When it comes to self-care, you often hear about spa days, manicures, and face masks, but true self-care goes far beyond beauty treatments. Everyone deserves a chance to take a break from their busy schedule, reconnect with themselves, and take care of their mental health. So what do you do when you’d like some self-care, but aren’t in the mood for a massage? We asked influencers and experts for their recommendations.
Get Some Quiet Time
Experts agree that meditation is one of the best ways to ease stress and focus on your needs. “My morning meditation is my daily mental health self-care routine,” says Tiffany Cruikshank (L.A.c., MAOM, RYT) and founder of Yoga Medicine. “Setting aside a few minutes each day to check in with your internal state (sensations, feelings, breath), can be a simple but powerful practice.” Christi-an Slomka, community manager at Calm, added that daily meditation brings about relaxation, focus, and mental clarity. “Meditation is a simple way to check in with yourself and develop an awareness of your unique needs. Honoring and tending to those needs, sometimes described as listening to the quiet voice within, is at the foundation of a healthy and happy life.”
To meditate, Cruikshank recommended sitting comfortably, focusing on your breath, and simply being aware of your body. If thoughts creep in, don’t worry or judge. Just let the thoughts pass and try to keep the focus on how your body feels. Slomka said that listening to a guided meditation or your favorite song are great ways to relax your mind and connect to deeper feelings.
“One of the tenets of self-care is taking care of your health. When you’re strong physically it transcends into empowering all facets of your life,” says Jillian Michaels, legendary health and wellness expert and creator of the My Fitness by Jillian Michaels app. “Therefore, I try to get in at least four half-hour workouts in per week.” In only two hours a week, no matter your fitness level, you’ll start to feel progress mentally and physically, says Michaels. By focusing on your progress (instead of how tough each workout feels), you’ll feel like a success after every session. Plus, the endorphin boost will help your mental clarity and overall mood.
Take Care Of Your Commitments…To Yourself
“Self-care for me is more like ‘self-parenting,’ which means following through on the things I know are good for me, like meditation and exercise, when I’d rather get in a bubble bath and devour a pint of ice cream,” said Emily McDowell, artist and founder of Emily McDowell & Friends. “Self-parenting” may not be as fun as a face mask, but overall it brings a greater sense of calm and contentment, according to McDowell. “Consistently showing up for yourself—honoring your commitments to yourself in the same way you honor commitment to others—is the best way I’ve found to create an internal feeling of trust and safety.” So, when you tell yourself to wake up early to meditate and follow through (even though the bed feels so comfy!) you’re putting yourself first in the best possible way.
Go To Therapy
Therapy is an intimidating topic for lots of people, but attending to your feelings and anxieties is incredibly important. Plus, when you go to therapy, you get an opportunity to share your thoughts and feelings without judgement and with lots of empathy. Who wouldn’t want that? “I love a good sheet mask or warm bath, but therapy, and caring for and addressing my mental health needs, is my most important self-care practice,” said Kate Spencer, author and co-host of the Forever35 Podcast. Though her podcast details all kinds of self-care for all kinds of women, the coping tools and objective listening that come with therapy make it Spencer’s number one tip.
Cook a New Recipe
Though ordering in is the easy option, cooking for yourself can be a rewarding experience. Registered dietitian Colleen Christensen says that trying a new recipe is a great way to make cooking fun (playing your favorite podcast while you’re in the kitchen ups the fun a little more).
“Eating dinner is often something that is rushed and you really lose out on the experiencing of enjoying the food. Carve out 45 minutes to make a meal and enjoy it,” says Christensen. She also recommends giving baking a try (using a box mix is totally OK). “Having freshly baked cookies, breads, muffins or brownies in the house just exudes happiness!”
Keep a Simple Budget
Personal finances? As self-care? Sure, budgeting can sound more like self-punishment than self-care, but Brittany Yoon, finance and wellness expert at Ethos, says that ridding yourself of financial anxiety can be the best way to take care of yourself. “Financial self-care isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ approach and we shouldn’t treat it that way,” says Yoon. “That’s why it’s so important to start your journey to financial wellness with a budget based on your income and standing.” By setting a budget, you know exactly where you are financially and can plan accordingly for your future goals. Instead of keeping money in the dark and letting your worries go wild, a budget keeps it all in the open and helps you reduce monetary stress.
When you want to declutter your mind, sometimes it’s best to start with decluttering your surroundings. Nina, wellness expert and blogger said that organizing your house is a great way to relax. Thankfully, you don’t have to go full Marie Kondo to feel results. “I set the timer for 25 minutes and declutter a drawer, a cupboard, or a pile on my desk,” said Nina. “I like to just pick something, especially if it’s been bothering me for a while, set a timer, and go to town!” In less than half an hour, that annoying messy space will be beautifully organized. Then, you can sit back, admire your work and relax.
Make a Friend Appointment
Between relationships, families, and jobs, it’s hard to keep friendships going as an adult. So making an effort to keep those important people in your life can go a long way towards better mental health. Self-care blogger Hila Willing has a method for consistently connecting with her companions. “I send weekly texts to check in on my friends—I have recurring reminders set in my Google calendar. These feed into plans for a monthly meet-up where we sometimes just go for a walk or a run in the park.” By literally making appointments to check in with friends, Willing has consistent quality time with the important people in her life.
Get Crafty With a Coloring Book
Sometimes, you just need a break from scrolling screens and laptops. Achea Redd, mental health advocate and founder of Real Girls F.A.R.T., suggests exploring your artistic side with your favorite craft. Her favorite: coloring books! “Science has shown that there are many health benefits to being joyful and coloring can bring peace to an overactive mind,” says Redd. “For me, coloring books just focus you and bring your thoughts in!”
Jot It Down
If crafts and coloring aren’t your cup of tea, writing might be more relaxing. Acacia Parks, Ph. D. and chief scientist at Happify, suggests journaling as a way to deal with anxiety. “Right before bed is typically when your to-do’s pop into your head,” says Dr. Parks. “Keep a notebook next to your bed to write down distracting thoughts to handle the next day. Writing them down gives you permission to stop thinking about them until then.” This can help you get to sleep faster, sleep deeper, and wake up refreshed. A good night’s sleep might be the best self-care of all.
Stop Putting Off the Fun Stuff
Though we’ve talked about lots of responsible forms of self-care, that doesn’t mean you can’t still have fun. “Type-A achievers often feel like they are only allowed to have fun after all the work is done,” says Neeta Bhushan, author of Amazon best-seller Emotional GRIT. “It is OK to do things just for fun.” Though self-care activities can feel like a “waste of time,” there’s nothing wasteful about making time for yourself. A little bit of fun during a busy week can reduce stress and make the rest of the work week feel a little easier.
“Self-care using a beauty mask is exactly that—a mask,” said Ali Boone, an aerospace engineer-turned spiritual psychologist. To really care for your deeper self, Boone recommended something you probably haven’t done in years. “PLAY. Yes, go play. Get your hands dirty, have some fun, and do it with reckless abandon.”
With so many people living lives on a tight schedule with deadline after deadline, it’s hard to prioritize play as an adult, says Boone. But play brings joy. “When we feel joy, we feel better about ourselves. We are able to appreciate where we are. We feel connection. We feel purpose. As soon as we don’t feel those things, we quickly enter into mental health issues.” Play is different for every person, so Boone recommends doing anything that’s not directly related to work and brings you happiness. “Go swing on a swing. Go lay in the grass and let the sun hit you in the face for hours. Go completely lazy on your couch and watch the most tragically cheesy show you can find,” says Boone. Take a break from unrealistic goals of productivity and perfection and place importance on having fun.