Drinking tea on the couch, with socks on

How to Create a Self-Care Routine that Actually Works

As many of us who have ever had social media (i.e. everyone) know, 2019 is all about self-care. And even though many try to disregard its importance, in this day and age, we truly need some time for ourselves, to take care of our physical, emotional and mental health.

We often go about our days just letting the stress accumulate without any regard for how it may impact our lives. When in fact, stress can have a major impact on both the body and the spirit.

That’s precisely where self-care comes in.

However, a lot of people struggle with implementing self-care into their daily lives. Rushing here and there, it remains forgotten among duties of the day. But, fear not, there are ways you can make sure you stick to your self-care routine.

What is Self-Care?

Most people find it tricky to truly take care of themselves. When we truly think about it, not many of us can find too many things that we do in that regard.

How long has it been since you dedicated a day, or even an evening, to yourself?

If you can’t remember, then it’s clear you’re in dire need of self-care.

Self-care includes activities that we do that help our physical, mental and emotional help. Its main purpose is to improve our mood and to reduce anxiety and the accumulated stress of the day. It is also the basis of a healthy relationship towards one’s self and even others.

It’s not selfish, as some may think. Self-care is extremely important if we are to help ourselves get through the stress of our day-to-day lives.

So don’t think you’re selfish if you’re dedicating your time to your well-being. It seems that we’re not doing enough of that as it is. Focus on yourself from time to time and this will lead to a much fuller, happier life.

It doesn’t have to be anything complicated – it can include a good book, reveling in the joy of bath bombs, or even playing music. But it is incredibly important to have that time devoted to doing what will make you feel better. 

There are various benefits to self-care, which are, frankly, too precious to count. Here’s what you can expect when you dedicate yourself to yourself:

  • Lowered stress
  • Improved wellbeing
  • Increase in productivity
  • Higher self-esteem and self-awareness
  • Improved health

So how do you create a reasonable self-care routine?

Many of us decide one day that we’ll start treating ourselves better, and that we’ll start our self-care routine this very day.

However, many of us also don’t follow through. Various commitments get in the way and we simply give up on what’s the easiest.

But, with these few tips, you can create your own self-care routine that you won’t abandon when the obstacles arise.

Do the Things You Love

One of the possibly worst things you can do when you’re trying to stick to your self-care routine is to do something you’ve heard is the best, but doesn’t quite cut it for you.

Yeah, yeah, we all know that yoga’s great (and it really is), but if you find that it doesn’t suit you, and you don’t feel too relaxed when you’re doing it, then that’s not something that should find its way into your routine.

Remember, everyone’s different. What works for someone else may not work for you.

And in that case, it’s most likely that you won’t commit to it.

Try to think of a few activities that you love, and some that bring you joy. For instance, you may feel happy when you’re playing the flute, or when you’re building a table. Make a list of activities that make you feel good.

If you’re not sure what you truly love, try a few different things. You may even find something that you’re good at. Why not? Try a dance or a cooking class, or listening to some podcasts, see what interests you and, more importantly, what leaves you feeling a little more content and a little less stressed.

Friends cooking together

Choose activities that are beneficial in various ways

There are truly plenty of self-care routines, but a lot of them do fall into some dimension of wellness. There are six dimensions of wellness: intellectual, spiritual, emotional, physical, social and occupational.

So, if you’re choosing to take care of yourself, choose activities that will be good for you in various ways.

For instance, if you enter a volleyball team, you get the bonus of physical and social wellness. On the other hand, if you join a book club, you’re getting both intellectual and social part of your being taken care of.

Of course, don’t go against yourself. If you feel like the social factor of the activity would not benefit you, choose something else. You can even read a book while you run on a treadmill, there’s nothing stopping you.

The important thing is to choose activities which will satisfy more needs, but that will also suit you.

Keep It Simple

One of the reasons why our self-care routines don’t always work is that they’re too complicated. And it’s not likely that we’ll stick to something too complicated.

