By Ana Snyder, M.S., Exercise Physiology; CPT, FNS
Why is it that making time for self-care is often so stressful? It’s ironic that something that’s supposed to relieve our stress can actually cause more. In the past couple of years, self-care has become a trending topic as we become more aware of how important mental health is. Paying attention to our own needs is no longer seen as selfish, but as necessary to promote our well-being. Self-care rituals can help to reduce stress by lowering cortisol levels. In turn, you can prevent burnout, and boost your mood. In short, they allow you to be a better friend, family member, and employee.
If your schedule is already overflowing with tasks, it can be daunting to add self-care rituals to it. So many of us have zero time for ourselves. This starts a vicious cycle, as the busiest people often need self-care the most—and are also the least likely to do it.
First, it’s important to realize that self-care rituals don’t have to be elaborate or drawn out. Many times people think they have to go away on vacation or to a spa to truly treat themselves. In reality, it’s more practical to keep self-care simple, so it’s easier to maintain. Self-care isn’t a reward; it’s a necessity for mental health. The more often you can incorporate it, the better you will feel.
Setting aside as little as 10 minutes a day can be all you need to refresh yourself and get ready for your day. If you’re someone who struggles to even do that, try making some of your morning or evening rituals part of your self-care routine. This tactic allows you to do things you have to do every day anyway, but with an extra spin that reduces stress. To better understand how to do this, here are some specific habits.
Meditation is one of my favorites and is also one of the most important things you can do for yourself. It teaches you how to let go of stress and achieve your goals by focusing on the present moment. The Little Book of Mindfulness is an excellent tool to use for meditation, because it gives you practices that only last 5-10 minutes. If you feel like you can take that time to meditate, do so! But if it makes you less stressed to meditate while you’re getting ready in the morning, like when you’re taking a shower, that works just as well.
Massages are also great for self-care, but fitting one into your schedule can be difficult. Self-massages with a Trigger Point foam roller can serve as an excellent alternative in times like those. Foam rolling for as little as 5 minutes can help ease both your mind and body. You can also foam roll when you watch TV, or right before you go to bed. Alternatively you can try the Pso-Rite full-body massager.
Scheduling like this can make it just as much of a habit as taking a shower or making yourself breakfast before you leave the house.
This third idea may sound silly, but even applying lotion after your shower can be a form of self-care. Farmaesthetics Deep Lavender Rub, for example, is a lotion that warms your body when it’s applied, easing body aches and releasing chest tightness caused by anxiety. It also contains rosemary, eucalyptus, and lavender which work together to open your sinuses and relax your entire body. Using a product like this after your shower every morning could be a very efficient way to incorporate self-care. Alternatively, you can use a night cream like Athia Retinol. All you have to do is simply take the time to appreciate its soothing effects.
My fourth and final self-care tip also uses essential oils because they have such powerful effects on your overall well-being and are so effortless to use. To me, the perfect way to relax before bed is with aromatherapy. The Ultimate Aromatherapy Essential Oil Diffuser uses soft lighting and a very wide selection of essential oils to fill your room with whatever scent you desire. If you do use your diffuser before you go to bed, try lavender or cedarwood, as these are extremely calming and can help alleviate sleep problems.
Self-care rituals don’t have to cause you stress. The simpler they are, the easier it will be for you to fit them into your schedule—and the more you’ll look forward to them! Remember, the more sustainable your self-care, the better your quality of life.