Sometimes, life gets the best of us. There’s no shame in that. In fact, it’s normal. We’ve all had moments when life has punched us right in the face.
When these moments hit us hard, it seems like we’re down for the count. But give us enough time, and we can get back up.
Life demands us to deal with stress. As much we’d like the opposite, there’s no escaping it, which isn’t actually a bad thing. Stress, in manageable amounts, keeps us on our toes and pushes us to grow. When we work with it, we can, at times, achieve amazing results.
But how can we do this without letting stress crush us? For starters, it helps to set aside some time for self-care.
I know, I know. It’s an overused term that’s more banal than meaningful these days. What more can I say that hasn’t already been said?
To be honest, not much. In fact, if you want to stop reading and skim the rest of this, go right ahead. (But do me a favor and at least scan through the end.)
But there is a reason why so many people revisit the concept of self-care over and over. In the U.S., alone, 40 million adults suffer from some kind of anxiety disorder every year.
So with that in mind, here are some self-care ideas I practice that you can test for yourself.
Self-Care Ideas in Writing
Don’t let anyone fool you. Writing isn’t easy. It’s challenging, and it’s difficult. For example, writing this article with a sense of sincerity without sounding too predictable was hard. This article, for example, was hard to compose without sounding predictable. But when you do it, writing can be a rewarding experience. There’s value having an outlet where you can reframe your thoughts.
Keep a Journal
Journaling has been a normal part of my daily routine since 2017. When I started, I was in a conflicted position. I had this great, full-time job in the industry of my dreams. Yet, at the same time, this job was the main source of my anxiety. To cope with that, I started journaling. I thought I had nothing to lose by trying.
There’s no right or wrong way to journal. It takes me less than half-an-hour to do every single morning. I list a few gratitudes, affirmations, and a few tasks that would make the day great. Then for five minutes, I’ll write anything and everything that’s on my mind.
Is my simple practice trite? Sure. But does it work for me? You bet. If you want to give it a try, don’t feel obligated to follow my exact ritual. Instead, experiment and find a way that works for you.
Write a Blog
Talk about meta, but blogging can be a form of self-care. Like a journal, a blog is somewhere you can share your thoughts. It’s also an outlet to push your creative boundaries. There are no obligations to editors and publishers. Instead, you get the final say over what you issue to the world.
For my friend Mike, blogging is his therapy. He started in 2016 and has published a post almost every single week. He’s written about topics he used to avoid, like the death of his sister. By blogging, he’s gained a level of equanimity and understanding about his life. That’s something most people never seem to reach.
Self-Care Ideas in Exercise
Don’t let anyone fool you with their desires for the good old days. Living today is a hell of a lot better than it was even 50 years ago. While modern life has its benefits, it has its downsides, too. It’s no secret these days that we spend more time sitting than we do moving. That’s why exercise can be a crucial practice of self-care.
If you’re someone who’s intimidated or self-conscious about lifting weights, don’t worry. You’re not alone. I used to be this way too, and it was because I had the wrong mindset. When I changed my approach, lifting weights became one of my favorite activities.
I see hitting the weights, or any exercise I do these days, as a competition with myself. I’m not trying to outlift my friends or the guy deadlifting 1,000 pounds. Instead, I have my own goals and try to beat my own records. I’m not trying to compete with anybody else.
Go for a Walk or Jog
You don’t have to be a gym rat to enjoy the benefits of exercise. Something as simple as a stroll or light jog can be enough to get your mind right. What’s great about this is that you don’t need a membership at a gym or fancy equipment, either. All you need is a pair of reliable running shoes, and you’re good to go.
Go running or walking with a friend or by yourself. Either way. It doesn’t matter. What’s most important is that you get outside of your house and start moving.
Sit in a Sauna
Recovery matters, too. It’s important to give your body and mind a chance to recharge after working out. If you go to a gym with a sauna, then consider using it. Sitting in one can be a refreshing experience.
There are many benefits associated with sauna usage, but a handful stand out: Using one is a good way to increase blood flow within your body. Also, regular visits lower your risk of dying from cardiovascular disease and stroke.
I visit the sauna of my gym at least three times a week. The temperature is usually a toasty 80 degrees Celsius (or 175 degrees Fahrenheit). My sessions aren’t too long, usually no more than 20 minutes each.
