Self-care has become one of those buzz words, and because it has been tossed around everywhere, it has lost some of its value, its meaning, and its importance. Self-care really is all about pre-managing stress. Pre-managing our stress in this way is absolutely necessary to live a life of health and vitality. When you neglect yourself, your needs, your mental well-being and your health, you will most likely experience the negative impacts of stress.
The negative impacts of compounded, unmanaged stress could include low energy, poor sleep, low motivation, illness, and a whole lot less joy. These negative impacts of stress can all lead to poor mental health outcomes as well as poor physical health outcomes. Self-care is a requirement to help stave off these negative and detrimental impacts of stress.
Consistent acts of self-care do not have be complicated, time intensive or extravagant. In fact, I want to highlight through this blog simple self-care practices that are impactful, accessible, desirable, inexpensive/free, and of course, as I already stated—simple! Finding simplified self-care acts that offer the most return on their investment will bring about stress reduction and allow you to live a life with more overall contentment and joy.
When we take care of ourselves in an intentional and purposeful way through specific, regularly practiced and simplified self-care routines, we build up our internal sense of self-worth. When we feel worthy of taking care of ourselves, we are more likely to be consistent and to have that feeling of internal positivity flow over into other areas of our lives. When we refill our mental, physical and emotional energy tanks through regular, simple and consistent self-care, our ability to cope with life stressors, including being with and managing our emotions, becomes more available. The more we practice regular and consistent self-care, the more we just generally feel better and experience more joy on a day-to-day basis.
When we hear self-care being thrown around in places like social media, we definitely don’t receive messages of simplicity and ease. When you hear self-care, what comes to mind for you? Maybe you picture images from IG of beautiful bathtubs with a view of the mountains, or maybe an elegant spa destination with endless massages, or maybe relaxing in the most comfortable looking bed, or strolling down deserted, pristine beaches, or maybe you picture someone meditating in a beautiful field with the perfect sunset…? Don’t get me wrong, if you have that available to you, that’s absolutely amazing! However, I know for myself anyway, those “perfected” images that I see through these outlets as self-care are not accessible to me on the daily. This means that it’s completely up to me to live within my personal reality and to create the self-care practices that work within my own daily busy schedule.
Now hopefully you can begin to shift your perspective of self-care from something fancy, perfect, or extravagant, to something more of a process of pre-managing stress (aka, stress management). This does not need to be fancy, or expensive, or take a long time to do. We need to practice self-care consistently to help refill our internal energy tanks for the inevitable stressors of daily life. That means it needs to fit into our over-scheduled, over-committed, over-packed lives! When you pre-manage your stress you will have more reserves for the unexpected stressors and minor irritations that will, at some point anyway, show up.
So let’s start by creating your own personal account of what makes you feel cared for, what makes you feel good—(not what you see out there in a perfectly curated image)—and what is realistic + simple for you to incorporate within your personal day to day life. This includes considering your work schedule, family commitments and so on. What time can you give back to yourself and what can you do within that time that truly is self-care, simply, simplified.
Take a moment and find your journal and write down your answers to the following questions:
-What helps me to feel good?
-What do I love to do?
-What lights me up?
-What makes me smile?
-What would my perfect day be like- what would I do, how would I feel, who would I be with, where would I be…?
-How do I best decompress in a way that I feel truly relaxed?
-When was the last time I felt relaxed, why did I feel that way?
-When I overcome a difficulty, what did I do to cope?
-What are my primary needs?
-What do I love to do that is free and accessible to me everyday?
After going through this self-reflection process, begin to craft your own, personalized self-care list. Look at the themes, your needs, what fills you up, what lights you up, how you manage challenges and so on. Now choose 3-5 items from your list that sound the most doable and desirable to you right now. What will you resist doing the least and look forward to the most? Where can you begin to plug those specific practices into your current routine? Or, where can you create some subtle shifts in your routine to fit these practices in regularly that would cause the least amount of disruption to your current life?
Start small, start curious, start somewhere—anywhere! When you take care of yourself in this way, daily, simply, and very importantly, consistently, you will gain big time returns when it comes to your stress levels. This in turn will increase your ability to manage bigger stressors while creating opportunities to feel more joy.
I know that “Netflix and Chill” is a thing, (and definitely not a bad thing!) and it may be a way for you to decompress. However, I recommend considering self-care practices that are simple and doable everyday that do not involve a screen. Finding self-care practices that are about being with ourselves more fully within the present moment, or connecting with others intentionally, offers a different energy that helps to prevent—or diffuse—daily stress from compounding on you.
I wish you well in building your daily, simplified self-care routine that supports you and your unique self in mind, body and spirit.
**If you have gone through this exercise and still feel unsure of what simplified self-care could look like for you, here’s a list of examples of some simple, no or low-cost self-care options that don’t need to take up much time, just simple ways to refresh and revitalize your mind and body.
-Breathe deeply and completely
-Keep a daily gratitude journal
-Do a 5 minute guided (or unguided) meditation and/or breath work practice
-Power walk around the block
-Go for a mindful, relaxing stroll
-Watch a sunset
-Watch a sunrise
-Take a power nap
-Stretch for 5 minutes
-Write (a story, a letter, a poem, a joke…)
-Play an instrument
-Do a puzzle
-Listen to music
-Play a game
-Play a sport
-Ride a bike
-Go for a jog
-Cook your favorite meal
-Create a skin care routine and practice it morning and night
-Do a face mask
-Take a bath
-Take a shower
-Play in the garden
-Plant a flower
-Read a good book
-Work through a self-help workbook
-Light a candle
-Play with or snuggle your pet
-Make your bed (or maybe don’t make your bed)
-Do anything that makes you smile, relax your shoulders and breathe more deeply
This list could keep going, and going— and please, feel free to add to it. The most important thing is that you find things that you will be glad that you did them, you will feel better for doing them, and you will feel the worthiness it creates within because you did it. Here’s to a healthy, content day through simplified and simplifying self-care!