Start being kinder to yourself and find new ways to practise emotional self-care in your life. Here are some ideas to get you started…
I don’t know about you, but I’ve definitely needed to have some emotional self-care tips in my back pocket recently. 2020 has been a real shit show and I guess the year has started to take its toll. Especially with everywhere moving back into lockdown and the idea of getting back to normal getting further and further away. It can be really tricky to be stay positive 24/7.
I’ve definitely had a couple of ‘meh’ days where I’ve just felt a bit down in the dumps. Like a lot of people, I’ve been working from home since March. Now that the summer is long gone it’s dark when I start work and dark when I finish work,. It’s not great for the soul, I need fresh air and light!
I’ve found that I’ve stopped going outside as much. The other week I realised I hadn’t been outside for three days in a row, which doesn’t feel very healthy. I’m also struggling to motivate myself to get up in the morning to do my morning routine. Even though it makes me feel much better when I do! With all that it mind, it feels like the perfect time to lean into self-care. We should all be equipping ourselves with as many tools and tricks as possible to feel good. So let’s take a look at my 15 favourite self-care tips!
1) Keep to your routines and rituals. When the world throws a curve ball like it has in the past few months, you’re better to focus on what you can control… rather than what you can’t. You’re still in charge of the structure of your day. Yes, it may have shape-shifted since the beginning of the year, but it’s it’s important to adapt and lock in those daily routines as part of your emotional self-care routine, and not let them slide.
So for example, do you usually wake up at 8am? If you do, keep your alarm set and get up at the normal time. Do you always have oats with blueberries for breakfast? Keep making them everyday. Likewise, if you’re working from home then try and extract yourself from your pyjamas and get dressed, even if it’s into lounge wear. I put my make-up on every day. That’s even if I don’t have any virtual meetings. That’s because it’s part of my getting ready ritual and gets me feeling ready to face the day ahead.
2) Do something that you’re good at. If you’re feeling low then one way to pep yourself up is to do something that you excel at. That could be anything from cooking a great meal, to dancing to music, to something creative. For me, writing is a shortcut to emotional self-care. Whenever I write it seems to work as a reminder that I have a skill and something to offer the world. That lifts my spirits on those days when I’m feeling a bit rubbish. We’re all good at something so put on those positive pants and be honest about what your strengths are!
3) Have a relaxing bath or shower. Taking care of yourself doesn’t have to be complicated. When you’re feeling low it’s sometimes the simple things that you bail on first. Take a little ‘me’ time where you don’t have to think about anyone else but you. Have a long, hot shower, listen to a podcast, wash your hair, spend some time applying some sweet-smelling moisturiser or body lotion afterwards, and put on some fresh pyjamas and fluffy socks. I bet you’ll feel much better immediately!
4) Get some rest. Think you’re getting enough sleep? Think again. According to this report, the 8 hours a night thing is a myth. It turns out you actually need to be in bed for at least eight and a half hours a night to ensure you’re getting your eight hours of actual Zzz. Hands up who’s actually doing that, because nine times out of ten I’m definitely not. You might think you’re managing just fine on less sleep. However, you might have even forgotten what it’s like to feel properly refreshed. Give it a go and start going to bed that little bit earlier – there’s worse things on these dark nights!
If you’d like to read more about my healthy morning routine, which starts by going to bed at a reasonable time the night before, you read it right here.
5) Put yourself first. You might think self-care is just about face masks and painting your toe nails, but it’s not. It’s also about how you spend your time and how much time you’re prepared to ring-fence for the most important person in your life: you. You can’t drink from an empty cup and all that! I know myself than when I’m rushing around too much that’s when I start feeling resentful of people taking up my free time. If you’ve had a busy week and you don’t want to spend your weekend doing the same, trying to keep everyone else happy, that’s OK. Sometimes we all just need a day with a duvet, some good snacks, and a Netflix boxset to chill out with.
6) Create a self-care toolkit for those days when you’re feeling rough. We all have those days, right? Sometimes you just need to know that you’ve got a few things in your back pocket to pick yourself up when you need to. That could be a podcast, or an episode of your favourite TV show, it could be a phone call with one of your favourite people, or it could be a brisk walk around the block to shake off the rattle of thoughts in your head. You could also have a journal or a note on your phone where you’ve written your strengths and achievements so that you can remind yourself of those as and when you need it. Have a clear plan of action to take care of yourself.
7) Challenge the stories you tell about yourself. When something doesn’t go our way in life it can often be tempting to use this as confirmation of our negative feelings about ourselves. You know the drill: I’m never going to be successful / I never see things through / I always fail at everything I do, etc. However, a lot of the time we’re the creators of the stories we write about ourselves – not anyone else. It’s not a fact that someone is going to “find out” at some point or other, it’s just your opinion. So push back on those negative statements and reframe them. Rewrite them as, ‘I might have failed on this occasion, but I learned a lot that I can use in the future.’
