On instagram stories the other day I asked “What Are Your Go-To Self-Care Tips in Tough Times?” – I promised I would compile a list and share some resources. Below are your ideas and beyond that my own that I’ve pulled together, many of which I had already been embracing these past few years.
When I asked you what you did to take care of yourself in this weird moment in time we find ourselves in you said:
- “Just got my monthly massage. It was just nice to be able to do something for myself.”
- “I’m working on decluttering and organizing projects around the house! So far the mud room/entry hall and my boys’ bedroom are done. My hubby’s office is almost done. Our bedroom and bath are almost done. It feels good!
- “I’m napping when needed and using uplifting scents, including in the bath when I feel like my soul is more weary than my body.”
- “Taking a slow walk in the woods and noticing all the tiny beautiful things.”
Get Outside & Get Growing:
For me, nothing brings me more calm and re-centers me more than being in nature. From planting seeds and tending a garden to just taking a walk, each of these activities is a great stress reliever. Here are some other things you can do:
- Plant seeds for a future garden. Not only is it helpful to have something productive to keep you busy but it also gives you something to look forward as they emerge and change each day in your windowsill. Bonus, seeds are readily available by mail order and online and are very inexpensive. Now is the perfect time to start planting seeds. I’m aiming to create a guide in the future for you with tips as well.
- Get outside, no matter the weather for at least a half hour a day. Working in a greenhouse in all weather really taught me the value of having daily outdoor time and being in touch with the seasons. Try it for a week and see if you notice a difference between being indoors all day or spending some time outside.
- Create a garden bed or pull up the weeds that are overgrowing some part of your yard, windowsill, patch of dirt.
- If you are lucky enough to have access to your own outdoor space, even if it is small, try to create a semi-private natural sanctuary outdoors that you can retreat to with a book, a journal, a cup of coffee.
- Take a walk. Go in the woods, on your neighborhood street, sit on your stoop, drive to a isolated rural park where no one is around and let the feeling of wind and air hit your face and breath in the scents of nature.
Discover A New Hobby:
In this hyper tech focused time, we all have access to a device that connects us to so much information and stimulation. Our brains need a break from that to pause and unwind. A hobby that keeps your hands busy and your mind in flow state is ideal to help stave off the temptation to grab your phone and read another news article. A hobby also helps distract us when we are feeling overwhelmed. Not to mention when we combine an active task and movement it helps our brain process things below the surface. Taking action, any action, often feels very good to us.
- Any hobby that keeps your hand busy and your mind in flow state is ideal: gardening, embroidery, knitting, painting, baking are some.
- Work on a puzzle (there are a number of lovely ones in the Gather online shop right here).
- Catch up on reading books, magazines, and print materials that have piled up.
- Tackle a big project: clean out the shed, paint a room, clean out the linen closet.
- Be proactive: make fire cider, hand sanitizer, sourdough starter
- Learn something new: an instrument, a language
- Organize your photos and make a printed photo book
- Tap into your intuition and make a collage for no other purpose other than just to create.
Create A Sanctuary At Home:
Our home is our safe harbor from the world around us. This is especially true in times of challenge and strife. It is easy to fall into the trap of neglecting our space when we feel overwhelmed but the act of cleaning up and keeping both a tidy but lovely space invigorates us and reminds us to focus on the good around us.
- Consider your time at home a retreat/vacation. While I acknowledge this idea is a luxury for many, the core of this idea is how can you make the most of what you have?
- Instead of turning on the news, listen to a bird sound radio station or a peaceful piano playlist. If you feel you must listen to the news, aim for a daily download podcast like The Daily or Up First vs obsessively checking the same sites all the time.
- Nurture some houseplants to improve air-quality but also your well-being. Start with easy, low maintenance ones like ZZ plants and work your way up.
- If you have even a little bit of space, create your own space that replenishes and inspires you.
- Create spaces and moments in your home of calm and that feel beautiful to you. Do this with art, plants, light.
- Get organized and tidy up but don’t get over focused on it. A tidy space feels encouraging and empowering.
- Keep up with your chores/laundry etc/bills, so as not to be overwhelmed later – for me a little everyday is my sweet spot where I try to single-focus on one task for 30 minutes for just a few hours a day.
- Think of all your senses. Burn candles with uplifting scents, or essential oils: citrus is well known for this property (there is a great Gather candle that is grapefruit scented here).
- Bring the outside in, go outside and forage for greenery or flowers outside your door.
- If it is nice outside open the windows, let the light in.
Stress Relief / Care for Yourself As Well As You Care For Others:
It’s easy to put the focus on others first before yourself and not realize that you haven’t put any energy toward yourself. Don’t wait until you are completely run-down. Here are some stress relievers to unwind:
- Drawing out your ideas and thoughts for a set period of time everyday
- Cuddle with a pet
- Meditation has been proven to have brain altering effects to help with mood boosting. The more you do it, the easier it becomes. I have heard it said that if you don’t have time to meditate once a day then you need to do it, twice a day. I use an app called Smiling Mind. It is Australian so the narrator has a lovely accent and it even has programming for kids as well.
