15 Free & Simple Tips for Self Care
Hey Blog Friends!
I've recently climbed out of my mid-winter stupor, thanks to the assistance of Cymbalta and much eye-rolling on the part of my family members. It seems that taking myself off this anti-anxiety/antidepressant med during the cloudy 6-month doldrums we call "winter" in Michigan was not the most stellar idea.
Being stuck in a funk helped bring the importance of self-care into focus. Jesus' teaching to "love your neighbor as yourself" presumes upon us the ability to discern how to love ourselves and the gumption to put that wisdom into practice. 'Cause how in the heck do we care for our neighbors well if we haven't figured out how to let go of our drive for people-pleasing and recognize our very own hands grasping at the end of our ropes?
Enter, your self-care guru. Moi. Full disclosure? I'm not so much the self-care type. I hate to blow money on massages and manicures. Most of my spa treatments have come at a deeply discounted rate thanks to the Jedi-in-training skills of the students providing them. My nail-care routine consists of filing off the jagged edges in the car whenever hubster does the driving.
Still, staring into a mug of tea while wrapped in a fuzzy blanket, I have learned a thing or two about pulling oneself out of the pit.
If you've felt tired and snappish lately...
If you envy the bears, blissfully sleeping 'til their spring awakening...
If the people you love most feel more like a burden than a blessing...
15 Free & Simple Ways to Self Care
1. Eat three main meals
Good food is to your body what good fuel is to your vehicle and you don't have to have a personal chef on staff to eat well. Simple is best. Oatmeal or a hardboiled egg for breakfast. A pot of soup made on the weekend can serve as your lunch staple for the Monday through Friday grind. Brown some lean ground beef on Monday and whip up tacos, chili, and spaghetti sauce for dinners. If turning on your stove seems daunting and you have the means, try a meal service until you can climb out of your rut.
2. Go on a 24-hour social media detox
Thanks in part to 24/7 access to meticulously edited streams of other people's highlight reels, Americans are more depressed and anxious than ever. If you're struggling with infertility, the loss of a job, a prodigal child, or a chronic illness, scrolling through your Instagram feed may only make you feel worse. Deleting social media apps from your phone for a trial run makes mindless browsing more difficult. According to Growing Leaders' Tim Elmore, "most who do a technology fast feel liberated from caring about superficial topics like others do."
3. Spend daily "be still and know" time with God
You've probably heard Psalm 46:10 before so let me clarify.
The Old Testament Hebrew word for "still" is "Raphah", which means...
to let drop
The rest of this often misunderstood verse makes it clear that our "being still" is the prerequisite to...
-Knowing that God is God (and we are not)
-Resting in God's authority (and not our own)
Be still and know time is a time spent in stillness and listening, not talking (out loud or internally). It is an opportunity to empty ourselves so that he can fill us with the certainty of his power and care for us.
If the idea of being still seems daunting, join the club. In a world of constant access to technology and entertainment, it can feel impossible to tear oneself away. But it is possible. Locking yourself in a room for five minutes sound like torture? Try ditching your earbuds and smartphone for a quiet walk instead.
Take note of the state of your spirit before BSAK-time and after. You'll quickly realize why God's directive to "just do it" is a mandate and not a suggestion.
4. Sleep at least 7 1/2 hours a night
If you haven't experienced the mood-boosting benefits of a good night's rest, it's high time you did. According to a Harvard Study, sleep and mood are closely connected. Start by building a healthy sleep routine, like turning off screens one hour before bedtime and taking a bath or reading a book to wind down. If you suffer from insomnia, see a sleep doctor stat. Chronic lack of sleep can increase the risk of mood disorders, anxiety, and depression.
5. Keep a gratitude list
Writing down just three things you're thankful for each day can boost your mood and increase your awareness of the blessings which surround you. Need motivation? Check out Ann Voskamp's One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are.
A merry heart does good, like medicine, but a broken spirit dries the bones. (Proverbs 17:22)
The Bible doesn't specifically point out times when Jesus laughed, but his humanness assures us that he did. As Proverbs points out, a heart filled with joy works like a happy pill. Maybe memes make you giggle or hanging out with your comedic BFF triggers your belly laugh. Pay attention to the people and things that leave you feeling lighter and spend more time investing in that good medicine.
I love this clip from The Passion of the Christ, which gives us a glimpse of Jesus' playful side.
One more recommendation for getting your laughter on? A new Instagram discovery for me this week, @celestebarber, will help you take yourself a little less seriously. Follow her now.
7. Listen to life-giving music
Ever seen those people dressed all in black, their faces sharp with anger and angst? No doubt God loves them too, but I'm pretty sure their musical tastes play into their less than sunny outlook.
With which tunes and lyrics do you share headspace? Thankfully, unlike in the 80's, not all praise music is comprised of sappy love songs. Artists like Lauren Daigle and Tenth Avenue North are giving Christian wanderers a place to work out their faith while worshipping without pretense or coercion. Give them a listen.