8) Share how you feel with either a partner, friend or even a colleague at work. I randomly had a Skype call with a colleague this week and we just ended up chatting about other things. He’d just taken on a promotion in our team, but instead of being super pumped (as you might expect) he was really honest and said that he actually felt a little unsure about stepping up.
That kind of surprised me, because from the outside, he looks like someone who has it all mapped out. It just made me pause and think that no matter what it looks like from the outside, everyone has their own stuff going on upstairs. But what I really took from the conversation was how being honest about these sorts of things actually makes you feel more connected to the people you’re speaking to. So don’t hide those feels!
9) Do nothing. If you’re anything like me it’s the constant grind that can get you down. Wake up, work, dinner, life admin tasks, bed, rinse and repeat. Sometimes it feels like you never really get any downtime. Particularly at the moment when we’re not really able to go on holiday, it can feel a bit relentless. Sometimes you just need a little bit of time to do nothing. A bit of time off the hamster wheel. Well, take it. It could be watching a movie, painting your toenails, or wasting a few hours playing your favourite video game. I love losing myself down a dark hole on YouTube and watching music videos from all my favourite bands. Sometimes you just need to do something like that, that isn’t for anything, but just makes you feel good.
10) Plan your next holiday. There’s a lot to be said for having something to look forward to. I’ve never been much of a planner but this year has done funny things to me. I’ve actually felt like I’ve needed to have something in the diary a lot more than usual. Where I live in Scotland you’re still allowed to travel. With that in mind, I am going to take advantage of that as much as possible and try and get some staycations in over the course of the year.
I already had a few days away in Pitlochry with my boyfriend, sister, and a pal in August when some of the restrictions had eased. Honestly, was just so good for the soul. You can’t be stressed about anything when you’re out in the middle of nowhere! I also have a trip planned to Fort William and one up north to Aviemore before the end of the year. I really hope I’ll be able to get there for all of them. Aside from that, I am also enjoying reading lots of travel blogs and bookmarking all the places I want to go when we can travel freely again. So far I’ve got Lake Bled, Cinque Terre, Santorini, Vienna and the list is ever growing. Where would you like to go?
11) Lose yourself in a book. Sometimes when your head is going at a hundred miles an hour the best thing you can do is distract yourself from of those thoughts. A great way to do that is with a really good book.
Make it about the whole experience. Get the cosiest pyjamas on, make yourself a nice hot drink, light a candle, and curl up on the sofa under a fluffy blanket. Sounds heavenly, right? I also like audio books for when I’m out and about and don’t fancy listening to music. If you’re out for a nice autumnal walk then why not try listening to a book for a change of pace?
12) Exercise. I’m impressed I got as far down the list without mentioning the E word… but I am ALL about exercise. Why? Well I swear by how it can transform your mood. I’m not obsessive about it – I probably exercise around three times a week on average – but I honestly do it as much for my mood and my mental health as anything else. Whenever I’m having a low day I can usually pinpoint it to the fact that I haven’t exercised in a few days and as soon as I get out, get some fresh air, and start feeling those endorphins going around my body it makes a huge difference.
If you want to practise emotional self-care then exercise is really great way of doing that. You can decide how that looks – running, a workout video, yoga, dancing in your living room etc. It’s completely up to you!
13) Make some nutritious food. As above, in the usual whirlwind of day-to-day life it can be easy to rely on unhealthy food and shove something in the microwave or order another Deliveroo. However, I really notice the difference in how I feel when I eat bad food for a few days in a row.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about having a takeaway and something more indulgent at the weekend. I’m not a lunatic. However, in the week I like to try and keep to a routine of healthy meals with some treats to keep me sane. For me, it’s all part of taking care of yourself and having respect for your body. It also makes me feel fresh and alert and ready to face the day!
14) Clear up your space. I never seem to take much satisfaction from cleaning in the way that a lot of people do. I’m certainly not part of the whole hinching scene. But – and it’s a big but – normally I’m so busy rushing around from work to exercise to socialising that I don’t really notice the few crumbs on the kitchen worktops. A few crumbs, LOL, who I am kidding?! However, we’re all spending more time in our spaces now.
Therefore, it makes sense from a self-care perspective to keep things clean and clutter free. Emotional self care can also about taking care of the space you’re living in and making it as calming and inviting as possible. As long as you’re not putting too much pressure on yourself for everything to be ‘perfect’ of course. Don’t stress out, good enough is fine.
15) Unplug. Sometimes emotional self-care is about taking a little bit of time away from social media, the news, and everything else that’s going on in the world. Sometimes social media is great, yes, but other times I find myself negatively comparing myself to others and that’s not healthy. Going off the grid for an hour or so is always tricky, but you pretty much always feel better for it – especially if you do something nice like go out for a walk or have a call with a pal. Take yourself offline for a bit and see how you feel!