- Deep Breathing: I recently started using an app called Breathe which walks you through the 4-7-8 breathing technique.
- Free form journaling is a great way to empty your head, you could do it like a brain dump just to get out things that are swirling in your head for no other purpose than to free up space for things other than worry.
- Reading keeps your mind active and focused on things other than worry. When I am feeling especially overwhelmed I like to stick to cozy books or light reading. Things that are too doom and gloom tend to overwhelm me more. Some of my favorites in this genre are books by Kate Morton and Susanna Kearsley but also YA books.
- Reframing the situation. What is the silver lining in the hard situation you are in now? What are three positives from it?
- Pause and be still. I like to sit and watch the birds at my bird feeder. Both the act of filling it weekly but also just sitting and watching them is calming.
- Writing down gratitude’s daily
- Praying and “Giving it to God”
When things are challenging it feels especially good to don the cozy clothes, watch your favorite movies and find comfort in the routine of what you know.
Keep It Cozy:
- Rewatch your favorite movies/shows. There is comfort in knowing how it ends.
- Rewatch your favorite funny movies and indulge in laugh therapy.
- Reread your favorite books: Great Expectations, I’m looking at you.
- Create cozy rituals: puzzles, watercolor, baking, cooking
- Wear soft clothes
- Pull out the blankets and the slippers
Not only does staying tidy help the mind have clear space it also helps you to feel accomplished. I speak from experience who is someone naturally prone to piles. When I take the time to deal with the things that are piling up, I feel lighter, more inspired and happier.
Create Nourishing Routines:
- Are there any bad habits that you’ve been wanting to change? How can you create a new routine that changes this? It is said that if you do something 15 days in a row it reprograms your brain circuits and creates a new habit.
- Take a walk each day to start or end the day in nature.
- Drink a warm beverage to comfort you (preferably caffeine free if you’re prone to excitement anyway). My favorite caffeine free go-to is roobios a South African tea that has a full bodied taste that reminds me more of a caffeinated drink.
- I’ve started picking up embroidery at times when I would be tempted to pick up and scroll on my phone. It’s a good reminder of the amount of times I pick it up but also keeps me off it more.
- Exercising each day. Exercising is an amazing stress reliever and so good for you. If it is raining I do JustDance on the wii or a video yoga program.
- Get plenty of sleep – weighted blankets help!
- Drink lots of water
- Eat well and cook whole food meals
- Try to keep your stress at a minimum
- Dance parties in the kitchen feel like a good routine, no?
It’s easy to fall into the trap of focusing only on what is immediately around us, but there is a wealth of beauty and inspiration outside of our doorsteps and on the internet. Make it a point to seek out the good, the things that fill your well and uplift and inspire you, often.
Seek Out Inspiration Wherever You Are:
- Plan a trip for the Fall/Winter as something to look forward to, bonus do it with friends
- Listen to uplifting podcasts.
- Create a playlist of your favorite music from high school or of all time, play it, sing out loud.
- Seek out new and different things to follow on your social media accounts. Who are people who inspire you following that you haven’t heard of before?
- What can you learn from your current situation and how can you be proactive toward the future? How are others reacting positively to the world around them and their current situation that inspires you?
As humans, connection is a vital part of making us feel whole. Take time to connect with your loved ones and give back to others.
Connect With Others:
- Do some group exercises with your family outside: basketball, tennis, ping pong, four square, badmitten
- Write notes to friends/send pictures
- Call / Text your friends, exchange funny memes
- Help others and volunteer your time and resources if you are not physically able to go anywhere
- Mealtime rituals: turn down the lights, light candles, ask each other about your day. At our house we go around and say three bright spots from our day, one challenge and an affirmation for each person at the table.
- Play puzzle, board and card games with your family
- Cook dinner together – and dessert
- Get involved in something outside of yourself that you believe in, working at a greenhouse, volunteering, etc.
Ultimately, there are a lot of things you can do to be more mindful in challenging times. I hope this list is helpful to you. In addition to the ideas above, here are some other collected resources online you might like:
Some collected resources I’ve found online:
- On Being – A Listening Care Package for Uncertain Times
- Isle of Calm – Stream 6 hours of soothing music, via NPR Music
- The Calm Place on NY Times
- The Science of Happiness Podcast – teaches us proven strategies to improve well being
- Breathe Breathing App
- Smiling Mind meditation app
And if all else fails my friend texted me this image saying “In the midst of too much media consumption last night I found myself googling “baby bread arms”. You’re welcome.
Also, Little Women is out on video and you can binge watch Love is Blind, which is wild.
How about you? What resources do you recommend? What do you do to undwind and relax in trying times?