You don't have to be a hardcore fitness freak to reap the benefits of exercise. In fact, this U.S. study found that more exercise was not always better for mental health, but that "exercising for around 45 minutes three to five times a week was associated with the biggest benefit."
Take a walk, try a new Just Dance, or get together with some friends for yoga. I've been walking the halls at school and finishing up my 10,000 steps in front of the kitchen TV while cooking dinner. The key is to quit beating yourself up about what you're not doing and instead bust a move in a way that works for you!
9. Catch up with a friend
Studies have linked quality friendships to lower stress, improved self-confidence, and increased happiness. When was the last time you made time for your people? Send a text and get a friend date on the calendar today!
10. Do your "Thing"
Everybody has one: that thing that makes your heart sing. Writing. Playing catch with your dog. Treasure hunting. Hiking in the woods. Creating music or painting a picture. Doing your thing allows you a peek into the heart of the creator and the unique ways he's made you. Can you hear his thoughts? Oh, this one's going to be good.
Doing what you were made to do--to borrow a phrase from Marie Kondo-- can't help but "spark joy".
11. Spend time outdoors
There's no such thing as bad weather; just inappropriate clothing. I can't remember where I read this quote but it continues to serve as a cattle prod when my butt would much rather be roosting on the couch shopping Amazon Prime. The truth is that short of a blizzard or monsoon, there's little the forecast can dish out that gives us reasonable cause to stay indoors.
According to this article from Mental Floss, the scientific benefits of spending time outside far outweigh our excuses. Being outdoors boosts energy, lifts one's immune system, restores focus, and lessens the effects of seasonal affective disorder (can I get an "Amen" from my brothers and sisters in the northern climes?).
So add a layer or peel one off if you must and trek out into nature. Whether you're kayaking a wild river or enjoying the fresh air from a rocker on your front porch, time spent outside the box is sure to pay off.
12. Dress like it matters (because it does)
I don't know when wearing PJ pants outside the house became a trend but it's one fashion "don't" I won't be sorry to show the door. Humankind could take a lesson from my grandmother who lived into her 90's and put on a matching outfit and jewelry each day, swiped some color on her cheeks, and topped it all off with a spritzer of Estee' Lauder's Youth Dew.
There's something about caring for and about ourselves at the dawn of each new day that puts a little happy in our hearts and prepares us for the mayhem we'll encounter as the hours unfold. Our world might be a hot mess but--darn it--We. Are. Not. Making the effort to look our best is one of the most effective self-care strategies I know.
13. Observe the animals (and cuddle one if you can)
Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? (Matthew 6:26)
I watch the birds. And the squirrels and the deer and even my own three rescue mutts. Unlike us, they're not fretting about how many Instagram followers they have, whether they'll survive the crisis du jour, or that new wrinkle that seemed to sink in overnight. Their reality is in the present. Watching the animals teaches us to be there, too, which is right where God wants us.
And if you're blessed to have a furry family member, make it a point to set aside snuggle time. This article from Web MD states that spending quality moments with our pets soothes stress, elevates our mood, and fills our need for social connection.
14. Try something new
While most of us already have a "thing" (see #10 above), doing so should not prevent us from trying any number of new challenges for our brains and bodies. The old adage that youth is wasted on the young might just be true because, in my observation, it's adults who truly know how to grab life by the cojones. What's more, grown-ups have the wisdom to make the most of new adventures.
Whether you're up for a last-minute blind vacay, learning how to play pickleball, or trying a city scavenger hunt, novel experiences have the power to boost you out of that rut you've been stuck in. It's never too early (or too late) to create a bucket list and begin checking it off.
15. Escape with a good book/show
Living in our fast-paced, always "on", 24-hour news cycle, sometimes all our brains need is a little break from reality. If you're the Type-A personality who needs a congressional order to sit and do nothing, here you have it:
Luckily I have friends in high places. You're welcome.
Need some ideas for binge-watching or escape reading? There's virtually nothing without a political agenda these days, but if you can take the good with the bad, I've recently binge-watched This is Us and New Amsterdam on NBC. If you're more into comedy, AP Bio, Parks & Rec, The Good Place, and Brooklyn Nine-Nine are fun (again, viewer's discretion advised). Zoey's Playlist has some real potential for a dramedy, as well.
As for novels, I'm loving Beth Moore's The Undoing of Saint Silvanus and am fixing to dive into The Sweetness of Tears. To find a perfect book date, check out Anne Bogel's book lover's website, Modern Mrs. Darcy.
There. I believe I've taken away every last excuse for ignoring your own wellbeing. Learning to listen to your body and your soul when they need a little extra pampering will equip you to follow what Jesus called the greatest commandments: Love God. Love others as yourself.
Drop me a line and let me know which self-care tips work best for you!