This year, make it your Resolution to commit to self-care.
For most of us, things have been absolutely hectic since 2020 (if not before)! Holiday stress, recovery from illness, financial worries, an on-the-go lifestyle, and so much more can leave us feeling absolutely rundown and exhausted. We push our bodies (and minds) until we are forced by muscle aches and overwhelming fatigue to stop, just to continue on doing the same thing once we feel a little better. And yet, studies show that most people don’t get adequate sleep. Meanwhile, Nearly 10% of Americans suffer from depression, with the mood disorder increasing fastest among teens and young adults. And almost 40% of adults World-wide are suffering from some level of anxiety.
It’s time to unwind.
We would like to share with you absolutely FREE ways to Relax and Renew.
Ease into Your Morning
Take extra time to gently start your day. Wake up naturally without an alarm. Linger in bed a while. Do gentle neck rolls and stretches. Open the curtains to stream in fresh sunlight. Spend a little longer than usual in the bath or shower. Add in a dry-brushing session, or self-massage with a hydrating body lotion. Relish the beginning of your day in quiet solitude. Taking just one day a week for a slow, lazy morning can make a huge difference in how you feel the rest of the week. Over time, you’ll also create a nice “slow morning” routine to look forward to.
Savor a Cup of Coffee or Tea
The smell of coffee (and some infused teas) has been shown to reduce stress hormones. Brew your best, and use your absolute favorite creamer. Pour into your favorite mug. Make it a whole “thing”. Don’t just drink it – SAVOR it. Sip slowly. Breathe in the soothing Aroma. Feel the warmth of the mug on your hands. Let the liquid linger on your tongue just a moment longer before swallowing. REALLY enjoy it. Starting the morning with something simple that you thoroughly delight in can set the tone for your whole day.
Start Your Day with a Nutritious Meal
Eating well does not have to mean deprivation, nor a tedious amount of time in the kitchen. Mixed Berries and Yogurt with Granola, Avocado Toast, Oatmeal with Maple and Brown Sugar, a Veggie and Potato Hash with Eggs . . . These are all easy and cheap options full of flavor and nutrition. Again, take the time to prepare your food and to really enjoy it. Your breakfast will FEEL decadent, and you’ll feel light and full of energy. You’ll also feel good knowing you’re making a healthy choice to take care of yourself.
Don’t worry about being perfectly still, having absolute quiet or totally clearing your mind. Instead, try to focus on breathing deeply and slowly, making your exhales just slightly longer than your inhales. Pay attention to each area of your body releasing tension, starting with your head and neck, and ending at your feet. You may also try to focus on one simple word or affirmation as you relax, such as “calm” or “I commit myself to peace and healing.” If thoughts come into your mind, briefly acknowledge them and let them pass, then refocus on your chosen word(s). Set your intention for the day. As you continue in this practice, you’ll find it gets easier and easier to do. You may also notice more calm and peace of mind, and slower reactions to life’s stresses.
Just 15 Minutes of Yoga a day can significantly decrease heart-disease risk! Yoga can also increase flexibility, lower stress, and decrease discomfort in muscles and joints. Don’t try to force yourself into all kinds of twists and backbends. Take it easy with simple seated stretches or floor asanas. Just focus on deep breathing, relaxation, and holding the pose for 30-90 seconds.
“Sometimes the most productive thing you can do is relax.”
Take a Nap
Busy schedules and stressful lifestyles leave many of us sleep deprived, our minds and bodies begging for rest. And while napping can’t make up for lost nighttime hours, it can help us to refuel during the day, increase alertness and improve our mood. Napping may even decrease the risk of coronary artery disease! Don’t listen to the voices in your head saying you’re being lazy. Sometimes the most productive thing you can do is relax. And napping is more effective in boosting wakefulness than drinking a cup of coffee. Just be sure you don’t nap for too long, or at the wrong time of the day. According to WebMD, our bodies are programmed to sleep between 1pm and 3 pm. Aim for a short snooze during this time, and try to sleep between 20 and 60 minutes, to boost alertness and performance without interfering with nighttime sleep.
Listen to Music
Music can easily alleviate the pressures of everyday life and can help to take the mind off of different stressors. Music therapy and self-care go hand in hand! Music has been proven to provide benefits such as decreased anxiety, stress management, increased self-awareness, and overall mindfulness. It doesn’t even matter if the tunes you are listening to are considered “relaxing”, so long as YOU enjoy it; listening to music that you find pleasant increases feelings of happiness, therefore reducing feelings of stress. However, for meditation or deep relaxation, choose music with slower tempos.
Read a Book
Many bibliophiles choose to read at night for a reason – turning through the pages of a great book is a wonderful way to unwind (presuming your novel isn’t a murder mystery, horror, or other intense drama!). Reading as an act of self-care is great for both physical, mental, and emotional health! Reading for just 30 minutes a day can sharpen your mind, lift your mood, improve sleep, and even combat symptoms of depression. Reading allows the mind to unplug from the real world, while allowing you to focus and concentrate, which reduces stress. In fact, studies have shown that those who read for just a half-hour on a regular basis are 20% more likely to have greater life satisfaction, and are happier!
Watch a Movie
Many people find that watching a movie is a great way to be entertained and relieve stress. Watching movies can be cathartic, allowing you to feel strong emotions and encouraging an emotional release. They can even strengthen relationships and make you more empathetic. Increase these effects by choosing feel-good movies. Enhance the unwinding by watching at home in dim lighting, stretching out on a comfortable surface surrounded by pillows and blankets, and enjoying your favorite drink and snacks.