In fact, we might just chuck it in the bin right on the first day precisely because of that, believing we can’t keep up with that.

And it’s true, if you go on thinking that it’s just another obligation, it’s probably not going to work. With so many other obligations pertaining to work, and our family/friends, we tend to put our needs on the backburner.

Self-care doesn’t have to be anything lengthy and it doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. The main point here is to fit it into your lifestyle, while also getting to the point where you’re recharged and relaxed.

Create A Plan

Now, when we say plan, we don’t mean a regimen that you simply have to stick to. This is about simply making the time for self-care.

You can start off easy, with 15 minutes in the morning or the evening scheduled for exercise, or reading.

Make sure that you let your family and friends know you’re unavailable at that time.

If you prefer it that way, write a faux timetable and put it on your wall. Sometimes, when you plan ahead, it simply becomes much easier to fit it into your days, especially if you generally lead a hectic life. And, in general, some people simply like planning.

Unknown woman writing in her journal

A good way of doing that is making a plan a day in advance. We’re not often sure what our whole weeks will look like. That is why it is perhaps best to sit down in the evening and map out the next day. That way, there’ll be less chance of something changing and putting a wrench in your plan.

Know When to Be Flexible

Another thing that it’s important is that, while we all lead pretty organized lives, there are times when our routine changes and something unexpected pops up.

Things get in the way, that’s a given.

But the important thing is not to let your plan go completely.

However, you should remember that every day is a fresh start. If you were unable to do your self-care routine one day, do it the next. If you’re unable to do it in the morning, do it in the evening.

After all, this is about you and what you can do at that time. If you choose to do just one thing from your routine because you simply don’t have the time, well, then, you did that one thing. And that’s great. The important thing is not to give up. You can’t always do everything that you’ve envisioned, but you can do at least something.

No two days are the same, so it’s best if you try to adapt. Work around your schedule to see what works best at that particular day or moment.

Don’t Be Too Hard on Yourself

A self-care routine will certainly take time to become a way of life. And, more importantly, it’s a process of trial and error.

But it’s okay if your first attempt was not that successful. Through trial and error, you will find what works best.

Another thing to look out for is not to set goals that are too hard. Be realistic when you’re making your plan.

Let’s face it, none of us can go from zero to sixty, so to speak, in a week. Unattainable goals are not what self-care is about. It’s about finding the perfect routine for you and devoting yourself to it. If you want your routine to turn into a habit, being realistic is the best way to start.

Find a Buddy

If you have someone who can fulfil the role, you should find someone who will “hold you accountable,” so to speak. A friend, a family member or even a coworker who will check in from time to time to see how you’re doing.

Also, they can be the person you turn to when you feel like you can’t devote yourself to the routine.

Couple cycling together in the park

When we’re on our own, it’s sometimes too easy to let self-care fall to the background (and in that case, be forgotten), but if you have someone to help you along the way, it will be easier to stick to the commitment you made.

If your self-care routine includes making your diet more healthy, maybe some of your friends need encouragement for the same thing, as well. See if you can be each other’s helpers along this way to mutual wellbeing.

Get Back to Basics

Sometimes the simplest things will help you stick to your self-care routine. There are things that are so simple, yet do so much for our health, that we usually disregard. Here are some of the tips on how to get back to the basics for a much healthier day.

