I love the holiday season because it's wonderful seeing people in good spirits, but I also recognize that it can be a very stressful time of the year. The pressures of decorating, gift giving, and traveling place a huge amount of financial stress on a lot of us. Some people have to spend holidays away from people who they care for; others are coping with challenging circumstances, like a debilitating disease or the loss of a loved one, during what is normally a season of celebration. In today's political climate, navigating personal relationships with family, friends, and colleagues seems more like walking through an emotional minefield of sorts. Even small, subtle changes - like the end of daylight savings, colder weather, and cloudy days - have a huge impact on our mood.
At this time when we are giving so many pieces of ourselves, one of my favorite things to keep in mind is advice from my mother - "You can't pour into others from an empty cup." It's on all of us to do whatever self-care is necessary to process stress and emotions... you need to be your best self in order to fulfill your purpose. To that end, I've compiled 25 self care tips that I personally find actionable and comforting. Hopefully, some or all of these things will help you feel connected and inspired when you are having a hard day!
- I am a big fan of writing in a journal. It's free therapy. The first time I purchased a journal, I wrote 13 pages front and back about a boy who broke my heart... and I've used a journal to catalog my thoughts ever since! If you're lost for a first writing prompt: What have you accomplished this year that you never thought you would? I also like to periodically write about what success looks like in my life and plan out what I can do to make my life look a little more like that.
- Take a long shower or bath. Use a bath bomb, nice body wash, new shampoo, or a mask to make it more therapeutic.
- Try something new, like a haircut or new hair color, different nail polish, or an activity you've never tried. It feels good to reinvent yourself in minute ways sometimes!
- Netflix and chill - complete with wine, beer, and snacks! I personally love champagne, a chilli cheese dog with jalapeno peppers, Smokin' Sweet BBQ Kettle Cooked UTZ (they are amazing), Salted Caramel Talenti, and sour patch kids... Yes, all in one chill session.
- Phone a friend who you haven't spoken to in a while. You never know how other people are doing until you ask, and a lot of people feel more lonely than they let on. Someone you know may really need someone to reach out, and a familiar voice at the right time is always a source of comfort. It is also reassuring to know that you still have a friend in someone.
- Clean... or Rearrange your home. Clutter has a real impact on your mood. Put on the gloves and get to scrubbing, dusting, and purging. Nothing makes your space feel fresh more than a clean room with a nice scent! Putting things in their proper space brings a wave of relief. It's certainly a metaphor for life.
- If you have a humidifier at home, add in some drops of your favorite essential oil for some DIY aromatherapy. Lavender or chamomile are always relaxing scents, while peppermint is energizing, and a citrus like orange or lemon will often have anti-stress effects.
- Get a light therapy box for your office desk or just at home. Light therapy is a great way to combat Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
- Gardening can be done anytime of the year. It's a great way to get outdoors and change the scenery. Gardening reinforces the idea that you reap what you sow.
- Throw on an old school playlist, or watch throwback music videos.
- Take yourself out to dinner. Don't be afraid to go alone if you don't have a friend to come along.
- On the topic of food... cooking can be very therapeutic! Home cooked meals are often just how you like them, and healthier to eat!
- If you are spiritual, smudge your home to cleanse it of negative energy. You can use sage, cedar, sweetgrass, or lavender to smudge your home. I usually do a meditation, goal setting, and smudging ritual once a month. The Hoodwitch has the best smudge sticks, but on short notice I buy them at Whole Foods. You could also incorporate crystals like citrine or amethyst.
- Read a great book! (Bonus: go to a local bookstore, like Kramerbooks & Afterwards in D.C., and have tea while reading a new book!)
- Go outside for a bit to walk, run, bike, or just sit. Even better if you can go to a local park or a trail for fresh air with the sound and feel of nature. In the D.C. area, I like to go hiking in the Shenandoah Valley or horseback riding in Rock Creek Park.
- Check out some live entertainment- a play, a comedy show, or a concert. The experience of being around other people who are just as excited or interested as you are will help you feel connected. Plus, you may make a new friend!
- Local charities will always appreciate your time and energy - a gift itself. Volunteer to help a cause that is important to you!
- Taking a break from social media often helps to reset your perspective on life. We all know this, but often forget: social media is often filled with only the highlights of people's lives. Sometimes, turning off all the noise helps you to remember that you are indeed making progress towards your goals and dreams... at the pace that is right for you! Furthermore, there is evidence that “that emotional states can be transferred to others via emotional contagion, leading people to experience the same emotions without their awareness." Reading all of those nasty Facebook posts could be making you more irritable than usual!
- Do some meditating. If you're new to meditation, check out this guide for beginners. You can also use the Calm app for guided meditation.
- Play a game. Something like Soduku, word search, or crossword puzzle. It will get you to focus on something, plus you'll feel accomplished when its done! Video games can accomplish something similar.
- Go to the spa. There's a wellness treatment to suit any budget. Find a great nail salon and get a manicure/pedicure (Guys - women love nice feet just as much as you do! Don't be scared LOL). You can use Groupon or find a massage therapy school to find low cost massage treatments. In the D.C. area, I recommend Potomac Massage Institute. For high end spas, I love Aire Ancient Baths in NYC and Chicago, The Houstonian in Houston, TX, or the Four Seasons in D.C.
- Visit a museum for a quiet space that helps you appreciate the world we live in. A lot of museums have seminars or host roundtable discussions that may interest you while giving you an opportunity to meet new people.
- Take a class around a skill you would like to learn. You can do a pottery class, learn to cook, a photography class.. or any other thing that suits your fancy. Youtube is a great way to "take a class" at home and learn something.
- Create a vision board by taking some old magazines and collecting images that you find inspiring and uplifting. A vision board will often end up showing images what you aspire to be or what motivates you. Seeing the things you want will get you pumped and ready to take on the world.
- Stay in and sleep. A lot of people will tell you to get up and do something. But really, when you're not feeling up to it, laying in bed is perfectly acceptable! There are days where you just need to rest or stir over what you're feeling before you are ready to face it. Don't let anyone guilt you for that.
As a last note, remember that your baseline needs become even more important during high-stress times in life. Drink lots of water, eat healthy foods throughout the day, make sure to exercise for at least 20 minutes a day, and get plenty of sleep!
If you're feeling crummy, but don't know where to start, check out this interactive guide to help you discern what your body (or mind) is trying to tell you.
Take care of yourself, and I hope to see you soon!
Note: I am not a mental health professional. This advice is not a replacement for seeking professional help through a therapist or medical professional.
If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, or know someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals. I have lost many people in my life to suicide and I want you to know that you can still make it through whatever is hurting you. Please seek help if you need it.