When you feel tired, irritable, burned out, or just plain done – you are likely in need of a self-care day. The saying is old but still rings true, “You can't pour from an empty cup”. Self-care days are a way to refill that metaphorical cup. We lead increasingly busy lives and it can be easy to forget to put yourself first, but looking after yourself will make you feel better. And the better you feel - the better you will be in ALL areas of your life.
Some benefits of self-care include:
Improved physical health
Reduced feelings of stress and anxiety
Better mental health
More stable relationships
1. Get outside
There are serious benefits to getting out of the house or the office – one study found that spending time in nature lowers levels of the stress hormone cortisol, lowers blood pressure levels, and lowers heart rate compared with spending time in urban settings.
2. Move your body
Exercise is good for the mind and the body. Improved mood is one of the more immediate benefits from exercise. Exercise is known to increase “happy hormones” like endorphins, as well as serotonin, which regulates mood, anxiety and appetite.
3. Focus on your breathing
Breathing exercises are a quick, simple, and an effective way to not only reduce stress but also improve overall physical and emotional health. A two-minute breathing exercise can soothe a racing mind and settle a nervous body throughout the day, and using them as an immediate response to stress will simmer the intensity of the moment.
4. Hang with friends
Humans are social creatures. If you’re able and feeling the need to socialize, grab a couple of your closest friends for a movie night. Can’t connect in person? Hop on a Zoom call or Facetime and catch up on each other’s lives. If you surround yourself with people who make you feel like the best version of yourself, you’ll immediately feel the self-care benefits of spending time with them.
5. Stay hydrated
Staying hydrated is one of the easiest ways to be kind to and care for your body. Dehydration can cause headaches, anxiety, mood swings, fatigue, and dry skin, so staying hydrated is like a daily self-care treatment. If you find plain water boring, dress it up with fruit, add some fizz, invest in a fun and functional water bottle, or get your hydration from water-rich fruits and vegetables.
6. Try a weighted blanket
Weighted blankets for a good night’s sleep? There’s actually science behind them. Weighted blankets are heavier than your average comforter (coming in at around 15 pounds) and offer what’s called deep pressure stimulation (DPS). DPS uses firm, controlled pressure to induce a feeling of calm in people with insomnia, anxiety, and autism. Cuddling up with these heavy hitters can promote serious relaxation.
7. Journal your thoughts
Journaling allows you to get all your thoughts down on paper, whether they’re coherent or not. Journaling helps you to prioritize your problems, fears, and concerns as well as diminishes some of the stress you may have about these things because once they’re written out, it can be a release, and then they don’t feel or look as bad. You can also track any emotional or physical symptoms so it's easier to recognize potential triggers and problematic behaviors related to stress.
8. Have a spa day
Spa days don’t have to cost an arm and a leg. Facial masks are available at your local stores or online. You can even make DIY facial masks, with ingredients you probably have in your kitchen right now. Then, put on some soothing music, dim the lights, and treat yourself to soaking in a warm Epson salt bubble bath.
9. Take a nap
Napping isn’t just for people under the age of 6 – naps benefit everyone! A short midafternoon nap can boost memory, improve mood, make you more alert, and lower stress levels. Sleep is good for the mind and the body, and the world is chronically sleep deprived. Give yourself the afternoon, cozy up in bed (maybe under a weighted blanket), and take a good snooze.
10. Get a massage
Most professional massages run anywhere from $65 to $180 per session. If you’re unwilling or unable to spare it, enlist your significant other or check out self-massage exercises online. You can also buy a back & neck massager online or a shiatsu foot massager. Massage can reduce stress and muscle soreness, invoke relaxation, improve circulation, and even lower your blood pressure.
11. Change your sheets
It’s amazing what a freshly made bed can do for your mental health. According to dermatologists, we should be changing our sheets once per week and our pillowcases two times per week. Anyone struggling with their mental health knows that hygiene is often the first thing to fall behind during a period of heightened anxiety or depression, so try to take one small step in this area to help yourself feel better.
12. Unplug from electronic devices
This is easier said than done, but disconnecting will get you back in tune with yourself to determine what you really need. It also gives you an opportunity to be truly present for your community, friends, family, and coworkers. Try taking a day off from your phone, computer & TV – focus on yourself and doing some items mentioned above.
The bottom line
Self-care is about taking care of your needs. Self-care days can act as a reset button for when life becomes overwhelming, as a celebration after accomplishing a goal, or as a way to prepare for an upcoming event. Finding ways to prioritize yourself and your health are crucial.