You are your own greatest resource, but nowadays, there’s a good chance your priorities don’t often reflect that. That’s unfortunate because self-care – that is, activities that allow us to attend to our own needs – is a critical component of both mental and physical health.
It’s easy to dismiss taking time for ourselves as selfish, but it’s worth reexamining that assumption. If you’re not functioning at 100% yourself, how can you be fully supportive of the other people in your life? Short answer: you can’t. There’s a reason flight attendants tell you to put on your own oxygen mask before helping fellow passengers.
Self-care doesn’t have to be complicated or time-consuming. The easiest place to start is with what makes you happy or relaxed. Then, set aside time to re-energize and guard that time as you would any other commitment. Here are some suggestions to get you started:
- Take a class. Learning something new is a great way to reinvigorate your creativity.
- Eliminate unnecessary tasks from your to-do list. Choose one – yes, ONE – thing that must get done and focus on that task. Anything else you accomplish becomes a bonus.
- Get a massage. Not only is it relaxing, but it comes with real health benefits.
- Spend time with an animal. Simply stroking or handling a pet has been shown to lower blood pressure and reduce stress hormone levels.
- Read a book or watch your favorite feel-good movie. Lose yourself in a far-off land for a bit.
- Meditate or pray. Spiritual health is just as important as physical and mental health.
- Move. Get and up and stretch, walk, run, hike, or participate in your favorite sport.
- Call a trusted friend or relative. If something is weighing on your mind, sharing it with your support system can help you gain perspective.
- Write. If the written word is your thing, expressing yourself on paper can be cathartic and calming.
- Draw or paint. Again, self-expression is a great form of self-care.
- Listen to your favorite kind of music. Dancing is also highly encouraged.
- Be mindful of your self-talk. We tend to be less kind to ourselves than to other people. Work on replacing degrading thoughts about yourself with positive ones.
- Cook your favorite meal. Or have a meal with a friend (or two).
- Take a break or switch tasks. If you’re feeling stuck, stepping away from a project may be the most productive thing to do.
- Take a bath or shower. Wash off the dirt and stress of the day.
- Take a nap. Naps are the human equivalent of a reset button.
- Listen to a motivational speech. It might sound corny, but sometimes it helps to have an outside source jump-start a positive inner dialogue.
- Travel. You don’t have to go far – even a small change in your surroundings, like a trip around the block, can help relieve tension.
- Sit in the sun. Vitamin D is important for building strong bones, as well as regulating your mood.