manage stress. Yah know, that annoying thing everybody on the planet deals with. And while you usually can’t get rid of stress altogether, you can manage the negative effects.
So to find your self-care, let’s work backward and go to the root of the problem. Identify your stressors. Then come up with practices that combat those pain points.
Here’s a list of common stressors.
- Lack of sleep
- Sitting all day
- Tight muscles (usually in the shoulders, neck, back, or chest)
- Too much caffeine
- Frequent junk food consumption
- Excess alcohol consumption
- Too much social media
- Too many to-do’s at once (overplanning)
- Working late hours into the night (when you’re not a night owl)
- Job loss
- Moving to a new home
- Traumatic event (global pandemic, natural disaster, violence, etc.)
- Emotional distress (anxiety, depression, grief, low self-esteem, etc.)
Of course, this list is only the tip of the iceberg. Stressors can be as unique as the person! But you get the idea. Stress can take many forms.
Now, you’ll want to go through the list and pick which items resonate the most. (If nothing speaks to you, don’t be afraid to come up with your own!)
Step #2: Start a Self-Care List
Now that you know your stressors let’s talk self-care! Create a list of all your energy-boosting activities, so when it’s time for me-time, you always have ideas on hand.
Like mentioned earlier, to find what works for you, it helps to be strategic. This means doing things that directly ease the stressors you sussed out earlier. (E.g. If you have tight muscles, try stretching or an Epsom salt bath.)
Here’s a list of great self-care techniques.
Exercise does the mind and body so much good! Research suggests it may help to reduce tension and boost your mood.
Gentle stretching is another great way to help reduce some pent up tension in the body and wind down after a long day. Here are some great stretch options that can be squeezed into even the busiest days.
Epsom Salt Baths
Give yourself a dose of self-care with an Epsom salt bath. The magnesium in the Epsom salt is thought to help reduce muscle tension and may help you feel more relaxed.
Stuck at a desk all day? Then your body may be in need of a quick at-work stretch to get those neck kinks loosened and to just take a few minutes away from any of the stress going on at work.
Reduce Caffeine/Avoid it in the Afternoon
If we overdo it, caffeine can leave us feeling wired and tired, and drinking too much in the afternoon can make it difficult to sleep when it’s time to hit the hay. Consider reducing how many cups of joe you drink each day or swap it out with a less caffeinated option like matcha green tea or an herbal calming tea instead.
We can’t forget about the importance of staying hydrated throughout the day. As part of how you practice self-care, bring that refillable water bottle with you wherever you go.
Set 30 Min Timers When You Go on Social Media
When you get on social, consider setting a timer and allowing yourself 30 minutes before moving onto the next part of your day, allowing for plenty of time to practice self-care.
Prioritize Your to-do’s
This one’s huge, and it may do just the trick to help you feel a bit less stressed. Start each day by prioritizing what needs to get done first, check it off, and then move onto the next.
Take Frequent Breaks Throughout The Day
We’re not designed to sit and accomplish task after task after task without taking a mental (and physical) break. Stepping away from the computer to enjoy a nourishing lunch, or to stretch and breathe for five minutes is an amazing way to take care of your mind and body as you power through your day.
There should never be any shame in talking to a professional when it comes to taking care of our mental health. Mental health is just as important as keeping our physical health in tip-top shape.
We can’t underestimate the power of deep breathing. It’s a self-care tool that can be practiced anytime and anywhere. Stop and take a few breaths when you feel tense before returning to the task at hand. Have a few more minutes to spare? Try a quick meditation practice to re-center.
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Self-care goes beyond just exercising, eating well, and meditating. Finding a creative outlet such as music, art, scrapbooking, sewing, or dancing is a great way to just get out there and do something fun.
Hang Out With Your Social Circle
Reach out to friends and family and stay connected! Social connection may help us feel less stressed and reduce feelings of loneliness. Even if you can’t meet up in person, have a virtual lunch date with your friends, or try FitOn Party, where you and your friends can workout together.
Personal Development Books
Try reading or listening to a personal development book while sipping on your morning tea. It’ll set the tone for an upbeat and productive day.
While connecting with friends and family is an important part of self-care, somedays, you may just crave some alone time, and that’s ok too! It’s all about balance, and finding some quiet time in each day to go for a walk, read a book, or practice yoga is a great way to add that daily dose of self-care in.
The Options Are Endless
If we’re honest, this list could go on forever. But we’re not here to tell you what to do. We’re here to help you find out what works for you! So don’t set these ideas in stone. Instead, use these as inspiration. The goal? Just to start a list of self-care ideas you think will help you feel better. There’s no wrong answer!
Step #3: Ask Yourself: What Did I Enjoy As a Kid?
To take things that extra personalized step, answer the golden question: what did you enjoy doing when you were a kid? Here’s the thing. Self-care can work best when it’s connected to you and your story. For example, if you had a hobby you loved doing as a kid, those feelings of calm and safety can travel with you as an adult.
So think of a time where you felt relatively happy, safe, or content with life, even if you have to go all the way back to childhood or teenage years.
Then dive a little deeper. What contributed to those feelings? Was it your mindset? Situation? How you could easily access your playful side?
As you explore this time of your life, get curious about how you can bring elements of it into your life today. Perhaps it’s a hobby, ritual, or place that brings you comfort. Then add it to your self-care list!
Step #4: Experiment With Self-Discovery
If you don’t know yourself very well, it can be hard to find what self-care works for you. This is where self-discovery comes in. Continue to learn more about your needs, energy flows, and flaws to come up with productive ways of taking care of yourself.
When you know what your most important needs are, you can take your self-care list further by dividing it into daily, weekly, and monthly ideas.
Remember. Your needs can fluctuate throughout life, especially as personal and world circumstances change. So let it be easy and flexible! And stay present. You’ll be much better at continuously reevaluating and adjusting your personal care practice.
7 Ways to Experiment with Self-Discovery:
- Try new things
- Explore your passions
- Figure out what you value about yourself
- Hone your skills
- Keep a journal
- Talk to a therapist
- Learn something you’ve always wanted to
Complicated is Dated – Keep It Simple, Keep It You!
Simple is best! It is possible to burn out from overloading yourself with activities, even if they’re supposed to help. So as you’re creating your list, make sure it’s realistic.
At the end of the day, you know yourself better than anyone. So keep experimenting and adjusting if needed. Soon enough, you’ll know exactly what keeps you in tip-top self-care shape.