As much as I struggle with anxiety and depression, I’m really bad at practicing self-care and self love consistently. I go through phases where I’m really motivated (usually after a bout of panic or a really bad day) but then I also go through phases where I just can’t bring myself to do anything resembling self-care.
I think part of it is that when I think of self-care, I think of these ambitious things like meditation, yoga or running for hours a day. And those ideas are overwhelming to me.
But there are other, smaller ways to practice self-care that matter just as much as those big things. Think of this as a little stress management self-care checklist. Easy things you can incorporate into your life that will help you take better care of yourself! Here they are:
Breathing is the one thing that will, without fail, calm me down. But it’s the one thing I most often forget to do. Whenever I’m feeling anxious, I become acutely aware that I feel like I’m not getting enough air. So, I have to stop and focus on my breath. In for 5 seconds, hold for 7 seconds, out for as long as I can. Even after two rounds of this, I start to feel better and much more relaxed. Controlling my breathing takes my mind off of whatever is sending me into a panic and instantly works to help ease that anxiety.
2) Drink water
Staying hydrated is one of the easiest, yet one of the most overlooked, ways to practice self-care. Keep a bottle of water with you at all times (bonus points if it’s reusable). Drinking water increases your energy, makes you less tired, flushes out all the toxins in your body. It’s good for your immune system too. There are no downsides and it requires minimal effort! What could be better?
3) Get enough sleep + stick with a sleep schedule
When I don’t get enough sleep, my anxiety spikes. Or I’m super lethargic at work. Either way, not enough sleep = not a happy Alex. Some people can function on 4-5 hours of sleep (why can’t I be like them?!) but I need at least 8-9. Find your happy place and stick with it. Bonus points if you can keep your sleep schedule going over the weekend too, no matter how much you want to sleep in.
4) Go outside
As a self-proclaimed homebody (or hermit as my brother would say), I can easily be content spending an entire day (or weekend, shhh) inside. Once I’m outside though, I instantly feel better. It just takes that push for me to get outside. Make plans to meet up with a friend or go to a museum or head to a new part of town you haven’t yet explored. You don’t have to venture out far or for long but just get out there (I say, sitting at my table in pajamas).
5) Treat yourself
Sometimes, when things just don’t seem to be going your way, you need to treat yourself. For me, this usually involves food or tea. I’ll do this by ordering lots of yummy food to my apartment or going to get Ladurée macarons or baklava.
6) Talk with friends or family
If you don’t want to talk on the phone, that’s fine! Thanks to the invention of texting, you can easily reach out to friends or family anytime you want. If you’re embarrassed by your feelings (which you should not be), you can just text them something random to check in. Talk with someone who can always make you smile or someone who will send happy thoughts your way. Talk with someone who knows what you are going through. It’s common to feel alone during times of struggle, but you are never alone. Heck, email me! I’m always down to talk not on the phone with people!
7) Laugh (even if you don’t think you can)
When I’m feeling panicky or sad, I find something on YouTube that I know will alway smake me laugh (usually Friends or Parks and Rec bloopers). Even if I have to fake it at first, just the simple act of laughing helps ease that tension and slow down my mind.
8) Write down your thoughts
This might be hardest to get started, but it is something that helps the most. Sit down somewhere you feel comfortable with a pen and a notebook and just start writing. It does not have to be coherent in any way. Or look pretty. Or be the best thing you’ve ever written. Every word you release onto paper will be a word you empty from the racing thoughts in your mind.
9) Start a gratitude journal
This was something that really got me through my depression last year (thanks, Katie for telling me about this!). Every night before bed, write down 3 things that you are grateful for. If you’re depressed this might be harder than it sounds, but they can be literally any three things. I would often write “had a good cup of tea” “went to class” “talked with a friend” on there when I feel like I didn’t have anything else to be grateful for that day. Slowly, things started looking up, and it was nice to have that moment to myself before bed every night to show to myself that all the negative thoughts invading my brain were lying to me and that I did, in fact, have bright spots in my life.
10) Light a candle or diffuse some oil
I am all for this one. Whenever I’m in my apartment, I can be almost guaranteed to have a candle burning. Right now, my scent of choice is Christmas tree (I know, it’s almost July but it just smells so good!). Every night before bed, I sprinkle some lavender oil on my pillow to help me relax. I’m still waiting on my mom to send my oil diffuser from Florida up here (I know you’re reading this!) but I would always have some oil diffusing in my apartment last year. So relaxing.
How do you practice self-care?