Many of my clients can easily recognize their barriers to self-care. No money for the spa, no time to take a break from work or family responsibilities, little energy to see friends. When we look at self-care, we need to look beyond the “day at the spa” mentality or night out with our partner or friends. These are great things to plan and look forward to, but not something most people can do consistently with our busy lives or financial barriers. So how can we explore daily self-care to help regulate moods and stress more consistently instead of waiting for the build up?
When talking with clients I used the analogy of imagining your stress as air being blown into a balloon. We have two ways to release the air from the balloon:
- Let it go (and the balloon will flail around the room).
- Release it slowly in small, controlled increments.
I would choose the slow and controlled way every time. This is why finding daily ways to take care of ourselves will help with stress in the long run versus waiting for the balloon to pop.
Some ideas for realistic self-care on a daily basis:
- Meditate for 1-5 minutes when you wake up, in the car before you walk into work, or before bed (transitions are an ideal time to reset with meditation)
- Do 1 minute of deep breathing during a break
- Eat meals throughout the day, try not to skip meals
- Stay hydrated
- Take a quick 10-minute walk, do a yoga flow, or stretch
- Get some fresh air – while driving in the car, during break at work, or while taking a walk
- Check in with your transitions throughout the day and see if you can adjust small parts to make these transitions smoother (home to school/work, morning/bedtime routines, etc.)
- If you have a pet, spend some time with them by petting them, playing with them, or snuggling with them.
- If you have kids, and they are not the stressor at that time, do something to connect with them or a calming activity together. When we co-regulate with our kids, we are not only teaching them how to regulate but we are helping ourselves to regulate as well.
- Setting a boundary. If you are going to overwhelm yourself doing something for someone else, it is okay to say no sometimes. Saying no to others means saying yes to yourself.
I’m sure you can find tons of lists in a google search with more ideas, but the main idea is to find daily ways to boost your mood or relieve stress. Being mindful and checking in with our needs daily will help to avoid letting the things in life we cannot control build up, enabling us to manage our stress more effectively.