  • Get enough sleep. How often do you get enough hours of sleep? Sleep is incredibly beneficial, but because of our jobs and other reasons, we seem to disregard it as unimportant. But that is simply not true. Our bodies fill up on energy during sleep and they need it like the air we breathe. Even a power nap during the day can help you feel more rejuvenated and more alert. But it is important that you get at least seven hours a sleep a day to be able to go about your day.
  • Maintain a proper eating schedule. As with our sleeping schedule, there are various things that happen to our bodies when we mess up our eating schedule. Make sure to eat three meals and two small snacks every day. This will help stabilize your body, preparing it for the world. You can even implement food into your self-care routine. If you have an affinity for cooking, use that as me-time.
  • Use the free time you have the way you enjoy it. For instance, if you have 15 minutes in the morning before you have to go to work, why not solve a crossword puzzle? Or go to the store on foot. Use those fifteen minutes for something relaxing. If you have the weekend off, try to do some activity that you know will make you feel good – finish that show that you wanted to watch, ride a bike or just meet up with an old friend. It’s essential that your free time is spent the way you will enjoy it the most.
  • Focus on here and now. Many times, when we are doing one thing, our mind wanders, completely disconnecting us from the present. We think about the obligations that we have, or even something that we are planning to do in the distant future. However, self-care flies right out of the window if we do this. For it to work, we need to stay connected to the moment. The more we practice that, the less we will think about unrelated things. And the more mindful we are, the more we will actually enjoy the present and the more effect the self-care routine will have.
Young woman drinking tea next to window

De-Stress for the Weekend

Have you had a particularly busy and stressful week?

Here are some tried-and-tested ways for you to de-stress for the weekend, so that you can really relax, unwind, and enjoy your time off.

Why is it Important to De-Stress?

Before you try to de-stress, it is important to understand why this is important, as this will give you the extra motivation needed to really make an effort.

Each time you experience stress, your body releases a hormone called cortisol, which helps to trigger the fight or flight response in the human body. In ancient times, this would help humans escape from dangerous predators and other fatal situations.

effects of cortisol

However, in today’s world, stress can be caused by so many different factors, from a traffic jam to a late night at work. Your body cannot differentiate between how serious the stressor is, so will always release cortisol.

While this is not too harmful in the short term, it can really be damaging in the long run.

How?

Here are just a few of the physical and mental health problems that stress can cause:

  • Hypertension and headaches
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Insomnia
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Acne and other skin issues
  • Exacerbation of existing conditions, such as asthma, eczema and irritable bowel syndrome

While it may be difficult to control how often you feel stressed, there are, thankfully, a number of ways in which you can de-stress your body quite quickly.

Take a Deep Breath

The very first thing that you should do when you begin to feel stressed is focus on your breathing.

Why?

Because even just taking a few deep breaths will give your body an extra boost of oxygen, which will quickly help to relieve stress and tension.

On the other hand, shallow breathing, which people often do when they are stressed, does the opposite, and stimulates the nervous system, making you feel even worse.

In addition to taking a few deep breaths, you can push this even further and try out a couple of breathing exercises.

While these may seem futile, several clinical studies have proven that breathing exercises can help to do everything from reducing blood pressure to preventing damage caused by stress.

Go For a Walk

One of the best ways to relieve your body of stress is to get it moving.

This can be in the form of any sort of exercise, but walking tends to be the easiest to do when you want to de-stress quickly.

How does it work?

Well, when you take a brisk walk, your body releases several neurotransmitters, such as dopamine, serotonin and GABA. These then improve your mood, as well as your overall sense of well-being.

In addition to this, exercise also helps to increase blood flow to the brain, which is another way in which it relieves stress.

Don’t have much time for a walk?

All you need is 15 minutes, as this is enough for you to experience some of the immediate benefits that exercise can bring. Of course, if you can spare a bit more time, then that will be even more beneficial.

Do Some Forest-Bathing

There is so much research out there to prove how forest-bathing can significantly reduce stress.

happy woman walking in the forest

No idea what this is?

Forest-bathing simply refers to spending some time in a forested area, and has been a trend in Japan for a while.

Why?

Because studies have shown that spending time in a forest will leave you with lowered cortisol levels, as well as lowered blood pressure. 

Buy a Few House Plants

While you may not be able to spend time in a forest every day, house plants are a great way to ensure that you have some contact with plants on a daily basis.

Just being around them can help to induce your relaxation response, so try incorporating a few around your home.

