Be rigorous with your self-care. The space you make to invest in yourself affects your overall mental health and the quality of your life as a whole. Here are five self-care ideas inspired by my own evolving practice; something here might help you feel lighter (and maybe a bit more energized) if you’re feeling anything but light.
“The common belief is self-compassion is a form of weakness, but the research shows just the opposite. Study after study strongly shows us that people who are self-compassionate are less anxious, less depressed, less stressed, have a better relationship with their body, and are less afraid of failure.” — Kristin Neff
Here’s some good news: Self-compassion and self-care are learnable skills (thank goodness!).
It might be a long, gradual journey for many of us, but we can learn how to consistently tend to ourselves with tenderness, instead of berating ourselves with aggression every time we feel depleted.
Taking care of ourselves requires conscious self-compassion, because we recognize that we’re not perfect and we know we’re still worthy of love and belonging. We are human; we may not like everything or agree with everything, accept everything or meet every expectation, but we can still love and be loved.
Sometimes, it’s our own love that we need most, and first.
Sometimes, the things that weigh us down the most are the very catalysts for the deepest lessons and the highest awakening. What leaves us with jangled nerves is, if we allow ourselves to entertain an alternative perspective, potentially our greatest opportunity for liberation.
I know there are a lot of self-care ideas floating around these days, but that’s no reason not to chime in with some tried-and-true practices that lift me up when I’m feeling weighted (kind of like I have been feeling lately).
The following ideas are worth contemplating if you just don’t feel like doing all of those things you “should” be doing. Let every should fall to the wayside for a moment, and just read.
The ultimate question that we’re trying to answer here is this: What can we do to change the way we relate to ourselves, so that we might relate to the world differently?
If you really need a break from the goings-on of the world, I hope one of these self-care ideas inspires you to give yourself the space you need right now.
5 Self-Care Ideas When You Feel Stressed, Stuck, and Downright Exhausted
1. Consider all the ways self-care might improve your life, and the lives of all those you meet.
First of all, you are worthwhile: worth the effort, worth another try, worth remaking as many times as you need to be remade. You’re worthy as you are. Right now, as you read this.
Asking, “How can I care for myself?” is a wonderful first step; that’s the step all of us could keep returning to, every day if we must. Consider the question right now, and take a moment to let it sink in.
How might self-care improve your life? Think about the ways, the possibilities, the openings.
Now, consider this: How can your self-care practice empower you to bring your full self to others? Might you show up more fully in the present moment, unhindered by whatever fears or pains keep you from expressing yourself with joy? Presence is a fantastic gift, no matter the occasion.
I can tell you this: When I attend to my needs, my whole heart goes into what I do for others. This also means that I’m better able to say “no” where my whole heart just isn’t willing to go. That is an act of love for everyone, too.The more we practice self-care, the better we are at saying NO with love. Click To Tweet
When you opt for self-love, others feel that love.
One of the best gifts you can give to another is to love and care for yourself; a fully charged you makes for a better friend, sibling, parent, coworker, customer, boss, daughter, son, spouse, and human being. That has been my observation.
Another observation: Just getting into the headspace of contemplating all the ways self-compassion and self-care could make a difference in one’s life, and the lives of others, is a daring dive into new territory. This is where we start, all over again if we need to.
2. Look at yourself in the mirror with minimal judgment, maximum compassion.
This isn’t a light suggestion; I know how hard this can be when you’ve either (a) never been able to lend yourself a friendly look in the mirror, (b) aren’t feeling up to it right now, or (c) both. All I’m suggesting is that you try, because it is (and you are) worth a try.
If you’re familiar with Louise Hay’s work, she calls this “Mirror Work.” Look at yourself every day and say to yourself: “I love you. I forgive you. All will be well. How can I help you today?”
It’s a simple practice, really, but it can be more challenging than it needs to be. I don’t make a big scene about it; sometimes, on a particularly rough morning, I’ll just look at myself until I’m willing to not say something mean, discouraging, or damaging.
As Louise used to say, “It’s just a thought, and a thought can be changed.”The world benefits from people who are willing to heal the wounded parts of themselves. Click To Tweet
3. Focus on one thing that is working in your life, and express your gratitude for this.
We focus so much on what’s not working, what’s absent or lacking. Though that seems to be part of human nature, let’s try focusing on what’s already thriving in our lives—this, I am sure, is courageous self-care.
What is working? Where is there simplicity in your life experience? What do you “have” that you are actually grateful for? Again, try to keep these answers simple; it doesn’t need to be an extraordinary discovery to be worthy of gratitude.
When we focus on what’s working and what’s present, a gratefulness comes, and with that a certain joy becomes present in us. An ocean of love meets us where we’re at, appreciating our appreciation, and responding to our call for love, and a little more light in how we see things.Self-care isn't selfish; it's self-fullness. Click To Tweet
4. Imagine what you would say to someone you love who is going through a similar situation.
Shift your attention to someone else who you really care about.
How would you want them to treat themselves if they were going through what you’re going through, feeling what you’re feeling? Would you want someone you love to neglect themselves, close off their hearts, discourage themselves?
Who would you like to be more self-compassionate? Be there with them in spirit right now, and visualize yourself speaking to this friend; they could use some encouragement, a reminder that all is well if they would be willing to tend to themselves with tenderness. What do you say to them?
What would your message and tone be with this person? Use that as a springboard to access your own inner compassion. Get in touch with your inner dialogue in the context of what you’d say to a friend.Affirmation for a resilient heart: I can encounter discomfort and maintain compassion. Click To Tweet
This practice can help you create enough distance between you and your exhaustion so that you can recognize all the ways you’ve been speaking to yourself. For me, I notice stressful tones and exasperated phrases that I’d never offer a friend; then I notice how I can be a better friend to myself.
5. Write a forgiveness letter to the exhaustion.
It is safe to forgive yourself for everything (yes, everything); in fact, it’s far less safe to hold on to judgment and bitterness any longer than the initial painful act.
If you’re holding a grudge, the grudge is actually holding you.
Aside from forgiving yourself and anyone else involved in your exasperated, depleted, dampened situation, there’s another party worthy of forgiveness: the situation itself.
Of course the situation is worthy of forgiveness, because it is an energy, and all sorts of energies are allowed to exist. Just because they exist, that doesn’t mean we need to identify with them, resist them, block them, loathe them—all that does is keeps them from moving through us so they can be on their way.
Since writing can be such a powerful healing tool, I highly suggest this as a self-care practice: Write an actual letter to the exhaustion/whatever else you’re experiencing, and offer it your willingness to forgive.
This practice is wonderful, because it helps you realize that you’re not tethered to the experience; you’re not exhaustion, but the one experiencing that energy current. It is an energy, and it will pass as it’s allowed to. It cannot move through walls and barriers, but as we soften, we learn that it can move through forgiveness.
Forgive yourself for feeling exhausted; you are free to move on when you’re ready to let it all be.Luckily, we are all doing our best, and our best will evolve as we do. Click To Tweet
Please let me know:
- What is it you would like to offer the world, to the people in your world? Now: Are you offering yourself the same?
- What’s ONE thing you can do today to take care of yourself, to show up with compassion in one hand and forgiveness in the other? How can you lighten up on yourself?
Share your thoughts, self-care ideas and routines that work for you, what new practices you’re interested in taking up, and any helpful or hopeful stories of a shift with me in the comments.
Send a message of hope; share these self-care ideas with a fellow worthwhile human being.
Look after yourself; be a friend to yourself.