What did you do for yourself today? No, I am not joking, really, what did you do that was purely for you? I know it may sound silly to ask but there is a reason. Most of the time when I ask my clients and my friends this question, they look puzzled. Sometimes they will say they got to work in time to exercise (yay) and maybe they even made a smoothie for themselves… But that’s not what I am really talking about.
When did you last do something that felt like a treat just for you? When did you do something that made you feel happy, important and like you mattered? If you are like me, you probably don’t naturally think of using your time that way. And I’m here to tell you that it’s an important lesson to learn.
I’ve lived my life focused on others, and I know that I am not alone. I was the head of a company, with vendors and colleagues and customers all counting on me. I’ve been the mother of two young boys, whose lives could be all-consuming AND all my responsibility. I’ve been the chauffeur for two teenagers, when panicked mid-day runs to school with forgotten musical instruments and bleary-eyed midnight drives home from events were the norm. I have helped to nurse my mother and my friends and clients back to health, which is both a privilege and a responsibility that I embrace.
In considering all of these hats that I wear (and I know you wear some or all of these, too, as well as others that I haven’t even thought about!), I find myself wondering what evolution I have enjoyed through my life’s journey. While it is clear to me that there is a common theme of needing and wanting to care for others, I seem to remember my earlier years and experiences as being so much more tinged with chronic stress. I loved my life and found my pursuits rewarding, but I was so frequently frustrated, irritable and yes, even unhappy, and I couldn’t figure out why.
There reached a point when my sons got older when I stopped to really consider what was going on. I knew I had so many blessings and it was so rewarding to be wanted and important in the lives of my family, friends and clients. But that feeling of dissatisfaction lingered. I didn’t want to be that person, but I couldn’t help what I felt. That was when I started to take a look at myself. I decided to go all in, look at my life, what I wanted for me and how I wanted to live as an example for my children, too!
I finally sat down and decided to focus on what I needed. But what I discovered first was that it was wholly unnatural for me to think about myself. I literally didn’t know how to do it. Oh, I knew I had dreams and plans and ambitions. I’ve always thought big in that way. But I honestly couldn’t give myself a quiet place to think about my needs and desires because every time I tried, I ended up at a big door marked “SELFISH” in my mind. That was the real turning point for me. When I finally realized that I had to learn how to let myself back in.
What I am talking about here is Self- Care. Not self-ISH! Self-CARE! Introducing you to yourself all over again! You are only as good as the sum of your parts, and I am here to tell you that when you take the time to invest in those parts, the return on your investment is immeasurable.
I have found that the more self-care I practice, the more time, energy and love I have to give to others. Whether you have a lot of time, very little time or scattered time throughout your day, there is a way for you to practice self-care. Below you will find a list of some of my favorite and EASY self-care practices. And remember, these are only suggestions, and I certainly don’t do ALL of these things every day, every week, or even every month. But I definitely make it my business to do at least one each day!
Whether you have 10 minutes or an hour, there are countless studies that prove the positive effect that movement and fresh air have on your mood but did you know that it can actually change your brain chemistry? You can read more about that here.
Again, here is something that you can do in as little as 10 minutes, by yourself, in your home, out walking or in a group. There are hundreds of free meditation apps if you prefer to have a guided mediation. There are also a vast number of studies proving that even 10 minutes of meditation daily can be a huge benefit to your health and well being. Check out what Mayo Clinic has to say about it.
This beautiful experience takes between 3 and 10 minutes but the rewards are long lasting. Our skin in our bodies largest organ. Dry brushing your skin is an invaluable exercise in toxin elimination, can help to reduce cellulite, stimulates the lymphatic system, is great for stress relief and will make your skin look and feel great. Click here to learn how.
Enjoy a warm bath.
Sometimes there is nothing better that sinking in a warm bath in the evening to help de-stress and relax. You can light a few candles, add a few drops of your favorite essential oil ( I often add lavender), you can even add 1 cup of Epsom salts and a ¼ cup of baking soda to aid in muscle relaxation and toxin removal.
Its so easy to get caught up looking at our phones, whether its social media, emails or texts, we have become a culture that fixates on technology. Unplugging for an hour or a few hours or even a day can do wonders for your ability to connect with others or yourself, allowing you to really be in the moment. The benefits are often hard to believe.
