First comes the mug of warm lemon water. Then the morning Bikram yoga routine, followed up with a litre of just-pressed green juice. And don’t forget the 10-step wellness routine you follow before you go to bed.
If all this is starting to feel a bit too much, it could be.
While looking after yourself is important, complicated self-care routines run the risk of turning wellness into just another task to cross off your daily to-do list — and to get stressed about if you don’t.
This is why some mental health experts now recommend a more streamlined approach.
“I encourage clients to put together a self-care ‘toolkit,’” Toronto-based psychotherapist Sara Kamin says, “in which they store ideas that can be taken out and used when necessary.”
Here are four simple, practical toolkit-worthy ideas to help you boost your own self-care practice.
1. Take a brisk walk
One simple way to reconnect with your centre? Take a quick stroll. It will get your heart pumping while you enjoy vitamin D from the sunshine. “Physical activity really is the best medicine,” Kamin explains. “It’s a temporary, but effective, quick fix for stress, anxiety and depressed mood.”
Don’t assume it needs to be a long trek, either. Taking a mere 15 minutes out of your lunch break for a spin around the block can be much more beneficial and refreshing than you might think.
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2. Micro-meditate with an app
Whether you’re a seasoned devotee of meditation or new to the practice, there are now several apps that help facilitate on-the-go om sessions.
Use Calm, for example, to get a taste of the outdoors, even when you’re stuck inside. It offers bursts of outdoor imagery, such as a breeze blowing across a field of wildflowers, for 15-second intervals. Or hop over to Headspace to utilize one of its hundreds of themed meditation sessions when you have five to 10 minutes to spare.
3. Take a temporary break from the screen
Though stepping away your phone in the middle of the workday can feel like a dereliction of duty, the truth is a brief screen “vacation” can do wonders for your productivity and mood.
“Most of us are in information overload on an almost constant basis,” Kamin says. “Any time we can take to give the brain space to process emotional material that our busy lives keep us distracted from is helpful.”
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, set your phone on do not disturb mode for a set period of time — even five minutes — and micro-meditate or brew a relaxing cup of low-caffeine tea.
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4. Practise positive self-talk
Feeling overwhelmed and overworked isn’t great for your self-esteem. After all, when your to-do list is always packed, it seems like there’s always something more you could be doing. The solution? Take a few moments to talk yourself up.
Kamin recommends you begin your self-talking session by sitting with one hand on your heart and another on your belly — a pose that will help you relax. Take a few deep breaths. Then repeat a positive mantra to yourself, such as:
- “I am enough, just as I am.”
- “I’ve got this.”
- “I have the power to create change.”
- If self-talk isn’t working, recruit a trusted colleague or a loved one to discuss your feelings.
“Just knowing this person exists can be comforting,” Kamin says, “even if you don’t end up needing to turn to them for support!”