There are many ways we can take care of ourselves and engage in self-care. It takes many forms, and the concept of self-care has been made more common through popular culture. It can also be helpful in managing our levels of stress.
The American Psychological Association published a list of evidence-based methods to deal with stress in a healthy way. You can take these steps in your daily life to help lower your stress levels.
Get Ahead of Stress
Try to remove the stressors1
Obviously, we can’t avoid or ignore all our problems, but there are things you can do to help you deal with the emotional stress.
- See if you can change the situation
- Relinquish some responsibility
- Relax your standards
- Ask others for help
Cultivate social support1
Having a good social support system can help you improve your resilience to stress. (1) Giving support to others is also beneficial! It can increase your positive emotions while also decreasing your negative ones.1 However, make sure there is a balance between give and take within your network, otherwise you will be more liable to burnout.
Eat a healthy diet, sleep well, and exercise1
We talked about these in the Managing Anxiety post, but I’ll hit some important points. Having a diet with plenty of nutrients gives you the energy and health boost you need to deal with stressful times.1 Avoid alcohol, as it does nothing to solve the problem at hand.1
Avoid screens before bed, as the blue light inhibits your production of melatonin.1 Have a consistent routine, and work in time to relax before you actually try to sleep.1
Doing some exercise during the day improves your sleep (which is also linked to lower levels of stress).1 The effects of yoga on depression can be seen on our post about managing depression.
Mindful meditation has been shown to reduce levels of stress and anxiety, even short term ones.1 Take five minutes to sit and breathe, focus on the present, and let any thoughts that come your way pass.1 When you are done, take a few deep breaths and go back to your day.
Necessary Self Care
Self-care can certainly be fun, but there are also times when it’s necessary.
When engaging in self-care, consider the following:
When did you last have a glass of water?
When did you last eat?
When was the last time you took a bath or shower?
When was the last time you brushed your teeth?
When was the last time you slept?
If it’s been more than a day since you’ve done any of those things, perform those actions first. It’s important to look after your basic needs so you have the energy to tackle the larger issues in your life. Sometimes self-care is just making sure you’re taking care of you.
Keep doing your joyful activities1
If you have a limited schedule, you might consider cutting down on your recreational activities, but this can be counterproductive.1 Doing nothing but work is going to lead you to burnout. It’s okay to take time to indulge yourself!
Ideas for self-care:
Wear your favorite outfit
Sit in the sun and enjoy the fresh air
Socialize with your friends if you haven’t in awhile
Take a bubble bath or use a bath bomb
Use your favorite skincare product
Put on some soothing sounds and take a nap
Play your favorite TV show or movie
Make a cup of tea or coffee and read a book
Enjoy your favorite snack
Paint your nails, do your makeup, or style your hair
Play a fun game by yourself or with friends
Put on a face mask
Take one hour away from screens to have a quiet moment
Spend time with a pet
Watch cute animal videos
Try making an art project
Use a heating pad or a blanket fresh out of the dryer and get comfortable on the couch
Listen to your favorite music album
Take a walk
Do a brief yoga session
Cook your favorite meal
This is not an exhaustive list by any means. Think about what brings you joy and work it into your life! We all deserve to have moments of fun and peace in our lives.
This article was written by Caroline Sebren, a senior at the University of South Carolina and current volunteer writer for Carolina Assessment Services, LLC. Caroline is a current Psychology major with a minor in Counselor Education and hopes to pursue work in the future as a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist.
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