Self-care is frequently the first thing to take a backseat when things are busy or stressful. But this is the time when we need it the most. When we’re angry, overwhelmed, hurt, or stressed, self-care is critical to ease those feelings and keep us from saying or doing things that aren’t healthy or productive.
But we all know that, in those times, we often ignore self-care because we don’t have time. Or if we do have time, we are so exhausted, confused or otherwise not able to get into a mental or emotional space conducive to self-care.
That’s why you need to have a few small things you can do for you. They don’t need to be time-consuming — 5–15 minutes can be enough time. They don’t need to be extravagant things that require a lot of money. They don’t even need to be things that you leave your home (or workplace) to do.
Try some of these tips.
Of course, my first tip is to meditate. But it’s not just because I’m a meditation teacher. Meditation is one of the single best self-care activities there is.
It can be done no matter where you are. You don’t need any special equipment or clothing. If you want to use an app on your phone, you can, but all you really need is a comfortable, safe place to sit or lie down and your breath.
Taking just 5–20 minutes to focus on your breath and let your thoughts go can make an enormous difference not only to stress levels but to any emotions you’re feeling. That can be particularly helpful when you’re feeling angry or overwhelmed and might otherwise say something you’ll regret later.
Drink some more water
When we get stressed or busy, we often ignore our thirst cues. This leads to dehydration. Dehydration makes everything worse — feelings are more pronounced, reactions are more impulsive, and minor aches and pains become bigger ones.
Even if you think you drink plenty of water, try adding just one more glass to your day. It doesn’t have to be plain water, either. You can add some citrus fruit or cucumber or have it as tea. Or you could even just add some extra fruits and veggies that have lots of water in them.
If one glass helps, try adding one or two more. Spread them out throughout the day so you don’t end up spending a ton of extra time in the bathroom, but make sure you take in enough water to be hydrated and healthy.
Track water, moods, and more
As a woman, I don’t appreciate it when someone implies that my less than stellar mood is a result of my period. However, as a woman, I also know that sometimes it is true. But if I don’t keep track of that time of the month, I won’t realize it’s coming and will be totally surprised by a sudden bad mood.
But your period isn’t the only thing that impacts you. Your water intake, sleep, and activity levels can all impact your mood, stress level, and more. And keeping track of all these things is super easy these days with a plethora of apps right at your fingertips.
Personally, I prefer an app that tracks all of it in one, but you can use multiple apps if you prefer. It only takes a few minutes a day to quickly enter your sleep hours, how many glasses of water you’ve had, and what physical activity you’ve engaged in. A period tracker app will show you where you are in your cycle, and if you track everything else for a few months, you’ll quickly see the patterns of where your period affects you negatively. This will allow you to take steps to get out ahead of it and ensure that you don’t overreact or agree to things you won’t have the energy or interest to do.
Take a walk
Walking can do a number of things for you. It’s physical activity, which helps with weight management, blood pressure, and many other areas of physical health. Getting outside decreases stress and improves mood with the beauty of nature and fresh, clean air (well, hopefully, it’s fresh and clean!). Walking is also known to improve creativity and problem-solving.
Take a walk around the block, the parking lot, even your yard. Or take your yoga mat outside. Take a bike ride. Whatever you do, get active and outdoors. The combo of physical activity, fresh air and nature can change everything.
Take a healthy meal break
When I’m hurt or upset or very stressed, I crave sugar. I give in to this craving way too often. And though the sugar rush makes me feel better in the moment, as it wears off, I usually end up feeling much worse. Sugar isn’t the only food that can have this effect. Maybe your choice is bread or cheese or mashed potatoes.
Take a break for a healthy meal. Have a healthy balance of fresh produce, protein, carbs, and fats. Skip the sugar and caffeine. A healthy meal will make you feel better in the long run.
At the same time, there’s nothing wrong with indulging in a craving, if you only have a small amount. Have a small square of dark chocolate or a single scoop of ice cream — but try to have that healthy meal first.
Ask for help
Whether it’s personal or professional, sometimes we need a little help. We need someone to take something over for us, listen as we vent, or correct a mistake we’ve made. It’s not always easy to ask for that help, but it’s important to our mental, emotional and physical health.
Start small if you need to. Ask for help with a minor task that has no real importance. Work up to asking for help on bigger tasks or ones that have more significance.
Be honest, too. Admit that it’s hard for you to ask for help, or that the task you’re asking for help with is very important. If the other person knows this, they will be more likely to not only give you the help you’re asking for but to go above and beyond to do a good job with what you’ve asked of them.
Small things add up fast
Taking the time to just one small thing for yourself might seem insignificant. But if you do this every day, it’ll add up fast. The more you do for yourself, the better you’ll feel and the more time you’ll find you have not only for self-care but for everything else.
And if you need more ideas, check out this quick list of self-care ideas for busy moms.