The benefits of taking time to look after yourself have long been studied; researchers say that investing in self-care can help us to reduce stress, improve our emotional health and have an overall better quality of life.
Self-care is essentially any activity that we do purposefully in order to take care of our mental, emotional, and physical health – it could range from something small, like catching up on missed sleep with a lie-in, to a larger activity, like going for an invigorating swim in the ocean.
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With many of us taking ‘lockdown leave’ during the current pandemic, there’s never been a better time to nourish your mind and body, by booking in a self-care day.
Instead of telling yourself that you have to make a dent in writing your novel, run a half marathon or record a podcast episode, spend your next free day indulging in one or many of these self-soothing ideas.
1. Start your day with meditation
Studies have found that meditation can help to reduce anxiety, improve sleep and lower blood pressure. Both meditation and deep breathing are thought to activate the parasympathetic nervous system, helping the body to relax and the heart rate to slow.
Starting your day with a 15-minute meditation exercise is a kinder way to wake up than immediately reaching for your phone and checking your notifications. Apps like Calm, Headspace and Aura can help you to find your Zen.
2. Soak in a warm bath
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Luxuriating in a long hot bath doesn’t just feel great – it also has health benefits too.
As well as helping your body prepare for a relaxing day ahead, experts say that bathing in water can calm the nervous system and relieve aches and pains. It’s also a super-mindful practice for shutting off from the digital world.
To really reap the benefits, make like the ‘bathluencers’ on Instagram and add relaxing essential oils to your water, like rose, lavender, calendula and aloe.
3. Listen to some ASMR
ASMR (autonomous sensory meridian response) is the term used to describe the pleasurable tingling sensation that some people get when they hear certain sounds.
Examples of ASMR-stimulating noises include cutting hair, tapping, whispering and scratching. It might take some time to find your ‘trigger’ noise, but there are lots of different types of ASMR videos on YouTube to delve into.
4. Put on a face mask
Is there anything more relaxing than slathering a cool mask onto your face on a lazy afternoon at home?
There are lots of great masks on the market that promise different results; clay-based masks are great for purifying the skin, while salicylic acid can help to reduce inflammation. You could even have a go at making your own natural mask at home, by mixing together raw egg yolk, honey, olive oil and oat milk.
5. Practice yin yoga
When it comes to nourishing your body, nothing feels better than a good stretch in the morning. We recommend trying yin – a slower-paced style of yoga that aims to promote deep relaxation through a variety of seated poses held between three and five minutes.
Instead of working the muscles and challenging your endurance, this restorative practice gives you a deeper level of opening throughout the body.
6. Go for a walk in nature without a goal
The chance to go somewhere quiet, away from children, flatmates or partners, can be a much-needed reprieve from the stresses of everyday life.
Not only will walking boost endorphins and give you more energy, but being out in nature can help you to achieve a meditative state of deep focus and reflection.
7. Have an ‘unplug’ day
With so many digital distractions, it can be really hard to be present in the moment – even if your only plan for the day is to relax.
Disconnecting from your emails, texts and social media accounts is a good way to give your brain a break from the endless online multitasking. Set an out of office, let your close friends know you’re switching off for the day and leave your phone somewhere where you won’t be tempted to check it.
8. Declutter your space
A messy space can cause stress, impact your productivity and generally make staying at home in lockdown a less pleasant experience. Clutter can have a negative psychological effect and there’s often relief and satisfaction in letting go of non-essential items that are taking up space.
Start by getting rid of anything you haven’t used in the last year. It’s amazing how mentally uplifting a spring clean can feel.
9. Try self-massage
While we’re observing social distancing rules, booking a relaxing massage is out of the question – but there’s no reason why you can’t try to relieve aches and pains with self-massage techniques at home.
Kneading your shoulders, rubbing your feet and massaging your scalp are just a few ideas to try, and there are lots of follow-along tutorials online. Massage guns, recovery balls and acupressure mats can also help you to relieve hard-to-reach areas.
10. Eat whatever you like
While eating unhealthy food every day won’t feel great in the long-run, a self-care day is a great time to relax any healthy diet rules and indulge in a bubbling tray of mac and cheese or a burger and fries.
Eating well is, of course, a form of self-care – but when you’re really in the mood for total relaxation, there’s nothing more comforting than tucking into a takeaway while watching your favourite box set.