I’ll be honest, I’m generally annoyed by “lists.” They can be overwhelming. If we tried to incorporate everything off every list of things we “should” do, we’d have a never-ending morning routine, never mind all the other “shoulds” for our work routine, workout routine, eating routine, meeting our success goals, etc. We just can’t do all the lists. (If you prefer video, scroll to the bottom of this post.)
I mean, even this list I am providing, if you tried to do all of these things, every day, it would induce anxiety, not relaxation. So, I’m going to start by stating clearly – this list is not intended to be all for everyone. My hope is that you see ONE idea that sparks your interest. Just. One. If the whole list sparks your interest, then I need you to pause, take a breath, and pick your ONE favourite idea to try today. You can try something else tomorrow. If you try to incorporate too much, you won’t succeed due to stress. The idea here is DE-stress. Taking a minute for yourself. If you like multiple ideas, then I actually recommend incorporating one idea until it become habit, then add another until it becomes habit, and so on. Slow and steady wins the race.
The other idea about self-care that is often misconstrued is that we need a lot of time to accomplish caring for ourselves, time we just don’t have in our busy lives. And although it’s highly beneficial to take extra time for ourselves, it’s not something that we can fit in everyday. So, I’ve compiled a list of ideas for simple self-care that easily fits in amidst our busyness.
- Take three breaths, extending the exhale. Even breathing affects our nervous system and stress response. Our exhale relaxes our nervous system, so by exhaling slowly, for a longer period of time than we inhale, our body stress response relaxes. For example, count an inhale breath for four, hold, and an exhale breath for six or eight, hold and release. Even as little as three breaths can create a significant feeling of release. If not, try five breaths. And these don’t need to be super deep breaths, which can cause light headedness, just your normal breathing, at a slower pace. This idea is simple, effective, and can be incorporated at any point in your day. It’s especially effective during times of stress, or even better, pre-stress if you know you’re going into a stressful situation. It’s also great for helping to deal with the stop-and-go of rush-hour traffic.
- Park a bit further away from your destination. Park at the back of the parking lot instead of near the door. This helps get some additional exercise through the day in a super simple way. And you may be surprised that this actually saves a lot of time too. Often the back of the parking lot has several empty spaces available, where as looking for a closer spot may require more time driving around or waiting for someone to finish loading their shopping so you can take their spot. Those few extra steps add up, breathing in the fresh air does your body good too!
- I recently heard about a study on the Mel Robbins podcast that said bird song can improve your mood for up to eight hours. That seems wild, but, hey, there was a study. And I don’t know about you, but with spring arriving, I sure appreciate all the bird song I hear in the morning. And get this, it doesn’t even need to be live birds in nature right now, this was tested even with birdsong on your phone – so you could set your text notifications, ring tone, or morning alarm to birdsong and it just may improve your mood.
- Pick a day that works for you to prep your lunches for the week. Maybe Sunday afternoon is a good time to pre-cut some veggies and make a dip, pre-make your sandwiches or sandwich filling. My husband and I make salad-in-a-jar, often including taco seasoned chicken with layers of vegetables and leafy greens in a two-cup jar, packed full of goodness, with the dressing stored on the side. Quick, ready to eat lunch, easy to take on the go if needed. Most smoothies can also be premade and stored in jars for up to three days. This is a time-saver, rather than pulling out all the same ingredients every day to make your lunch, you pull out the ingredients once, prep them, and they go back ready to eat for the week.
- Stretch your body. Stretching doesn’t need to be a time-slotted workout. Stand up from your desk and stretch up, round out your back, stretch to the side. Give your body some movement and get that blood flowing. Stretching can be incorporated when you’re cooking in the kitchen, during commercials if you’re watching cable or between shows if it’s a Netflix binge. Holding a stretch for just 30 seconds does wonders for lubrication and loosening up of joints and muscles.
- Add more fiber to your diet. Most people don’t eat enough fiber. Fiber is the housecleaner of the digestive system. As it’s not something our body can digest, it latches on to the junk attached to our intestinal walls and drags it through our digestive tract and … well… out! (You know what I mean!) Beans, lentils, leafy greens, flax seeds (ground), and fresh fruit and vegetables in general are excellent sources of fiber.
- Appreciate the nature around you. You don’t have to go to a park or leave the city (although taking these opportunities are great!) You can stand on your front step and appreciate a single tree the city has planted in your boulevard. You can watch one bird fly about. Be amazed by a single bee collecting nectar. Watch ants work together as a team. Smell a flower. Look up and note how blue the sky is today or look for pictures in the clouds. Listen to the rain, collect drops on your tongue. Hear the leaves rustle in the breeze. Connecting our senses with nature does wonders for our nervous system.
- Maybe you, like me, prefer rock music, there’s nothing better than classic rock, am I right?! But sometimes I find amazing solace in listening to piano music or meditation music. I find this music produces creative flow, or more patience while driving. 😊 And we could all use a bit more patience when driving.
- Make the necessary phone calls for your personal health care. Do you need to see the dentist? Eye doctor? Annual physical due? Hair cut? Dog to the groomer? Etc. Take the few minutes to make those calls, many places even have online booking systems now. And another trick, make your next appointment before leaving the building from this appointment and put it on your calendar right away. The dentist doesn’t mind if you book your next appointment for six, nine, or even 12 months from now. And it’s something easily off your to-do list. And easily moved later if the appointment time doesn’t work when the time comes around. But moving an appointment is easier than making it in the first place because the commitment part is already done.
- Walk away from gossip and negative people. I used to work with someone who was a chronic complainer. Woot, are they an energy sucker! I found I just didn’t participate in the conversation, found something else to do (we were at work after all), at times I made comment politely if I could find a positive spin on what was being said. But mostly, I don’t have time for negativity or interest in gossip. It serves no good purpose. And it’s also okay to directly say you’re not interested in discussing “so-n-so’s” situation, it’s none of anyone’s business anyway and the story is likely missing many facts.
- Read a book (in paper form) as opposed to scrolling your phone before bed. Give your eyes and brain a rest from that screen before you sleep.
- Get a hug or give a hug. Human contact relaxes our nervous system. Feeling connected to a loved one – friend or family – fills our energy cup.
- Unclench your jaw, lower your shoulders. We carry a lot of tension in our upper body, consciously pay attention to your posture and where your body gets tight, remind yourself to relax those muscles.
- Do you have a pet? Take a few minutes to give your pet some undivided attention. My dogs love body rubs, especially their hips, and of course, their bellies. Just relish in their cuteness and loyalty for a bit each day. If you have fish, it can be mesmerizing to just watch them swim. Appreciate the life you feed every day. They have so much to give back to you.
- Appreciate when you have a bit of time alone. Even if it’s in the morning shower, rather than thinking about your to-do list for the day, appreciate the now. The feeling of the water, the warmth, the lather between your fingers as you wash your hair, the silkiness of conditioner, the softness of your skin, the smell of the soap. The day will happen, for a few minutes, just focus on right now.