We talk a lot about self-care and wellness, but we rarely discuss what self-care really means or how to incorporate it into your life. As the school year approaches, schedules get busier, and we remain socially-distanced, self-care might seem like the last thing on your mind. But when considering your busy semester, you’ll definitely want to build some self-care time into your routine to benefit your mental health and well-being. While some think that self-care means bubble baths and face masks, we know that self-care is a complex and unique act for each individual. While there’s no “one size fits all” when it comes to caring for yourself, here are some genuine and impactful ways to improve your emotional, mental, and physical health beyond the bathtub. Check these out to determine which can help you to feel nourished and cared for on a daily basis.
Practice gratitude your own way
You might have heard of gratitude journals, but there are so many ways to practice gratitude. Keeping a small journal to write down a few things that you’re grateful for every day is awesome, but if you would rather practice gratitude more casually, you can even take a couple of moments each morning or evening to think about what you’re grateful for. Whether it’s your dog or the sunset, no part of your life is too big or too small for gratitude.
In a more direct act of gratitude, share your thankfulness with people in your life. Start saying thank you to family, friends, coworkers, and others in a meaningful way. Say why you’re thankful for them, what they have done to help you, and how it helped you. With more meaning in your thank you, you’ll feel like you’re really practicing gratitude. And if in-person thank you’s are difficult right now, write a letter or an email to someone you’re grateful for. The more deep, reflective, and specific your words are, the more connected you’ll feel to the person on the receiving end of your gratitude.
Talk to people
In social isolation, it’s so easy to let friendships and other forms of human connection drift away. Given that social connections are incredibly important to mental health, be proactive in communicating with others. Reach out to your closest pals and those who you haven’t spoken to in a while. This outreach could start as a text, phone call, or FaceTime. Some people like scheduling phone calls, while others like to call friends spontaneously. Either way, after just a few minutes of chatting, you’ll feel connected to others and a lot less lonely in our socially-distant world.
Do something good for others
Helping others and shifting your focus away from yourself will actually make you happier. It might seem like a tough time to volunteer or contribute to your community during Covid-19, but there are virtual and socially-distant ways to make a difference. If you have the means, consider donating to an organization that you believe in. If you’re looking for something free, give your time to a food bank or homeless shelter, some of which have safe precautionary measures in place for Covid-19 right now. On a smaller but still impactful level, you could cook dinner for your family or friends, compliment someone randomly, or leave inspirational notes around your home or neighborhood for others to find. Even small acts of kindness can make a big difference in both the lives of people around you and your own life.
Move your body
Exercise produces endorphins, which improve your happiness. The physical benefits of exercise are also noteworthy, including increasing your energy levels, strengthening your muscles and bones, improving your memory, and giving you a great night’s sleep. Moving your body doesn’t need to be difficult or worrisome either. You can go for a walk, light jog, bike ride, or play a sport for just thirty minutes each day as an act of self-care.
Focus on the present
Mindfulness is the practice of purposefully focusing your attention on the present moment. Many practices can help you to achieve mindfulness, including performing breath work or basic mindfulness meditations, feeling bodily sensations, and allowing your emotions to be present without judgement. You don’t have to devote yourself to traditional meditation practices if that feels too intimidating. Instead, try practicing one of these techniques for just five minutes every day and see how you feel. There are some great apps out there if you want some guidance. (We happen to love Calm.) Mindfulness will allow you to deal with the present moment, savor moments in life, and effectively deal with challenges. It also helps to relieve stress, improve sleep, and overcome mental health disorders.
Your schedule might be increasingly busy, but you still need time for self care and relaxation. For some, that might mean lighting a candle, reading a good book, or journaling – and that’s great! For others, gratitude, social connection, helping others, exercise, and mindfulness can significantly improve mental health and well being. Whatever works for you, just remember to build balance into your routine for the most successful school year.