Scroll through social media and you’ll spot posts featuring luxe bubble baths complete with a book, glass of wine, and the caption self-care. A margarita, also self-care! A brightly hued manicure, #selfcare. I have nothing against a good bath soak, books, manicures, face masks, margaritas, or wine. I love them. They’re an awesome indulgence. But what I do think is worth noting is that they’re only one small piece of the puzzle of feeling fulfilled, relaxed, and healthy. There’s a difference between self-indulgence and self-care. We all grapple with bigger issues. And while a jade roller will work to de-puff your face, it’s not going to solve the root cause of why you feel the way you do. It can only treat the symptoms of bad relationships, stress from a job you hate, or depression and anxiety.
While I understand that therapy doesn’t translate as well to the ‘gram, we have to acknowledge that growth and taking care of yourself is hard work and it looks different for everyone. The process might not be pretty but it’s worth it in the end. I spoke with wellness expert, Suzan Colón author of Yoga Mind: Journey Beyond the Physical, about some healthy ways to practice self-care for free and nurture yourself in the new year:
Learning that no is a complete sentence is a powerful lesson. You don’t have to be rude, but you also don’t have to apologize or invent some excuse as to why you can’t do something. Overcommitting is a major source of stress and anxiety. Commit to things you want to and have time to do. “I’ve learned to say, let me get back to you on that. Sometimes it’s not easy, but it’s very freeing. It’s good training if someone doesn’t respond well too because you realize that you can’t do anything to change their response. If I spend my life making sure everyone else is OK with what I’m doing, I’m going to be the last person on the priority list,” says Colón.
Resting, doing nothing.
(Brahmacharya, energy conservation, and Pratyahara, quiet time for the senses) “Doing nothing has been really stigmatized, burnout seems to be the new marker for success. When we take the time to do nothing it allows our minds to wander into creative fields and it’s actually a form of meditation,” says Colón. Perfect for the people who can’t shut their brains off. Don’t squash those thoughts, just let your mind go where it needs to go. And hey, if you fall asleep don’t worry about it. That’s allowed too.
Rediscover hobbies and passions.
Be intentional with your free time. It’s so easy to pick up your phone and find yourself mindlessly scrolling for hours. But resist that urge. “Be intentional about social media use,” explains Colón. “Set aside time when you’re going to look and use a practice I’ve started recently: Whenever I go to pick up my phone, I ask, “Why?” Why am I picking up the phone—is there something I really need to check, or has my brain just been trained to pick up this device every five minutes or even more frequently?” As kids we’re so passionate about our hobbies and we tend to lose that as we get older. Try out a few things you’ve been interested—IRL if possible. There’s something more meditative and relaxing about tactile hobbies and activities.
Streamline your physical space.
(Saucha: Purity, and Aparigraha, non-hoarding) Thanks to Netflix, we’re all Marie Kondo-ing our lives, but it’s about more than just getting organized. Physical clutter can have an impact on your emotions. By examining your physical space it helps you ask yourself about how you want to live your life. “My husband and I are Marie Kondo-ing our apartment, and it’s a great reminder of self-care that doesn’t cost a thing. It frees up so much mental space. By literally letting go of stuff that no longer serves you, there is also a great emotional freedom. I feel I value my space, my time, my self much more,” says Colón. “Certain physical objects can also be reminders of negative experiences and can trigger self-limiting thoughts. I kept all of my suits from my corporate job in my closet just in case I ever needed to go back. Every time I saw them it was a reminder that I wasn’t all in with my new career path. It wasn’t till I donated them that I got an agent and a book deal.”
Be nice to yourself.
(Ahimsa and mantra: Ahimsa, non-harming) We would never talk to friends the way we talk to ourselves. “Observe your inner narrative for the day without judgement and see when you’re saying negative things to yourself. Then, switch that for a mantra, a positive affirmation,” she advises. A mantra can be anything that makes you feel good or uplifted, make it work for you.
Be the change.
(Karuna: compassion with action) It’s great for the world and giving back always feels good. Not to mention it offers perspective. Getting out in your community in whatever way is appealing to you will nourish your psyche. Volunteer at your local animal shelter, mentor a child, serve meals to those in need, start a clothing drive, there are so many ways you can pay it forward. “If we do nothing it’s really easy to feel powerless and get overwhelmed. Taking small actions one after the other will make you feel empowered,” says Colón. “Just imagine what happens when we all start making little changes. The only true enemy is apathy.”
Here are a few more of our suggestions:
Even if writing isn’t for you, there are a lot of ways to do a brain dump in the morning. It takes worries, to-do’s, and thoughts out of your head and puts them on paper so you can focus on your day. Take five minutes first thing to scribble down whatever you want. Keep it loose and free form. The more you can make it work for you means you’ll keep at it.
When a lot of bad or difficult things happen it can be hard to see through it, in fact it can become all you see. When you’re feeling particularly overwhelmed writing down good things that have happened or good things in your life can be a nice reminder. If you don’t feel like writing it, repeating a small list to yourself in moments of sadness can be a helpful meditation.
Enlist a pro.
If you’re consistently feeling hopeless, sad, and low-energy you need to see a doctor and/or a therapist. There’s no shame in asking for help and there are a variety of ways you can be supported. Private talk therapy, group sessions, there’s even online/text therapy now. Psychology Today’s website is an awesome resource if you’re looking for someone to talk to and it can filter results based on your insurance.
Think critically about your relationships.
Any relationship that consistently causes you pain, makes you feel less than, or is in any way unhealthy should be evaluated. Take stock of the people that make you feel good and put more energy into those relationships instead. Gradually work to distance yourself from negative people and social circles.
How many times a day do you apologize for something you’re not really sorry for? Stop. We women seem to be especially guilty of this. Not only is it a mental hoop you have to jump through, it’s also totally unnecessary. Just be polite and direct instead.
Move your body.
Whether it’s walking your dog, playing with your kids or pets, doing some light stretching, whatever you’re in to, just move. It gets your blood flowing and makes you feel better. You don’t have to commit to a hardcore exercise routine; just start with what feels good for your body. Once you start to realize how good it makes you feel you’ll notice your body looking forward to it.