If there is one thing I know is true, it’s that adulting is hard. Between work, relationships, and projects piling up at home, our calendars become inundated with to-do lists, which inevitably leaves us feeling stressed. When we’re stressed, self-care is usually the first thing to go. And of course, that only makes us feel worse.
With so much complexity in our daily lives, it may feel hard to even recognize the importance of self-care. As women, we are so busy taking care of everything and everyone in our lives that we often neglect to take care of ourselves. Most of us have been conditioned to believe that the more productive we are, the bigger the reward. And it’s true, productivity pays off, but not when we’re left feeling burnt out in a ball of anxiety, with everyone else’s needs met but our own.
Now, as fluffy and indulgent as the phrase “self-care” may sound, it’s actually just a few basic habits that are crucial to your functioning and wellbeing. Here are 10 self-care tips you can put into practice that will help you feel more balanced, present, and ease in your everyday.
1. Avoid the “Should Storm”
The word “should” has become a fixture in our everyday dialogue. We use it in conversation with others, as a way of motivating ourselves or keeping ourselves in check, and to express a myriad of feelings, including frustration, guilt, and regret.
Plain and simply, the word “should” is motivated by a lack of self-acceptance rather than encouragement. Instead of saying you “should” be doing more of something, try to focus on why you want to do that particular thing. For example, “I should exercise more regularly” can be reframed into “I feel so much more at peace and better in my body when I exercise.” Replacing “should” with more helpful dialogue will lead to a kinder relationship to yourself, and better relationships to the people around you.
2. Listen to Your Body’s Cues
Have you ever been so hungry you can barely think, but forced yourself to finish a batch of work before you allow yourself to eat? Or felt the urge to go to the bathroom but held it in so you could finish a task? Yeah? Stop doing that, and stop doing that now. Our bodies are constantly communicating to us what they need and it’s up to us to listen. Pay close attention to how your body feels and take care of it. Are you feeling sore sitting at your desk? Get up and stretch. Is your stomach growling? Eat some food. Do you have a headache? Take a break from staring at your screen.
3. Get Physical
I know, I know, telling you to break a sweat everyday is so cliché, but it’s an absolute must. I think what makes regular exercise so hard is that when most people think of exercise they think of self-sacrifice and drudgery. However, exercise can be fun.
Here are some ideas:
- Shop around for an exercise class that you enjoy. Try cycling, Zumba, Hip Hop, pole dancing, and so on. Don’t stop until you find a class that feels like play to you.
- Join a sports team. If you loved to play soccer, softball, or volleyball as a kid, find a team for adults and join.
- Remember bouncy castles? Those were so much fun! The adult equivalent is a trampoline! Where I live in San Francisco there is a trampoline park that has 42 conjoint trampolines for all your bouncing desires. It is so much fun and the most intense workout. Want to bounce in your city? Do a quick Google search to see if your city has any trampoline parks or classes and bounce yourself into better physical and mental health.
4. Get on a Sleep Schedule
I am a notorious night owl and always have been. I love watching television in bed, flipping through social media, and looking up recipes before I fall asleep. But one thing I have learned (the hard way) over the years is that getting enough quality sleep is vital for my mental and physical health. Part of being an adult is acknowledging what I need and doing it (insert deep sigh). And even though I miss falling asleep to Friends reruns every night I feel so much better in the morning.
Here’s how to set up a sleep routine:
- Set a bedtime that allows between 8-10 hours of sleep
- Make your bedroom very dark and quiet
- Leave all electronics in another room
- Practice diaphragmatic breathing (it’s straight up magical how well this works).
5. Remember Your Compliments
Most of us are fluent in self-criticism. To counter act this negative voice try creating a compliments file by documenting the great things people say about you to read later. It could be positive feedback on your work performance, compliments from your spouse or best friend, or even things you like about yourself. Pull out the file as often as you need to and remind yourself how awesome you are. It may sound cheesy…because it is! But it also feels great and is a simple way to offer yourself some love and care.
6. Unplug Everyday
When you get home from work try switching your phone to airplane mode and checking out from the vortex that is email and social media. Start with 30 minutes a day and try to build up from there. This will give you a chance to intentionally transition out of your workday and into your home environment. Work with the impulses that arise, and remind yourself you are starting a new habit. Do something caring for yourself like stretching, snuggling your pet, or expressing gratitude for the things you have in your life.
7. Narrow Your Food Choices
If you’re anything like me you spend a ridiculous amount of time deciding what you’re going to eat throughout the day. Frankly, it’s my favorite way to distract myself from the present moment, but it can also stress me out. To help with this I pick two healthy breakfasts, lunches, and dinners and rotate them throughout the week. It helps me feel more organized, keeps me from obsessing and feeling overwhelmed with meal planning.
8. Laugh as Often as Possible
Laughing is, and will always be, the best form of therapy. Laugh as hard and as often as possible. Watch comedies. Read funny books. Share funny stories. Watch your favorite comedian on YouTube. Create your own comedy night with friends. Surround yourself with funny people. It will literally lift your spirits (laughter releases feel good hormones like dopamine and endorphins), reduce your stress, and boost your energy. Personally I love pulling up YouTube videos of Ellen DeGeneres and the adorable kids she has on her shows. It immediately brightens my mood and elicits feelings of happiness and delight.
9. Stop Indulging Your Inner Critique
We all have one, that nagging, mean inner critical voice. And we all need to send her on a fabulous vacation (after all, she works hard, to keep us in line) and tell her to leave us alone. I think it’s fair to say we all struggle with some degree of self-hatred and for some these feelings may feel full-bodied and undeniable. That doesn’t mean that you allow yourself to go down that road. Your job in that moment is to put down the thread of inner criticism and walk away. Your job is to insist on treating yourself with kindness and respect. This is the ultimate form of self-care.
10. Make Time To Play
“The Opposite of work is not play—it is depression.” Just like children, adults need play. A lot of times adults can’t even list the things they like to do for fun because they are so far removed from being able to identify what they truly enjoy. If this is you here are some steps to follow:
- First, sit down and make a list of the things that you enjoyed doing as a kid. Then go over your list and highlight those things that still sound appealing.
- Google “fun ideas for adults” or “bucket list ideas.” This will help you generate ideas of things you want to try.
- Create a play drawer and fill it with jigsaw puzzles, coloring books for adults, play dough (there’s play dough for adults now but the kid stuff works great too), LEGOS, watercolors, etc.
- Schedule time to play. Plug it into your calendar and give yourself the much-needed playtime you deserve.
What are some of your favorite ways to take care of yourself? Share with us in the comments below!
If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area and are interested in individual or couples therapy I invite you to contact me via email at: [email protected]