By now you probably know what self-care is and why humans need to cultivate a regular self-care practice.
Most likely, your self-care routine involves “fun” stuff like face masks, reading, or listening to music — things that are relaxing. Those are great and necessary and sometimes it’s helpful to go deeper and expand the way we think about self-care in order to combat the emotional stress many of us are feeling right now.
So, in an effort to help you think outside the box when it comes to self-care, here’s a list of 10 non-fluffy ways to practice restorative self-care.
Drink plenty of water
So next time you want to give yourself a little extra love, grab a glass of H2O and notice if anything changes for you — body, mind, or spirit.
Approach feelings with curiosity instead of judgment
Feelings are information, plain and simple. Humans are prone to thinking that certain feelings, like anger or frustration, are bad. As a result of this false information, we try to suppress, bury, or ignore “negative” emotions when we feel them.
But when we do that, we are missing important signals from our body about what’s going on internally. If we can shift from thinking of emotions as negative or bad to looking at them curiously and as data, we’ll feel much more equipped not only to experience them but also to process and move through them.
Replace a self-critical thought with compassionate one
Humans are masters at self-criticism and can be our own worst enemies.
The truth is, though, that self-criticism only serves to keep us stuck in negative beliefs about ourselves instead of allowing ourselves to recognize that we are human and it’s okay not to be perfect.
Next time you criticize yourself, try catching yourself in the moment and replacing that criticism with a compassionate thought. This small shift can create the space for a huge shift in mental energy, resilience, and positive self-worth.
Go for a walk instead of sitting on the couch
While there are absolutely days when it feels like too much effort to go for a walk, we generally feel better afterwards. Fresh air and exercise do wonders for improving mood, calming the nervous system, and creating more head space (i.e., fewer feelings of overwhelm from racing thoughts).
Give it a try. You might be surprised at how much of a difference Vitamin D and endorphins can make in clearing your head and boosting your mood.
Take action on a task instead of procrastinating
Procrastination and anxiety are often connected in a feedback loop, meaning that anxiety can lead to procrastination which leads to more anxiety.
One strategy to break this cycle is the 1-minute rule. This means that you stop putting off tasks that will take you one minute or less. Humans feel good when they accomplish tasks. The more tasks you complete, the more you’ll feel inclined to complete more.
Explore your feelings instead of turning to food or alcohol to soothe
It’s so easy to reach for food or a drink when we feel exhausted, sad, or angry. Now there’s nothing wrong with having a drink (in moderation) or eating something tasty simply because we enjoy it, but this is not a healthy way to cope with difficult emotions.
While there are many replacement coping strategies, one is to sit with your feelings. If you’ve never heard of this before, it means allowing yourself to feel whatever it is that you’re feeling without trying to make the feeling go away.
Now, you might be thinking, why would I want to do that? When I’m angry, I want that to go away.
But sitting with emotions teaches you distress tolerance, meaning that you can tolerate “negative” emotions without needing them to go away. They are a normal part of the human experience, and, as noted above, emotions are signals about what’s going on with us. The more you can open yourself up to acknowledging emotions, the better you’ll understand yourself.
Give sitting with your emotions a try and watch as over time your ability to manage difficult emotions improves, which will reduce your need to use alcohol or food to cope.
Say no to a social event when you need alone time
It’s hard to disappoint friends or family or miss out on a fun event. At the same time, it’s important to recognize when we need a break from socialization.
Even if you’re an extrovert, there’s nothing wrong with needing time to yourself to recharge or focus on a hobby or project you enjoy.
Depending on your history with saying yes to activities, you might get some push-back. But stick to your guns because it’s entirely valid to take time for yourself, even if others don’t respect it right away.
Many of us don’t do this often enough, but it can really make a huge difference in our energy levels and our ability to be present when we actually do attend activities or events.
Meditate instead of ruminate
Rumination serves no useful function. Mindfulness and meditation can teach you how to let go of unhelpful thoughts and be in the present moment.
One common misconception about mindfulness is that it will entirely eliminate thoughts from the mind. Not so. Because the brain is wired to create thoughts, thoughts will never fully disappear.
However, mindfulness and meditation teach us that we don’t have to hold on to the thoughts when they appear. We can acknowledge them and then set them free.
If you’re looking for an introduction to mindfulness and meditation, check out the Headspace App. It’s free to download and has guided 10 free meditations that last as little as 3 minutes.
Take a social media break
We are overloaded with content in today’s society. We are tapping apps constantly throughout the day and scrolling even when we couldn’t care less about what we are seeing.
A social media detox is one of the greatest acts of self-care. When we take time away from consuming, we are able to be much more present-focused and experience less FOMO and comparison.
Check in with your values for lifestyle alignment
Identifying and checking in with our values can be super helpful to be able to evaluate whether or not our behaviors are in line with how we want to live our lives. It may seem kind of silly — aren’t we always living the way we want? Definitely not.
At times we might get shift away from our values and make choices that are causing us to feel down or anxious, and checking back in with our values is a huge way we can take care of ourselves.
Remember, learning to care for ourselves when we are stressed and overwhelmed is a process and a practice. It can be helpful to use trial and error to find what works for you so that you can do your best to care for yourself in a way that is nourishing, supportive, and restorative.