There are even some house plants that are known for their de-stressing benefits…

Here are a few:

  • Lavender – its scent helps to slow down heart rate, and lower blood pressure and stress levels
  • Jasmine – will help you to feel less anxious and more peaceful, while inducing sleep
  • Rosemary – purifies the air while reducing stress and anxiety
  • Aloe Vera – cleanses the air of certain toxins while treating symptoms of anxiety
  • Snake Plant – improves energy levels while treating stress-induced headaches

A Good Night’s Sleep

There is an increasing number of studies out there that point to the connection between regular, quality sleep and the ability to overcome stress.

A good night’s sleep helps your mind and body to repair and restore itself, resulting in a number of different benefits:

  • Lowered stress levels
  • Better emotional regulation
  • Stronger immune system
  • Decreased risk of many chronic diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease

Feeling too stressed to get to sleep? 

Try to create a relaxing environment in your bedroom, with the use of candles, essential oils and soft music. There are also many breathing techniques out there that could have you fast asleep in no time at all.

Have a Laugh

The idea of laughing when you are feeling immensely stressed may seem a little far-fetched, but even faking a few laughs can have an impact, really making you feel so much better.

How?

Laughing has been proven to have the ability to decrease the amount of cortisol in the body, while also reducing inflammation within arteries.

Pucker Up

Don’t feel like laughing?

Try kissing instead.

couple kissing

Studies have shown that this works well for women in particular, as kissing that special someone on the lips triggers the brain to release endorphins.

The kiss does not need to be sexually arousing, but should be a deep and emotional one. Aim for at least one ten-second kiss a day to keep your stress levels to a minimum.

Eat a Meal Rich in Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Stress and food are closely connected, which is why many people often reach for junk food to comfort them in times of stress.

However, the excess sugar, salt and other unhealthy ingredients will only make you feel worse in the long run.

Want to know what to eat to make you feel better?

Food containing omega-3 fatty acids. Research has shown that omega-3 fatty acids prevent the body from producing too much cortisol, which will stop you from feeling so stressed. It also triggers the release of a hormone called DHEA, which is known for being able to combat stress, doubling the effects that omega-3 fatty acids can have.

So, which foods do you need to eat?

Here are some of the foods that are richest in omega-3 fatty acids:

  • Mackerel
  • Salmon
  • Walnuts
  • Chia seeds
  • Herring
  • Flaxseeds
  • Egg yolk

Chew Some Gum

Can chewing gum really help you to de-stress?

Science says yes, and while it may not help during times of extreme stress, it will definitely make a difference if you are experiencing mild to moderate stress.

Studies have shown that chewing some gum can reduce the amount of cortisol in the body by 16% during mild stress, and 12% during moderate stress.

While this may seem too good to be true, it is definitely a method worth trying!

Listen to Some Music

Music has been proven to reduce stress and anxiety, so spending some time listening to a few tunes could really help you to de-stress before the weekend.

woman dancing to music

Not sure what to listen to?

Give classical a try for maximum benefits, as this has been shown to slow down the heart rate, decrease cortisol levels, and lower blood pressure.

However, just about any sort of music will still trigger your brain to release plenty of neurochemicals, such as dopamine, which will have you feeling great.

Don’t have any music at hand?

Make your own! Even humming to yourself can help to lower stress, so don’t be afraid to sing a few songs aloud.

Unplug

If you are someone that tends to be glued to your smartphone, then you should know that these have been linked to heightened stress levels. There are so many other ways in which the modern world over-stimulates the mind, leading to an increased stress response.

The best way to take some time out from all of this is to unplug. Turn off your phone and your computer, and spend some time in an environment where there are no electronic distractions. Whether you create a small haven at home, or head to the beach to spend the day with the sun, sand and sea, unplugging can really help to re-balance your mind.

Play a Video Game

While electronics do often contribute to an increase in stress levels, they can also help to reduce them.

One example of this is with video games, which decrease stress and improve the mood.

How?

By absorbing your mind in the game that you are playing, which provides the perfect distraction to give your nervous system some time to calm down.

However, the type of game that you choose is key…

Violent games should always be avoided, while the most beneficial games tend to be puzzle games.

