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Mama’s havin’ a day. You know that’s true because I only refer to myself in the third person (or as “Mama” – it’s “Mom”, thank you) when I am, in fact, having a difficult day. Those used to be the days that result in wine, cookie dough and TV (and sometimes they still do). Unfortunately, those strategies tend to result in feeling like crap and guilt in the morning. I know I shouldn’t feel guilty – overindulging and numbing my senses is an understandable way to deal with stress, even if it’s not particularly helpful. This year, though, I am all about finally taking care of myself, in every way. This includes how I take care of myself in times of stress (and also as prevention of said stress). Less wine, less carbs, less trashy TV.
However, the stereotypical “healthy” self-care habits that tend to come to mind – things like taking a long bath, getting a massage, giving yourself a mudmask, getting a pedicure – aren’t always practical, affordable or even desirable. I mean, I’m stressed out, but maybe I just don’t want to take a hot bath. And what if I don’t have the money or time for a massage or a pedicure? Doing a mudmask is something I do to take care of my skin but it’s not anymore enjoyable than brushing my teeth, so it really doesn’t belong on that kind of list. So in an effort to do better at self-care, I did some serious brainstorming. Hopefully, you’ll find this list helpful as well.
- Breathe. Relaxation triggers the parasympathetic nervous system, also known as the relaxation response. This results in slowing down your heart rate, lowering your blood pressure, relaxing your muscles, releasing those feel-good chemicals like dopamine into your system. One method is through meditation – but there’s a misconception that it’s the only way. Many people think they need to meditate, then give up after they decide it’s too hard because they can’t keep their mind still. One, meditation should be like Planet Fitness – it’s a no judgment zone! Would you tell someone who was physically unfit that they shouldn’t exercise because they’re no good at it? No! The process of trying to still your mind is still incredibly beneficial. Second, even if you still feel like meditation isn’t your thing, you can still trigger the relaxation response in other ways. There are other techniques that can work, such as guided imagery visualization, guided passive progressive muscle relaxation, biofeedback, yoga, hypnosis, acupuncture, or diaphragmatic breathing. Listening to a guided track may be easier than sitting in silence, and that’s ok. Experiment with different techniques to see what works best for you. And what does it take to significantly trigger your body’s parasympathatic nervous system? 30 minutes a day. That’s it. Best of all, you can break it up into 10 minute sessions — I try to medidate for 10 minutes in the morning, 10 minutes in the afternoon, and then listen to a guided relaxation CD as I’m falling asleep.
- Listen to a fun book. I listen to audiobooks on Audible pretty regularly and probably 75% of what I listen to is personal development. (What can I say? I’m a personal development junkie!) But I definitely allow myself to have at any point in time at least one book that’s pure entertainment. For me, that’s going to be mystery or psychological thriller, but maybe for you that’s comedy or romance or even young adult! I listen to books every second of the day I’m doing anything alone that doesn’t require much of my brain – driving, cleaning, painting furniture, going on a walk. Every mundane task gets leveled up into entertainment for me! It makes the whole day a little more enjoyable.
- Rent a movie from Redbox. I mean, I know we all have Netflix or Hulu or whatever by now, but, for me, there’s something very nostalgic and comforting about renting a movie (even if it’s out of a vending machine and not at a now obsolete video store). It’s special somehow. Look for something you’ve been wanting to see and get something just for yourself. Wait for the kids to go to bed. Pop some popcorn, grab a blanket. Just another night in front of the TV, now leveled up.
- Skip the massage and invest the money in some good bedding. High threadcount is the gift that keeps on giving – it lasts night after night and the sheets only get softer with each wash. The feeling of climbing into a supremely comfortable bed at the end of the day is nothing short of “I am cared for”. Good bedding can be expensive but it’s worth the splurge (imho)! Here’s my recommendation.
- Stretch it out. A good stretch in the morning and at the end of the day is essential to keeping aches, pains, and stiffness at bay. I have fibromyalgia so this one is pretty much a non-negotiable for me, but everyone could greatly benefit from 10-20 minutes/day of stretching. I use the stretch it out strap for maximum benefits and, because the strap allows me to be completely passive, a much more relaxing experience.
- Roll it out. Along the same lines, using a foam roller can really get the knots out, ease soreness and reduce inflammation. Plus, it’s *much* cheaper and more convenient than getting a massage.
- Incorporate aromatherapy into your routine with essential oils. Essential oils are *not* just for diffusers – they are incredibly versatile! From diffuser jewelry to roller balls to adding a few drops to your hand cream to adding a couple drops to an all-natural cleaner, there are so many ways to incorporate essential oils into your daily routine. This is my absolute favorite blend right now – I add a couple drops to a lava bead diffuser necklace and breathe it in whenever I feel stressed during the day.
I hope this list is helpful! I’d love to get your ideas for self-care – comment below.