For many of us, the first few weeks and months of the pandemic meant a shelter-in-place order in our cities. Overnight, we heard waves of news about the coronavirus while being unable to see our friends and coworkers beyond a Facetime call or Zoom screen. And for many people, being stuck at home meant watching incomes dry up in the process.
The truth is, even though we were at home with extra time on our hands, quarantine was anything but relaxing. Instead, it taught us that it wasn’t our lack of time that made us bad at caring for ourselves—we’re simply not intentional about self care.
Today we invite you to be intentional about self care—that’s a simple way to stay grounded and hopeful in difficult seasons. By taking the time and energy to slow down and do something calming, we reduce stress and anxiety in the moment and add more emotional and mental bandwidth for future tough days.
Today, we’ll highlight some practical, effective, and budget-friendly ways to care for your body and mind.
1. Take a Break From Social Media
We thought we’d start with something that will help you better enjoy the 9 other self care strategies in this blog! Even though social media is fun and helps us connect with our loved ones, it can be very toxic and distracting. It’s not only a time-suck, but scrolling through your feeds for hours can lead to lower self-esteem and sleep issues.
We recommend using a social media app restrictor like the iPhone’s “Screen Time” feature, Android’s “Digital Wellbeing” to limit social media use. You can also delete social media apps from your phone to make it harder to scroll—no one like looking at Instagram from a web browser. Or better yet, if you have a day off and want to do something filling for you, start by turning your phone off and putting it away.
2. Catch a Sunrise/Sunset
Exposure to sunlight is proven to reduce anxiety and depression, but it’s understandable if you don’t want to leave your desk in the middle of a busy day to catch some rays. We recommend getting up at dawn or carving out some time at dusk to watch the sun. Find a good vantage point from your neighborhood or take a 30-minute walk to watch the sun. After your walk, you’re sure to feel refreshed and more at peace.
3. Engage A Different Part of Your Mind
If you spend most of your days managing people, tasks, projects, or otherwise using your mind, create time each week to do something with your hands. And vice versa—if you do manual labor all day, spend your off-time reading, building relationships, or otherwise engaging your mind. There’s something uniquely refreshing about engaging part of yourself that’s underused most days. Many people who engage their minds for work find that creative, tangible pursuits like playing an instrument or cooking are relaxing and refreshing. If you engage your mind more often, try the following activities to help you relax:
* Visual art like sculpting, pottery, or painting
* Upcycling old furniture
* Exercise of choice
* Clean your living space
If you engage your body more often, try the following activities to help you relax:
* Writing or journaling
* Learning something new
* Getting to know new people in your neighborhood
* Planning a vacation or event
* Guided meditation
4. Do Something That Made You Happy As A Child
For most of us, the last time we were deliriously happy was when we were younger. Take a moment and think about it—what was an activity that always made you laugh as a kid? For some of us, it was riding our bicycles around the neighborhood with friends or cousins. For others of us, we loved coloring and crafts. Or maybe we crafted elaborate plays or outdoor mazes with garden equipment. Whatever your top favorite activities were, adapt them from your current age and setting. You’d be surprised how relaxing it is to revisit you once loved.
When you were younger, your budget was $0, or whatever spare change your adults would spare. Think in the same way for your adult activity—keep it cheap and easy!
5. Follow A Guided Meditation Session (+ Nap)
Guided meditation is an excellent self-care technique and it’s free! There are plenty of guided meditation sessions on Youtube—poke around to find one you like or ask your friends for recommendations.
During a meditation session, you focus your attention and eliminate the stream of jumbled thoughts that crowd your mind and cause stress. This typically results in a sense of calm, peace and balance that can benefit both your emotional well-being that doesn’t end when your meditation session ends. Meditation can help produce a sense of peace throughout your day. If you have the time after a meditative session, enjoy a well-earned nap to really encourage rest and refreshing.
6. Make or Buy Yourself A Treat
Whether Thai food and a cup of tea makes your heart happy or it’s your grandmother’s chocolate chip cookie recipe, indulge your taste buds! A single meal or a batch ingredients isn’t likely to cost you a lot of money, so all you really need to do is carve out some time and create a relaxing atmosphere.
While preparing or eating your meal, light a candle, put your phone away, and maybe enjoy your favorite show, podcast, or album. Allowing yourself to indulge in a special meal can feel like a reward and a kind reminder to yourself that you deserve a break.
7. Get A Massage
Whether you know a masseuse in training or have a massage therapist you used to visit, it’s time to relax those muscles. Many 30-60 massages are within the $50 range, so this isn’t the cheapest self care option, but it’s well worth saving up for. A 60 minute massage can relax and soothe tense muscles, help improve your posture, and relieve stress and body aches.
If you’d prefer, there are home massage tools available online that apply heat and pressure to weary shoulders as well as foot massages and soaks.
Whether or not you like yoga, there are plenty of gentle stretches you can do to calm your mind, relax your body, and relieve mental tension. Especially if you sit at a desk all day, setting aside dedicated breaks to stretch will help relieve stress as well as muscle tension by allowing your muscles to let go of where you're carrying stress. Stretching also helps you relax and improves your quality of sleep by reducing mental stimulation and focusing on deep breathing.
Take a stretching break in the morning and afternoon if you sit all day or stretchin the evening to relax your mind and your muscles. By focusing on intentional, deep breaths, you can quiet your mind and relax your body, leaving you refreshed.
9. Visit a Body of Water
Bodies of water like lakes and the beach are often praised as one of the most relaxing settings on earth. Spending consistent time near water often leads to an improved sense of physical health and well-being. Contact with water induces a meditative state that makes us happier, healthier, calmer, more creative, and more capable of awe.
If possible, avoid pools for a naturally-occurring body of water. Drive to a lake or beach and spend a few hours there doing whatever you enjoy doing outdoors. Take a walk along the shoreline, write in your journal, or camp on the shore. Whatever you have planned for the time, make sure to squeeze in dedicated time to sit back and marvel at the water!
10. Tidy Up
It sounds counterintuitive, but cleaning up your surroundings can have surprisingly calming effects. When your living space is messy, it can feel like “unfinished business,” whether consciously or unconsciously, and this can add unnecessary stress. The process of wiping down your desk counter, washing your sheets, vacuuming, making your bed, going through clutter, taking out the trash, washing the dishes and feeling the warm water, dusting the shelves, and other cleaning-related activities can lead to a very blissful, meditative state. Studies have actually found that clean sheets and making your bed are associated with a better night’s sleep, which comes with its own list of considerable mental health benefits.
There are plenty of free or cheap ways to refresh and renew our bodies and minds. We hope that as you continue living and working, you set aside time and resources to care for yourself well!