My 5 Favorite Self-Care Practices
And The (Low Cost!) Products That Help My Routine
I spoke with a dear friend last week and, as we talked about how we're coping with all that's going on at home, work and in society right now, she said, "Don't kill me - I know it's just so ridiculous, but I've really been prioritizing self-care."
I was immediately equal parts happy and sad. Happy she's spending time taking care of herself. Sad she felt she should apologize for selfish behavior.
Do you do this?
I know I used to. I was so busy putting out the fires around me, I didn't realize I was the one getting burned - and burned out.
I was exhausted, resentful, and tense. I had an almost constant neck injury so I looked like a robot turning my whole body because I couldn't move my head. And the worse part was, I didn't even realize it was chronic until a coworker said, "You know, it seems like you have something wrong with your neck every time I see you."
Years later, after studying Reiki, I learned that the throat Chakra represents communication and speaking your truth. Once I started getting honest with myself and listening to what I needed - physically, emotionally and spiritually - my neck pain stopped.
Self care is not frivolous. It’s foundational.
When we're physically and emotionally drained, our bodies go into survival mode. It doesn't matter if your rational brain knows you're safe, you might find yourself doing all kinds of things that frustrate you and which you can't explain: preserving your energy by binging Netflix, stockpiling calories by binging chips and ice cream (ahem✋) , or numbing unexplained anxiety by binging wine.
Here are a few of my favorite self-care tips and the products I love (I'm not an affiliate for any of these, just love when something exceeds my high expectations):
Research has shown that 30 minutes of cardio a day is as effective as a prescription of anti-depressants. 💪 What's important here is to do what feels good - not what looks good. I used to tell myself I should do the same workouts my friends loved, but finally had to admit I just don't enjoy group exercise classes, spin or hot yoga. For me, what feels good is weight-lifting and (sometimes) jogging.
Want to be smarter, thinner, stronger and healthier? Then get more sleep. One of my favorite times of day is getting in my bed. I've found the perfect combination of mattress, sheets and pillow that - no joke - make me squirm with delight when I finally lay down at night. If your sleeping situation doesn't make you happy, you owe it to yourself (and your health) to invest in things that do.
Back to my neck problem, this pillow has been amazing - and I've tried everything.
If you spend much time with me, you know I'm a HUGE advocate of journaling. Research has shown that it improves your mood and helps you identify and process emotion.
I love it because it helps me "clear the trash" - get out all those negative ruminating thoughts I'd otherwise have sitting in my head. Did you know we have over 50,000 thoughts a day and that 80% are negative and 95% are repetitive? That’s a lot of wasted energy holding on to stuff that’s not serving us.
It's also a fabulous way of identifying patterns I'm repeating but didn't realize. Not-so-fun fact: I discovered I'd been dating emotionally unavailable men for 20 YEARS by reading journal entries. When we're participating in experiences, it's so easy to tell ourselves how they're all different. When we can step back and become the observer, though, we start to find our reactive and repetitive patterns.
Finally, taking time to journal is a great way to create white space in your day to be more reflective and intentional. If you ever feel like you’re aimless or on autopilot, journaling helps you get clear on what you want and where you’re going.
I still sometimes use a notebook and pen, but I most often use this website, and literally journal with my eyes closed. Tons of typos but a great way to get honest with myself because I'm not trying to edit (something us perfectionists tend to do - even in our own heads!).
I think we all know drinking water is important. We’re made of water and all that jazz. But so many of us still have a hard time drinking it. In college, I worked at Jenny Craig and learned a tip that I’ve practiced for 20 years to help me stay hydrated: carry a water bottle everywhere I go. Now, I literally never leave home without one and always reach for water any time I’m feeling sluggish, bored or, of course, thirsty!
I’m picky about my water bottles - they need to be easy to clean and carry, sit in my car’s drink holder and not leak, spill or have a straw. This one fits the bill and I have several so I can use them every day!
Be Creative / Play
There is tons of research out there on the benefits of being creative and playing - it decreases stress and improves productivity and innovation, among other things. And yet, this is almost always one of the very first things to go when we get busy or anxious. And then, when the weekend or a vacation rolls around, we’re still so amped up from the chaos of life, the respite is over by the time we’ve finally come down.
I used to love drawing, but gave it up years ago in favor of more “productive” uses of my time. Now, I regularly build time in to my weekends to just draw and color. It’s satisfying and peaceful. I even hang up my drawings on my fridge like I’d display my kids’ because even looking at them makes me happy.
I’m a copycat artist so just Google images and draw them freehand but I absolutely love my colored pencils, which I use on my drawings and in adult coloring books.
Self-care can look like a lot of things, but please don’t make it non-existent. The more you prioritize taking care of yourself, the better you are able to take care of everything else in your life.
What are your top self-care practices? Share in the comments - you never know when your tip will be exactly the one to help someone thrive!