Self-care is not a buzz phrase. It’s not something to add to your already overflowing plate. It is something we can and should try to incorporate into our lives. While it might seem indulgent to some, research shows that nurturing our body and mind can help our overall health and well-being and allow us to show up better in our personal and professional lives.
There is no shortage of advice on what you should do, but in order for something to stick, like any habit, it helps to reframe how you apply self-care in your daily life. Otherwise, none of these self-care practices will work and, instead, might feel burdensome.
As I researched and wrote my book, 50 Ways to More Calm, Less Stress: Scientifically Proven Ways to Relieve Anxiety and Boost Your Mental Health Using Your Five Senses, I discovered there is no single self-care practice that will work for everyone but there is something for everyone. To figure out what might work best for you, consider what calms you when you get anxious or stressed and look for patterns.
If you’re willing to try new things this year, here are 12 scientifically proven self-care practices for each month of the year. See what works and begin creating a self-care toolkit. Don’t discount anything. For example, I didn’t realize how much I enjoyed a warm bath at the end of a stressful day so now I keep a basket of fragrant bath bombs at the ready. This has become part of my toolkit.
Turn on the light. If you suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD), try turning on a light therapy lamp when you wake up. Pair it with another activity like brushing your teeth or pouring your first cup of coffee so the habit sticks.
Turn off the day with a warm bath. Having something to look forward to in the evenings and before you go to bed can be therapeutic.
Invest in luxurious lotions or essential oils. Our sense of smell is powerful and often not considered as a form of self-care. Having a bottle of lotion or essential oils with a fragrance that calms you at your desk can be just what you need to remind you to take a deep breath.
Light candles. If you’re not sensitive to the scent of candles, this is another way to engage your olfactory system. Fragrant candles throughout your home or work space can fill up your environment with calming scents.
Take in some tea-time. It’s been shown that L-theanine, an amino acid found in tea, helps balance mood, or make people feel calmer. For some, even holding that warm cup or smelling their tea has a calming effect.
Write in a journal. Jotting down your thoughts, what’s bothering you or why you’re grateful, can be a wonderful way to clear your head.
Paint by numbers. Another way to clear your headspace is to allow your mind and body to relax. Activities like paint by numbers or doing a puzzle (#8) are great ways to stop ruminating about a stressful issue at hand. Often, clearing your head of the issue allows space for your brain to work out a solution or see alternatives where it’s hard to see when you’re in the thick of something.
Do a puzzle. If painting doesn’t appeal to you or you don’t want to invest in a painting kit, a puzzle is a low-cost and easy option.
Take a walk. It’s not only good for our bodies to move, taking a walk outside allows us to breathe in and take a much-needed break. Even a quick 5-minute walk around the block can do wonders.
Enjoy some nature therapy. There is no mistaking that Vitamin N (N as in Nature) always does the body and mind some good.
Bake bread. Kneading some dough, putting it in the oven and smelling freshly baked bread after a stressful day is sometimes all we need.
Listen to white noise. Many people use a white noise machine as a way to help them go to bed. It’s also available for us throughout the day. When things seem too noisy in our spaces, either in our environment or in our own heads, turn on that white noise and focus on that instead.
Self-care means taking the time and doing things that help you live well and improve both your physical health and mental health. It also looks different for everyone. Self-care doesn’t need to be a monumental effort, cost a lot of money or take a lot of time. Finding ways to incorporate self-care into your daily life that makes sense for you will reward you in greater clarity, peace of mind and even greater success in your personal and professional life.