It’s hard to believe that we’re already on the precipice of another new year. If you’re feeling unprepared, burnt out, anxious for what the future might bring, or just struggling in general, you are not alone. I’ve put together some self-care ideas that you can seamlessly incorporate into your routine, so that you can make self-care an intentional (and consistent!) practice in your life.
Why is Self-Care Important?
You may have heard the phrase, “you can’t pour from an empty cup,” meaning that you can’t care for others or fulfill commitments in your life unless you have addressed your own essential needs first. When you incorporate self-care into your life, you increase your energy, sense of well-being, and physical and mental health. And when you feel better, you can achieve the goals you have more easily. Self-care habits have been proven to decrease your risk of illness and help you keep stress levels down.
Take Some Time to Reflect.
Before you begin planning which self-care tips you would like to implement or goals you would like to reach in the year ahead, consider how the past 12 months have gone and the changes you desire. What habits did you try that you would like to continue?
Self-Care Ideas to Carry into the New Year
1. Learn Self-compassion.
Self-compassion is all about speaking kindly to yourself and giving yourself grace. You have the power to choose not to beat yourself up for what you can’t do. Take a deep breath and remind yourself that you are doing the best you can. Speak kindly to yourself, especially during tumultuous times—tell yourself it makes sense if you feel anxious. With self-compassion, we give ourselves the same kindness and care we would give a good friend. If you have a harsh inner critic, ask yourself: “Would I say this to a friend? What would I say to a friend going through this situation I’m in?”
Reflection Prompt: What are some self-compassion statements you can make to yourself?
2. Set limits for yourself around screen time.
It’s so easy to spend excessive time online, but hours scrolling can increase anxiety or worsen your mood in general. While consuming media can be enjoyable and relaxing, excess screen time can cause us to compare ourselves to others we see on social media and consume unhealthy amounts of negative world news. I challenge you to rethink your use of screen time. Consider setting aside time on your calendar to detox from your devices. Try setting a timer for 30 minutes a day and see how you feel after a few weeks.
Furthermore, rethink the reasons and times of day you use screen time. For example, if you check your phone immediately upon waking up, you could have a rush of notifications, setting you up for a chaotic morning. If you scroll social media before bed to unwind, you might be damaging your sleep cycles because of the blue light emitted from your screen. Furthermore, the rush of information could cause you to feel more anxious or stressed and less likely to fall asleep soundly.
If you’ve made a New Year’s resolution to commit to self care, rethinking your screen time is a great way to reshape your life with healthy habits.
- How do you feel after spending a lot of your down time online?
- Is it time to unfollow the accounts that make you feel negatively about yourself and your life?
3. Keep your workspace separate from your relaxation space.
It’s hard to relax when you see work items. Working from an area where you want to rest or relax, such as your bed or sofa, can signal to your brain that you should be thinking about work during leisure time. In fact, working from bed is even associated with poor sleep quality. If you work from home, try to only work in a designated area – whether that’s your office or a corner desk in your living room.
Another way that you can signal to your brain that it’s time for work or time to relax is to change clothes in between. Even if you work from home, get ready and put on work attire when you’re getting ready to start your day. When you clock out, change into comfortable, cozy clothes so that you can fully unwind.
Reflection Prompt: Do you have a difficult time balancing work and life? What changes can you make in your life to separate the two?
4. Create a daily routine for yourself.
Plan the next day’s schedule the night before. Prioritize 3 things—small actionable steps that you can actually complete; don’t overwhelm yourself. You will feel decreased anxiety when you cross items off. You will feel more accomplished and have more control over your day, instead of fixating on all of the unknowns that you can’t control. If you don’t prioritize, things bleed into each other; you’ll feel scattered, and you won’t accomplish any tasks.
Reflection Prompt: Create a sample daily schedule for yourself.
5. Intentionally carve out time for you.
This is one of the most impactful self-care tips you could practice. When faced with competing interests, we are often quick to sacrifice activities that will refresh and renew us, because it is easier to say no to ourselves than to others. However, this gets us into trouble when we are at a breaking point of high stress, and we find ourselves unable to complete any tasks. Ultimately we cannot care for anyone, if we do not care for ourselves.
Carve out time for yourself to do activities that slow your thoughts down, such as walking in nature, doing yoga, reading, meditating, journaling, gardening, or talking to a friend. Get away from energy-draining activities such as looking at computer screens. ‘Doom scrolling’ makes anxiety levels go even higher, even if you feel like you’re taking a break; it’s not a relaxing break. You will be more effective at tasks if you set time aside to be away from the task.
Reflection Prompt: What are some activities you can add into your day that bring you happiness and relaxation?
6. Try mindfulness and meditation to combat anxious thoughts.
Anxious thoughts can feel completely debilitating. It’s easy to want to give up and let anxiety take hold over our lives, but creating self-care habits such as meditation can provide relief. Meditation is just one way to practice mindfulness, bringing your attention to the present and calmly acknowledging your feelings and reality. According to research, frequent meditation can reshape neural pathways in the brain and actually help us to manage and regulate our emotions.
Meditation and mindfulness in general aid us in observing and feeling our emotions rather than being overwhelmed by them. Another tool that supports this is journaling or mood tracking. It seems simple, but tracking your mood can help you to become more aware of what factors are impacting your feelings, help you manage those feelings, and even feel better more quickly.
Prompt: Do a short guided meditation. There are many apps to help—Mylife Meditation, Headspace, Calm, Virtual Hope Box and Insight Timer. Additionally, try tracking your mood. Journaling apps like Jour and Daylio are helpful for this.
7. Cultivate connection and a support system.
Sometimes, when depression or loneliness creep in, the last thing you want to do is reach out to someone. However, human connection is powerful in helping us escape those feelings and social self-care is an aspect of mental health that shouldn’t go ignored. Try reaching out to a friend or family member at least every week. FaceTiming or calling someone gets your mind off of obsessive thoughts. Or, if you don’t feel like talking, you can text or write a note to someone you haven’t reached out to in a while. You can even play games online together with your friends at a site like www.jackboxgames.com.
Furthermore, consider getting out and doing an activity where you will be surrounded by people and maybe even make a new friend. Make connections with others in your town by taking a fitness or art class, joining a recreational sports team, or becoming a local coffee shop regular.
Prompt: This week, reach out to a loved one you haven’t heard from in a while.
Caring for Your Mental Health Through Therapy
These self-care tips can support a healthy lifestyle, but sometimes we need additional help in the form of therapy to really overcome difficult times and form lasting healthy habits. While the stress and busyness of the world around you can distract you from getting the self-care you need, therapy is a standing reminder to take that time and energy for yourself. As your therapist, I will support and guide you through meeting your mental health needs. Reach out today so we can begin the journey to self-care together.
Serving women throughout California and specializing in relationships, self-esteem, and trauma, Encino therapist Kirstin Carl is here to help you improve your mental health and find the fulfilling love life you’ve been looking for. Whether you are working through anxiety or depression, healing from childhood trauma or toxic relationships, or trying to figure out how to boost your self-confidence, Kirstin is here to take the next step with you.