It’s 9:26 PM and I’m exhausted from a full day of work. The Christmas decorations are put away but somehow a few stray ornaments are still sitting out. Dishes are in the sink. And all I can muster the energy for is putting my feet up and watching other people organize their house with Marie Kondo on Netflix.
If you’re like me, 2018 was a bit of a whirlwind - filled with opportunity, adventure, and those hassles and detours that make up life as we know it.
The holidays can take the flurry of business to the next level, making January the perfect time to re-group.
And in case self-care sounds selfish or like an unnecessary time-taker, rest assured knowing that taking time to rest is actually a must for good health. More and more science is backing wide-ranging physical and mental health benefits of self-care.
And we all know from experience how a bit of respite can change our outlook on the day. When you feel better and have more energy, you’re able to share that energy with the world.
All that to say, your self-care is important - and it benefits not just you, but your loved ones and your work.
So, thank you in advance for finding ways to add some of these practices into your regular routines. Most of these practices are completely percent free. And most don’t take a lot of time either.
As you read through this list, identify the ones that stand out – either because you know you enjoy the activities already, or because you know incorporating it is probably the challenge you need right now. Consider how often, and at what time of day it will be easiest to add in some of these routines. If your schedule already feels packed to the brim, it’s likely you’ll have to re-arrange a few things to make room for self-care.
Once you develop a new winter self-care regimen, it may not be perfect – and that’s ok. You may decide to re-adjust or try different self-care elements. You might miss a day or two here and there. When you do, don’t let yourself get mired in guilt or frustration – every day is a new opportunity to add in self-care. And the whole point of this regimen is to be a little kinder to yourself this season.
With that said, here are ten of my favorite ways to take better care of myself when I’ve been feeling stressed or overworked:
1. Take a Bath
If you have a tub in your home, start putting it to good use. If you regularly enjoy baths already, then you know how relaxing they can be. And if it’s been awhile since you’ve strayed from your quick shower routine, then try it this evening - draw a nice hot bath and let your cares float way on the waterline. A recent study shows taking a hot bath can be as effective as exercise for easing the symptoms of depression. Add an extra layer of soothing by adding epsom salts - the magnesium can help reduce the muscle aches we accumulate during the day.
2. Play with Your Dog
And if you don’t have one, borrow a friend’s, or call your local shelter to ask about volunteering. Animal therapy is becoming more popular as even established clinicians see the healing power of interacting with animals.
After a long day hunched over a keyboard, or dealing with difficult co-workers, a game of fetch in the back yard will have you seeing the good in life again.
3. Get outside for some natural vitamin D and fresh air
If you don’t regularly get sunlight, make this your number one goal for the year. For one thing, humans need sunlight to manufacture vitamin D - an essential nutrient that too many of us are low in. And then there is the mood boosting power of sunlight. And even if it’s not sunny, stepping outside for a walk around the block, a walk to the corner cafe, or a lunch break spent on the patio can shift a lousy, stressful day into a lighter, more optimistic space.
And the more green you can get in your outdoor moments, the better. Studies for decades have proved what we already know - big cities and congested concrete scenes are more stressful than more rural, green settings.
4. Learning to let go of negative mind talk
Oh this one can be a tough one - but let’s dig in because learning to let go of negative thoughts can drastically change your life. And that’s not an overstatement. We come pre-wired with a negativity bias - studies show that we remember negative feedback much more clearly and ruminate on it more than we do positive feedback.
But there are steps you can take to reframe the negative thoughts that creep in and replace them with more objective truths.
5. Release a toxic person from your life
Just as negative thoughts take a real toll, so do negative people. It’s a common saying that we become like the five people we spend the most time with, so let’s choose carefully this year.
Parting ways can be a scary thought. But no one else can take responsibility for the inputs you allow in your life - that’s all up to you.
You might be thinking, “I’d LOVE to get rid of the most toxic person in my life but it’s … my boss”. Sometimes there are people in our family or immediate circle that we can’t release completely. We still have to see them.
So this year take extra steps to place boundaries around those interactions. Be extra aware of your thought patterns before, during, and after time spent with those individuals. And give yourself space to process afterward.