Write It Down

There is no denying that journaling is a great way to reduce stress, but there are several different theories as to why this is.

Whatever the reason may be, writing about stressful events or moments will help you to process them so much better. On the other hand, if you choose to ignore what you are feeling, this will only heighten your body’s stress response.

Journaling also enables you to take a look at your stressors from a different perspective, giving you the chance to observe how you can improve things in the future.

You do not need to spend long writing, as just a few minutes may be all you need. Try to do this every day, so that you get into the habit of it and it soon becomes second nature.

Eat a Banana

While eating a banana may not help during times of extreme stress, this is definitely a clever trick to try if you are experiencing mild stress.

How does it work?

Well, during times of stress, blood pressure rises. Bananas are packed with potassium, which can quickly regulate blood pressure.

Bananas also provide the body with the energy needed to rise above a stressful situation, while protecting the body from some of the negative effects that stress, and cortisol, can have, from a stroke to a heart attack to depression.

Learn a Craft

The majority of crafts out there tend to make use of repetitive motions, and these are known to be extremely meditative, relieving stress and reducing anxiety.

Knitting is a great example of this, as it features so many repetitive motions.

knitting red jumper

Not a fan of knitting?

Try cross-stitch instead, or have a go at making your own jewelry.

Spend Time With Friends

There are a few studies out there that show that spending time with a close friend can really help to decrease cortisol levels in the body.

Don’t have any friends nearby?

Give man’s best friend a try instead. Dogs are known for being able to lower stress levels and increase happiness. Even if you do not have a dog of your own, or know anyone that has a dog, you can still head over to your local animal shelter and spend a few hours volunteering with all of the dogs that live there.

De-Clutter

Surrounding yourself with masses of clutter is only going to make you feel stressed so much easier.

De-cluttering can seem like an intimidating task, but, by taking it one small step at a time, you will soon accomplish all you need to.

Begin with a small part of your home, such as a drawer, throwing out what you do not need and then re-organizing what remains.

Each day, or even each week, tackle a new part of your house, until your whole home has been de-cluttered.

 

Woman having a bath

Adult Bath Time Is Good For Stress

“The boss! The baby! The dog! That does it! Calgon! Take me away!” You may remember the classic 1970’s Calgon commercials. A woman comes home, the image of her angry cigar -smoking boss still fresh in her mind, her crying child and barking dog, still taunting her memory. It all melds into a spinning wheel of confusion; the woman throws up her hands in frustration.The scene changes. The same woman in a bath filled with Calgon bath bubbles. The soothing voiceover encouraging her to lose herself in luxury. The stress formerly seen in the woman’s face replaced by a blissful expression. She has found her escape.

For years, bath times have been viewed as a source of stress relief. The warm water, the soothing scent, all calling up a sense of comfort and intense relaxation. Are you more than ready to make your bath time into a tranquil escape from insanity? Here’s all you need to know about perfecting your adult bathing experience.

Set the Mood
You know lighting is a very important part of atmosphere. Ditch those regular wall lights and get experimental. Try some old fashioned candles or tea lights which you can strategically place all around your bathroom; just keep them away from the towels!

Crank Some Tunes
Music is a crucial element when it comes to relaxation, just make sure it’s something you like. You can get sassy with Beyonce or Adele, or go more traditional with some classical movement. If heavy metal is more your thing, just make sure you don’t rock all the water out of your bath!

Snacks
You can’t relax if your hungry and you sure don’t want to leave the bath to search through your kitchen, so make sure to have some of your favorite snacks on hand, just make sure your chips don’t end up floating next to your rubber ducky!

Temperature
The optimal temperature is an absolute must if you want to achieve bath time nirvana. 33.3 degrees celsius is the recommended water temperature; it should not exceed 38.3, which will be too hot and may leave you feeling drowsy.

Woman with red wine in bath

Red Wine
Red, red wine, it makes you feel so fine. Not only might you want to sip while you soak, but you may want to actually mix the wine with the bath water. It will not only smell great, but it will treat your skin to some beneficial antioxidant action.

