The end of the year is usually in like a lion and out like a lion. Times are about to get busy as we navigate holidays, vacation schedules, and pressing deadlines. You may feel like you’re running a mile a minute, or that you’re doing too many things at once. Making time and space for self-care is important, but even the thought of adding one more thing to your list seems daunting. We hear you.
Over the past few years, self-care has become synonymous with things like spas, wardrobe items more expensive than our car notes, and luxury gyms. But, really self-care is in its truest form, your ability to take care of yourself. The saying is true, if you don’t fill your own cup, you can’t fill the cups of others. But how do we make time for ourselves when it seems like every time we turn around, there’s a new task or project that needs our attention? We like the idea of taking care of ourselves more accessible and easier to manage. Here are 5 tips for boosting your mental health and self-care that you can do today.
Take a walk
A walk can be as simple as a quick trek around the block, or using your lunch break to walk a little further. Walking for 30 minutes a day is a great way to improve or maintain your overall health. Mentally, you can clear your mind, get fresh perspective or insight, and bring yourself into the present instead of focusing on all the things that need your attention. Walking also steadies your breathing, allowing more oxygen to flow throughout your body. When you’re walking, you carry your own body weight as you go. This is known as weight-bearing exercise. There’s also nothing wrong with getting a few thousand more steps into your day. Walking switches up your energy, and that can grant you fresh ideas and new perspectives when you return to your desk. Don’t want to walk alone? Make it a social activity and invite a friend or coworker.
Listen to your favorite song or playlist
We all have a favorite song or playlist that hypes us up or calms us down. There are many songs that can take us back to a special moment in time. Music is known to improve your overall mood, as well as reduce stress and anxiety. “While the effects of music on people are not fully understood, studies have shown that when you hear music to your liking, the brain actually releases a chemical called dopamine that has positive effects on mood.”(1). Sometimes when I’m feeling anxious about work or deadlines, I switch to a calming music playlist to help me keep calm while I’m working. But, when I need a mental health break or an energy boost, my current go-to songs are Sunflower (Post Malone and Swae Lee), and Come Through (HER and Chris Brown).
Pay yourself and a friend a compliment
Good vibes are best when shared. Shared with others, but also shared with yourself. Giving a compliment makes you feel good, and receiving one makes you feel good too. Studies have shown time and time again that many of us are walking around with negative self-talk. There are some dialogues happening in our heads that we would never share out loud. Take a minute to pay yourself a compliment, and it could be anything from the outfit you’re wearing to how you’re showing up and doing good things at work or at home. Another fun way to do this is to leave a sticky note compliment on your bathroom mirror or on the door frame. It should be in a place where you won’t miss it, and where it can provide you with a moment to reflect. And then go a step further and pay a friend, colleague, or coworker a compliment. Be a hype person for yourself and for those who matter in your life.
Make a quick gratitude list
The best way to attract more of what you want in your life is to first acknowledge and give energy to the things that are already wonderful. Some people keep gratitude journals, and good for them. They likely have a routine that they are able to stick to. For those of us whose lives don’t always go according to plan (which is my nice way of saying “whose lives are a little more chaotic”), having a daily gratitude journal may seem like another daunting item to add to your to-do list. But when you’re in a moment of feeling down or overwhelmed, that’s the perfect opportunity to make a gratitude list. And now, this doesn’t mean that you need to whip out a pen and paper and start writing. However, you can be intentional and make a mental gratitude list. This shifts your focus and your energy. Making gratitude a part of your frame of mind helps to better integrate it into your everyday life. And to be honest, it just feels good.
Stretch your body
Folks, we have to stop sitting in the same position for 8 hours straight, hunched over our desks and computers trying to get things done. Your body is practically begging for you to move and stretch. “Stretching keeps the muscles flexible, strong, and healthy, and we need that flexibility to maintain a range of motion in the joints. Without it, the muscles shorten and become tight. Then, when you call on the muscles for activity, they are weak and unable to extend all the way.” (2) And I’m not just talking about stretching before and after exercise (even though this is very important too). I’m talking about making space in your workday to stretch different parts of your body. “When you’re experiencing stress, there’s a good chance your muscles are tense. That’s because your muscles tend to tighten up in response to physical and emotional stress.” (3) This is another perfect activity to bring you into the present. Take note of how you’re feeling at the moment, and then take 5 minutes to stretch yourself out. Your body will thank you.
Cheers to your mental health!
(1) 10 Health Benefits of Music, by Pfizer
(2) The Importance of Stretching, by Harvard Medical School
(3) Stretching: 9 Benefits, Plus Safety Tips and How to Start, by Healthline