Now here is something you can really do any time and pretty much any place. After sitting at my desk for 45 minutes I always need a good stretch to release the tension in my body. Sometimes stretching before bed can help you sleep better and stretching when you wake up can help get the blood flowing to all parts of the body. This is a great tool. Click here for some examples of easy stretches.
Even a 5-minute personal dance party in your kitchen can change your mood and relieve stress. If you love to dance, go for it! It is not unusual for me to put my favorite music on while I am cooking and take a dance break (yes, all by myself), especially if I feel myself getting tense or tired. The movement helps create a shift in your energy and that can make all the difference in the world. Try this.
Listen to Music.
Just putting on your favorite tunes is often enough to change your mood, de-stress, help you focus or give you energy. It’s actually phenomenal how much music can do for you. I use music to help me focus when I am working on a big project. There are even apps like Focus at Will to get your set up and your zone. Of course, apps like Spotify and Pandora make easy for you to select your faves and create your own playlists too! Click here for an interesting read on the benefits of adding music to your day.
Eat something delicious!
Well you knew this had to be one of my favorite stress relievers! Nourishing your body with healthy and delicious food is a treat for the taste buds as well as giving your body and mind its needed energy for everything that you want to be able to do! Whether that means a green apple smoothie bowl or a frothy turmeric latte or a Decadent Chocolate Mousse treating yourself to something delicious and savoring every bite will surely elevate your mood and reduce stress!
This may not be for everyone but for me this practice has become a daily passion. Whether you write in the morning, the evening or any time in between, releasing your thoughts, ideas, concerns and even dreams into a journal can be an amazing relief. It takes a bit of getting used to , but even allowing stream of consciousness writing time can be a fantastic way to release stress you may not even know is there. Also, who doesn’t love opening a brand new journal with clean, crisp pages?
The power behind this activity is truly remarkable. It’s not necessary to take a long time… although when I am in a funk and I really need to indulge myself, I am always surprised how long my list can get… and how much better I ALWAYS feel after I finish writing. Every morning I write at least a few things I am grateful for…even in our darkest moments there are somethings to be grateful for ( the sun rise, cuddles with your fur baby, fresh clean water) and focusing on them in for a short while has a positive effect and goes a long way to relieving stress. Don’t take my word for it, please… give it a try. Try writing 5 things you are grateful for, every morning or evening and let me know how it makes you feel.
Quality time with a friend.
Spending time with a someone you care about, in person is fabulous but sometimes that’s not possible. You can make a phone or skype date, you can even have a virtual coffee together! The time spent with someone you care about can be as nourishing as a good meal or a walk in the woods. Real connection is so important to our health and well being and in our crazy busy lives, it sometimes gets lost in the shuffle. Reach out today to someone you want to spend time with and make a date. I know you will feel better for it.
Enjoy a beautiful meal.
Sit down to a beautiful meal, whether you are out for a meal or at home. If you are home you can set the table, light a candle, put on some of your favorite soothing music. Then you can enjoy a meal that satisfies all your senses. Take time to enjoy the way the food looks, smells, and tastes. Take your time to savor the food. Be in the moment and appreciate your meal. This is what is referred to as mindful eating and it has tremendous rewards for your body, mind and spirit.
Make time for your sleep. We all need it and cheating on sleep means cheating on ourselves. How much better do you feel when you have had a full nights sleep? So why not make a conscious effort to make sleeping a priority? Try to design a nighttime routine that feels good for you!
Your body and mind will become accustomed to your own routine and will send a signal to your central nervous system to relax and settle down. Some rituals you can start are:
- Closing your curtains or shades and making your room dark;
- Preparing your bed, turning down the sheets, and plump your pillows to make your bed look enticing;
- Using a diffuser with relaxing essential oils (this is one of my favorite things about my routine);
- Putting on some calming music and turn the lights down low;
- If you want to read, do so in soft lighting (as long as you can see).
On this Valentine’s Day, I am asking you to do something for you! Be your own best Valentine…. This offer is good all year long! 😃 And as a reminder of these ideas, I have prepared a gift from me to you, a printable Self-Care Checklist that you can hang anywhere you like, to remind you of the many ways that you can take care of YOU!