Don’t Dehydrate
Just because you’re soaking in water, it doesn’t mean you are safe from dehydration. You might be surprised at the amount of perspiration a body can produce in a hot bath. Have a cool glass of water on hand and it may be useful to keep a flannel and jug of water close by so you can make yourself a cold compress if you start to feel sweaty.

Face Mask
While you’re pampering, why not apply a face mask? It will nourish and cleanse the skin on your face while the bath does the same to the skin on your body.

Self Massage
While your muscles are relaxing, you might as well address the problem spots. You can use a water proof ball resting it against a solid surface, while exerting pressure on it evenly. The water will help to control the degree of intensity you apply.

Bath Oils
The type of bath oils you chose may effect the type of benefits your bath can give. Lavender oil is known to encourage sleep and sandalwood oil can help relieve anxiety. Just add about ten drops when the bath is half full to allow even distribution and a sufficient amount of scent.

Support Your Head
The last thing you want is a stiff neck when you’re trying to relax. Fold up a couple of towel for a makeshift pillow.

How do you like your bathing experience? Do you have some anti-stress tips for us? We’d love to know!

Woman relaxing in a suana

The Health Benefits of Hot and Dry Heat

You have just finished working out at the gym and you feel like crawling home.  It must have been somewhere between the 50th and 51st set of squats when your muscles just gave out.  Your legs feel like jello.    You decide that some relief is definitely in order if you have any chance of getting to your car and driving home without  requiring medical attention.  You spot the sauna. “This is just the thing,” you think.  I will sit in here, let my muscles relax  a little and I will feel like a new person!” Then you spot the steam room.  Could this be a better option?  You try and think.  What have you heard about them?  You can’t remember which one is which and think that in your condition it may just be a matter of which one is closer.  Well, just so you are prepared for when this happens to you, here’s the breakdown.

The basic difference between saunas and steam baths is that steam baths use moist heat, while saunas offer dry heat.  Both are hot baths which stimulate blood flow, easing pain and promoting healthy metabolism.

The Heat Factor
Saunas are a good deal hotter than steam rooms with the set temperature at somewhere between 160 and 200 degrees Fahrenheit, and a humidity level between 5 and 30%  In other words, it’s a dry heat.  Steam rooms measure somewhere between 110 and 120 degrees but the 100% humidity will make it feel much higher.  Heat rises in both saunas and steam rooms, so the higher you sit, the hotter you will be. Wet and dry heat have a sedative effect which can provide relaxation to those suffering emotional disorder and pain relief to those suffering from a muscular injury.

The Bare Bones
Have you ever gotten on a slide in the hot weather as a child? Perhaps, then you understand why saunas are built of wood and not metal.  In addition, wood absorbs moisture, keeping surfaces cooler and pulling humidity from the air.  In steam rooms, high humidity would cause wood to deteriorate and are therefore made of tile or plastic.  They feature sloped ceilings which allow the water to run down the wall rather than drip on your head.

The Relaxation Factor
Both steam rooms and sauna reduce muscle tension and promote relaxation. They improve circulation and cause occupants to perspire, opening the pores and cleansing the skin,  The humidity of the steam rooms may be more comfortable for people suffering from allergies and congestion, whereas those with conditions that may be aggravated by humidity, like arthritis, may opt for the sauna.

The Expectoration Factor
One advantage that a steam room may have over a sauna is the expectorant effect.  Wet heat opens the sinuses throat and lungs and can loosen and clear the mucus in your nose, chest, and throat.  However, it can also aggravate asthma, which would make a sauna a better choice for asthmatics.

The Myth
You may have heard that both of these baths may remove toxins from the body and help you lose weight.  There is no evidence to support that either removes any toxic chemicals from your body and any weight loss will be temporary, resulting from water weight lost from sweating, so hanging out in the sauna or steam room will not make you svelte, which is why you still have the gym.

So which way do you stagger?  To the dry or to the wet?  The choice is yours, just pick one soon!