Pet a Furry Friend
Interacting with animals has been shown to decrease levels of cortisol (a stress-related hormone) and lower blood pressure. Other studies have found that animals can reduce loneliness, increase feelings of social support, and boost your mood. Studies show that dogs and cats reduce stress, anxiety and depression; ease loneliness; encourage exercise and improve your overall health. People with dogs typically have lower blood pressure and are less likely to develop heart disease. Just 10 minutes a day of petting an animal is enough to decrease stress, but you (and your pet!) can benefit greatly from longer periods of time spent together.
“Rest and self-care are so important. When you take time to replenish your spirit, it allows you to serve from the overflow. You cannot serve from an empty vessel.”
—Eleanor Brown, author
Go for a Walk
Taking the time to walk, just for the sake of walking, can be an act of self-care. Researchers have long touted the physical benefits of walking, such as increased oxygen intake, revved-up circulation, reducing blood pressure and cholesterol, a healthier heart, lowering blood sugar, and calorie burning. But walking can also shed stress and enhance calm energy, making it the perfect way to practice self-care. Even walking just 10 – 30 minutes a day is enough to reap benefits.
Your body needs to stay hydrated to function at its best. Whether plain water or fruit infused, drinking enough water has been shown to regulate body temperature, keep joints lubricated, prevent infections, deliver nutrients to cells, and keep organs functioning properly. Being well-hydrated also affects energy levels, improves sleep quality, improves brain performance, and enhances mood. Some who suffer from headaches may find that staying hydrated reduces or eliminates symptoms. Water has also been shown to have natural calming properties, likely as a result of addressing dehydration’s effects on the brain and body.
Not only does gardening literally ground you (a technique that helps keep you in the present, rather than getting lost in anxiety), the Vitamin D acquired from being in the sun helps to naturally energize, and can ease or relieve symptoms of seasonal depression. Start small – Begin with just taking care of one plant first to get into the rhythm, and expand from there. Start with what you love – If you don’t know what to grow, begin with foods that you like to eat, or with your favorite flowers. Watching your plants grow and flourish can also provide a sense of responsibility and accomplishment.
This favorite activity for many children can actually be beneficial and rewarding for adults as well. A healthy way to relieve stress, coloring calms the brain and helps the body to relax. Coloring calms the anxiety center of the brain – the amygdala – inducing the same mindful and quiet state that occurs when meditating. Healthy and creative, coloring Choose an adult coloring book containing mandalas or intricate patterns (some are even created specifically for stress relief and mindfulness), a digital version on your phone, or pull out one made for younger generations and fill in the designs while spending time with a child.
It’s been said that laughter is the best medicine, and with all of its benefits for the mind, body, and soul, there might be some truth to it. Laughter relaxes the whole body, boosts the immune system, and protects the heart. Laughter increases heart and respiratory rates as well as oxygen consumption over a short period. A good laugh can also relax the tension in the body for up to 45 minutes! Laughter has also been shown to decrease feelings of stress, reduce pain, and lower feelings associated with anxiety and depression. Quickly lift your mood and soothe tension by engaging in some light-hearted humor.
Have a Bite of Chocolate
Chocolate has long been a favorite comfort food for many, and there’s good reason why. Researchers say eating dark chocolate can change your brain wave frequency, providing benefits in memory improvement and stress reduction. Indulging in just 1.4 ounces of dark chocolate a day for two weeks reduces levels of the stress hormone cortisol, as well as the “fight or flight” hormones, in overly stressed or anxious people, as well as in healthy individuals. High cacao dark chocolate may also be beneficial in improving mood, boosting immunity, and lowering inflammation. This is all due to its antioxidants, flavanols, and of course, taste!
Write in a Journal
Set aside time to journal each day, even if its only 5 to 10 minutes. Journaling is a great way to relax and reduce stress, because it gets out feelings and thoughts in much the same manner as a therapy session would. Writing things down can help in sorting out ideas so they are less overwhelming, and in problem solving to find solutions. Journaling can also be used to focus on things that make you happy, things you are grateful for, which in turn helps you to look on the brighter side and focus less on troubles.
Enjoy a Sunset
Observing a sunset is the perfect way to unwind and practice mindfulness. Watching the unique colors and patterns as the sun disappears into the horizon creates a meditative state that clears the mind. Research shows that sunsets have psychological effects that relieve stress and yield long-lasting satisfaction of life. So next time you’re having a rough day, drive to your favorite spot and watch your worries fade away.
Take a Bath
When was the last time you filled up your tub? A long soak in warm water can aid in releasing muscle tension and calming the mind. Turn on some soothing instrumentals. Light a few candles (or use flameless). Add a few drops of a calming Essential Oil (try Lavender or Rose). Pour in Epsom Salts and/or Bubble Bath. And just relax . . .
Practice Good Sleep Habits
When was the last time you woke up feeling refreshed and well-rested? A good night’s sleep is crucial for good health, optimal performance, and feeling your best. The best way to ensure a restful night is by building and practicing good sleep habits. Avoiding caffeine, heavy meals, or alcohol within 3 hours of bedtime will make sleep easier. Try going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, even during holidays and weekends. Keep the room temperature cool and comfortable, as lower temperatures are more conducive to sleep; some find that keeping a fan on low helps. Keep the room quiet, dark, and comfortable. For some, a sound machine with white noise, or turning on relaxing instrumentals, can help filter out stressful thoughts that prevent or disrupt sleep. Lastly, aim for 6-8 hours of quality sleep each night. Creating a bedtime routine, no matter how simple or elaborate, will signal your body and brain that it is time to relax and unwind.
For more information about good sleep, view this advice from the Sleep Health Foundation.
Engaging in a self-care routine has been clinically proven to reduce or eliminate anxiety and depression, reduce stress, improve concentration, minimize frustration and anger, increase happiness, improve energy, and more.
Just take your time, & take good care of you.