June 5, 2018

Your Self-Care Doesn’t Have to Be Insta-Perfect

How to relax and refresh without breaking the bank

It seems as though self-care has completely taken over the health and wellness space, especially on social media.

It’s as if self-care has become the primary activity of Influencers and celebrities alike. Fading away are the photos of elaborate smoothie bowls and workout progress photos. In their place are multi-stage at-home facials and glasses of rosé on wooden caddies over baths filled with all manner of flowers.

But does self-care ever look that good in real life?

It’s too easy to compare ourselves to the curated lives we’re living vicariously through online. When you reach the end of a busy or stressful time at work and the only luxury you have in front of you is your last La Croix, it can seem like not enough.

Self-care is important, especially when you’ve been working hard on a goal. When you add the extra pressure of having your self-care live up to the “not so realistic” standard of an Instagrammer, well, then it gets even harder to relax.

First and foremost, self-care is just that: for YOU. No one has to see or validate how you cared for yourself for it to be meaningful. Even if it’s just a walk out into the yard, a deep breath, and a smile, the most important part is that you took time and focused on you and your wellbeing.

Not all of us have the time, the freedom, or the budget to try the fanciest, most photographable luxuries out there. But we all can take a little time to slow down, relax, and give in.

Take time to be with yourself

There are some days when I have simply had enough of other people. It’s nothing personal, but distance and boundaries are what’s called for to bring myself back to balance. Being with oneself can take many forms, but here are a few of my favorites.

Write a journal entry

If there’s a lot on your mind, let it all out on paper. You may not even write in complete sentences, but getting your thoughts out of your head and into existence will make space for peace in your headspace.

If you’re unsure of what to write about, check out WriteLight.guru, a timed free-writing app that produces thought-provoking prompts ito sinpire you. The prompts are always a refreshing surprise, pulling my focus away from stressors and to-dos and inspiring me to explore spontaneous imagination.

Go outside

Walking, running, biking, standing, sitting, dancing, rolling in the grass – any or all of these are an opportunity to free your self-constraints and care for your spirit.

The best way to approach time outside, especially for the purpose of giving in to yourself, is with playfulness. Even if you don’t have a large outdoor space to enjoy, or the thought of running makes you want to (run and) hide, venturing outside simply to close your eyes and breathe deeply the scents of the season can be rejuvenating.

The key is to do something that feels relaxing. Don’t try to do what you think you “should” do with your outdoor time. (Not everyone can do yoga handstands on the beach!) Start slow and listen to your body.

Make something with your hands

I find the act of creating more therapeutic than any other activity. Something as simple as a cup of tea — for which I boil water, measure leaves, combine, brew, pour, and sip — is a meditation that quells a rising internal fire.

Self-care can be a ritual; you don’t have to save it just for times of high stress. Bring continuity and reliability to your week. Who doesn’t love looking forward to a refreshing practice?

Nourish yourself

Some of us bake, some of us brew, but the art of making our nourishment by hand is growing more scarce as we focus on meal prepping, pre-made products, and the convenience of grabbing a quick bite. One night this week, choose a recipe that contains your favorite ingredients and requires you to craft each element mindfully. Savor each step — peeling, chopping, marinating — and eat your dish slowly, enjoying each bite that you carefully crafted for your nourishment.

As with everything, this doesn’t need to be fancy or photogenic. The goal is to relax and enjoy, not to create a picture perfect result. If you love a great slice of peanut butter toast, savor the experience of toasting it exactly right and using your favorite peanut butter. Don’t make it any harder than it needs to be.

Try a slow brew

Programming the coffee maker as an alarm clock may be ceding to the single-serve ease of the Keurig, but nothing beats a slow brew at home. You can acquire the tools online or at your local coffee shop, and I promise it’s worth the small investment. My favorite method is the Chemex, which is a self-contained pour over pitcher that takes a filter, a kettle, medium-grind coffee, and about 5 minutes to make coffee service for one.

Get up 5 minutes earlier so you can sit down and enjoy your coffee, instead of throwing it in a thermos and running out the door. A slow start can set the tone for a more easeful day.

Care for your body

The self-care everyone is talking about: baths, facials, pedicures, and all the super nutrition. Our bodies take a beating each week between stress at work, stress at home, disrupted sleep, irregular meal times, and the demands of living in the modern world.

Caring for your body can show the quickest, most dramatic results if your aim for self-care is feeling relaxed, enlivened, and refreshed.

Try a therapeutic steam shower at home

For your next shower, turn the water on a bit earlier and a bit hotter than you normally do. Let it run for a few minutes to thoroughly steam your shower, and drop a sweetly scented additive before you jump in:

  • Shower tabs
  • Essential oils (5 – 10 drops of a scent like lavender or sandalwood at the opposite end of your drain)
  • Shower mist

Turn the water back down to your normal temperature and step in, breathing deeply the steam and natural scent. Steam increases circulation and relaxes muscles, so it’s especially beneficial after a long day or a hard workout.

Stretch it out (even if you simply wiggle around)

I laugh a little when I think about “wiggling around,” but every time I do something along those lines, I feel alive. For some, this may look like a home yoga practice, complete with yoga mat, props, and a goal in mind. For many, this is laying on the floor, stretching your arms, hugging your knees into your chest, and rocking side-to-side to loosen your back.

Move in a way that feels good. Listen to your body’s cues, and try not to worry about looking silly. This doesn’t need to be a serious half-hour practice — just spend 2 minutes moving your body and stretching out your tired muscles.

Using a foam roller at home is another great tool for massaging your muscles at home for free. It offers regular maintenance for your spine, and can take your stretching to the next level as you get deeper into your muscles.

Prioritize and prepare for self-care

Making time for self-care is not always easy when your work, family, and daily life keeps you busy. Setting aside time each day, be it 5 minutes or 50, can be the change you’ve been looking for. In your productivity, your moods, your health, and your overall life enjoyment.

For example:

  • Schedule 5 – 10 minutes of quiet time just after you wake up in the morning. Meditate, read, stretch, sit quietly, brew coffee or tea, anything that involves being slow and caring for yourself.
  • Schedule 15 – 30 minutes a couple times per week to care for your skin, nails, hair, or other body-related love.
  • Schedule 20 – 45 minutes of physical activity, be it walking in your neighborhood, going for a run, stretching, or another favorite activity that gets your blood pumping and your body moving.
  • Schedule an hour or two, maybe even a half day for a hike, swim, bike ride, or fitness class you’ve wanted to try.
  • Schedule a self-care appointment with a professional at least 2 – 4 weeks in advance and consider making it a regular schedule. Nothing brightens my week like the prospect of a massage or a facial.

And, if you have the means and the desire, enjoy a nightly or weekly bath, complete with flower petals, epsom salts, fizzing bath bomb, and a beverage of your choice.

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