Even if we can’t completely distance ourselves from toxic people, we can release our emotional attachment. Whether it’s a friend who just can’t seem to get her life together, or a co-worker who always manages to make you feel less-than, this can be the year - in fact, this can be the day, that you choose to release that negativity instead of holding onto it.
6. Unplug and unfollow
We all know we’re too attached to our gadgets… but here’s the thing: you still get to choose how much time you spend scrolling on social media. We might have to be on email from 9 to 5 for work, but we all have bits of time through the day that we can take back from the electronic malaise.
Simply going into airplane mode for a few hours on a Saturday afternoon can be an act of self care.
Getting off your phone or iPad literally lets you look up and look around. Your neck will actually benefit, as will your mindspace.
And about all those accounts you follow that showcase “perfection”? Even though we know it’s not real…it still feels pretty real. Whether it’s a perfectly staged home interior, a perfectly crumbless counter, a perfectly slouchy jacket paired with just-so boots, or a perfectly toned body with an even more perfect tan - stop looking.
If you follow brands online that make you feel jealous, envious, less-than, or in any way anything less than winning at life, just hit “unfollow”. Do it! It’s so freeing.
7. Find 15 minutes of fun or humor each day
Ever heard of laughter therapy? It’s a real thing! And for good reason, because science tells us deep belly laughter is incredibly rejuvenating. And hey, laughing is fun! When our days consist of work, commuting, and chores, it can be easy to go days without truly laughing.
Whether it’s scheduling a coffee date with that one friend who always makes you laugh, or just tuning into your favorite humorous podcast, make an effort to incorporate more humor in your life.
And while TV watching gets a bad rap in self-care articles, this practice is all about what makes you happy. So if a sitcom lights up your evening and helps the tension of the day melt away, then tune in and enjoy those 20 minutes without guilt.
8. Saying no
It’s one of the first words we become pros at when babies… but as adults it’s one of the most difficult messages to deliver.
But you can do it.
And, to have the life you want, you have to.
Because we just cannot possibly say yes to everything in life without getting completely burned out.
Whether it’s saying no to an extra project at work, a party you don’t feel like going to, that shower for a distant relative you feel obligated to attend, or a new volunteer opportunity that would eat into your only free moments, let me be your cheerleader in saying “no!” With politeness of course.
If saying “no” to someone’s face is just too painful, practice mid-way steps like offering to check your schedule and follow-up later.
9. Saying Yes
The beauty of saying “no” to obligations is that you get to say a hearty “YES” to the best relationships and opportunities in life.
And when you’ve freed up your schedule with intentional “no’s”, those “yes’s” become happier.
Take time to reflect on what’s really most important to you in this season of life.
Is it family? Growing a new business? Investing in friendships? Spending time in nature? Restoring your health?
Choose two or three areas and say yes to investing in those, and let go of the guilt that can attach itself to saying no to everything else.
10. Pamper yourself with natural skincare and makeup
There’s no shame in upping your beauty game this year. Beauty is as beauty does, and using responsibly source, healthy products can help you start building that inside-out beauty.
Shalley Carrell built Buffalo Gal Grassfed on the principles of responsible, practical beauty, and she loves developing and testing new products that work amazingly well, while also being pleasant to use.
Just the simple act of smoothing a body butter over your elbows can be soothingly meditative.
Choose this time of year to go through your medicine cabinet: clear out old products first. No reason to keep them if they’re spoiled or you’ve decided you don’t even like the colors. Next, re-discover good products that you haven’t been using. If you’ve been skipping your weekly mask or daily hydrating products, re-incorporate them into your morning and evening routines.
Finally, treat yourself and explore new products for pampering. With the natural options available now, you can replace mainstream products with nontoxic varieties that truly nourish your skin.
Ingredients like tallow are making a huge comeback in skincare as women seek less artificial ways to solve for issues like dry skin. And Buffalo Gal’s tallow-based skin care products are ethically sourced. Each one has been designed to be more effective, and much more wholesome, than any drugstore offerings.