Self Care Ideas in Diet
As I get older, I make a conscious effort to watch what I eat. Don’t get me wrong, I still treat myself every now and then (which I’ll get into below). But, learning how to manage your diet can be a future-oriented gift of self-care in which the benefits are felt for years to come.
Cook for Yourself
You don’t need to be a Michelin-star chef to be good in the kitchen. Hang out with someone who knows how to cook or watch a few YouTube videos, and then experiment. If you know the bare essentials, cooking can be easy and rewarding.
Some people hate it. I actually find food preparation relaxing. Sometimes, I’ll spend a few hours one day a week, chopping and peeling all my vegetables in batch. It saves me time in the future and also teaches me how to find enjoyment out of a routine process.
Enjoy a Cheat Day
As I said earlier, there’s nothing wrong with treating ourselves every now and then. Having a cheat day relieves us from the pressure of dietary perfection. We’re all susceptible to falling victim to our vices every now and then. Limiting our indulgences to once a week is a lot easier and less daunting than the prospect of avoiding them altogether.
I’ve found that having a cheat day decreases my craving for junk food throughout the week. During my days of normal eating, I don’t have the urge to snack on a bag of potato chips or munch on a few candy bars. This is largely because I know I’ll have one day later in the week where anything goes.
Self-Care Ideas in Mindfulness
More times than not, we’re engaged with some moment in the future or dwelling on an event from the past. But what’s so wrong with where we are right now? If you can pause and be present with where you are, you’ll realize your current situation isn’t that bad.
When it comes to meditation, I used to be a skeptic. Sitting silent and still for a few minutes a day was something I didn’t think was possible for me. Plus, all the new age BS associated with meditation didn’t help. As a result, it took me a while to buy in. But when I finally did, I could see why so many people espouse the practice.
The greatest lesson I’ve learned from meditation is how to distance myself from my thoughts. We all have a nonstop inner monologue that runs through our heads. It’s easy to self-identify with that voice and believe everything it says is true. But meditation can teach us that thoughts hold little merit unless we decide to take action on them.
Turn Off Your Smartphone Notifications
Our cell phones vibrate and buzz nonstop these days. How often do we get together with friends only to spend more time engaged with our screens? It can be beneficial for us to take a step back and think about how to keep our tech in check.
For me, I do this by disabling notifications on most of my apps. Other than my calendar and phone calls, I receive nothing to my lock screen these days. No social media, text messages, or emails. If anything is urgent, I encourage people to call me.
Declutter and Donate
As someone reading this article, your problems have little to do with scarcity. After all, you could afford a cell phone, tablet, or computer to read it. Instead, I’d bet that most of your problems have to do with abundance. You likely have more than you actually need.
If that’s the case, take some time to inventory your things. Spend a day rummaging through your closet or garage. You’ll find loads of items you no longer need. Instead of throwing them out, consider giving them away. One person’s junk could be another person’s treasure.
Self-Care Ideas in Travel
Whether it’s your first or fiftieth trip, there’s always an element of travel that takes you by surprise. Travel pulls you out of what’s familiar and shocks you with what’s novel. That kind of experience is always good for the mind.
Take a Long-Term Trip
Everyone should go on a vagabonding trip at least once in their lives. Coined by travel writer Rolf Potts, a journey like this can span a little more than a month – but the longer, the better. Leaving home for an extended period to see the world is something you won’t regret.
There are many lessons I learned from my first long-term trip. But one of the greatest universal insights I gained was my perception of time. Vagabonding taught me that time is the most valuable asset I have.
Go on a Short-Term Trip
If you’d rather not leap headfirst into a long-term journey, there are other options. You can always go on a weekend trip instead. Exposing yourself to a new environment, if only for a few days, is a worthwhile experience. Even taking a daytrip can be enough to pull you out of a funk.
You don’t have to go somewhere far, either. A short trip can give you a chance to explore your own backyard. If you do, you’ll come to discover that there’s a lot about it you don’t already know. Exploring your own backyard can give you a fresh perspective on home that you didn’t have before.
All these self-care ideas and the ones that I left on the cutting room floor are obvious. Chances are you didn’t need me to spell them out for you. You already know what you have to do.
There is one thing that separates this article from being helpful or useless:
You have to try some of these self-care ideas for yourself. Not every one of them will resonate with you. After all, this article is my personal list. Pay attention to the ones that work and note the ones that don’t. The words in this and countless other articles are no substitute for real experience.
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