Society is finally moving past the COVID-19 pandemic and returning to a form of normalcy, but that, unfortunately, doesn’t mean life is getting any less complicated or emotionally draining.
September is Self-Care Month, and if you’ve never paid attention to it before, this is certainly the year to start. It’s all about taking a step back to take care of yourself. The last several years have made it too easy for everyone to forget to be kind, especially to themselves. Remember that you are important and worthy of love – which starts with you giving yourself a break.
Although there’s no such thing as an “expert” in self-care, we’ve compiled 8 diverse thought leaders with tips to help you find the best ways to step back and care for yourself this fall:
Prioritize getting 7-9 hours of sleep. Since sleep is the last thing we do at the end of the day, it’s easy to see sleep as something that happens only after we are finished with the day. If you have a lot to do, you find the extra time from your sleep time. But sleep is such an essential function, you should build your day around your sleep hours. If you have trouble finding 7-9 hours to sleep, it means you are too busy. Prioritizing your sleep may require you to say “no” to things that keep you too busy to have a balanced day.
—Dr. Tracey Marks, psychiatrist, YouTube sensation, and author of Why Am I So Anxious?
Vary your exercise regimen. A rotating mix of weights, walking or running, and riding (and other activities) keeps things fresh and increases access, which aids in consistency (for example, when time is tight, I step outside and go for a quick walk or run), and helps to mitigate long-term damage to individual parts of my body due to overuse while still challenging my body and mind as a whole. I also push myself to my limit aerobically (or close to it) at least once a week – it’s an incredible stress reliever! When I’m completely spent, my body cycles through recovery mode, which tends to help quiet my generally anxious mind. Exercise consistently – but change it up for better mental and physical health!
—David Pruitt, former CEO of Performance Bike and author of Relative Distance
Give yourself time and space. First, take time (you can decide how much) to slow down by doing things that bring you joy, with no agenda or expectation. When you let go of expectations, you shift from “doing” to “being” which allows you to discover that the speed of your life is a choice. Second, create a space in your home or go somewhere without distractions that feels welcoming and spacious. Claiming this space will allow you to see things from a new perspective when you return to the “real world” with a sense of groundedness and ease. Both of these very simple choices of your time and space will call your power back into your life and regulate your nervous system to a resting state that allows you to feel relaxed again in your schedule and environment.
—Phoebe Leona, transformational guide and author of Dear Radiant One
Rediscover the basics. A minimalistic, back-to-basics approach can achieve almost any goal. Starting simple keeps the focus on that which exists and comes from within and lessens the likelihood of getting distracted by unnecessary external “stuff.” If you feel a certain piece of exercise equipment, program, accessory, or clothing is your answer, more power to you and your investment. Remember that the engine that drives you to success comes from within instead of being purchased. You are as likely to discover your “Eye of the Tiger” moment in a basement wearing old sweatpants and a T-shirt as you are in a posh gym or on a Peloton wearing more expensive apparel.
—Joseph D. Pianka, M.D., physician/gastroenterologist and author of It’s All in Your Head
Develop a daily mindfulness practice. Having a morning mindfulness practice sets your day up to be proactive rather than reactive. My morning rituals start with an active meditation where I practice gratitude and visualization for how I want my life to be. First, it helps me remember that my mental health and my mindset is my number one priority. Secondly, it sets my state for the morning instead of allowing me to react to news, emails, etc.
Have a nighttime routine. Deep restful sleep is so underrated in our society. With so many people walking around so stressed out, it’s necessary to wind down and prepare for a good night’s sleep to help down-regulate the nervous system and help you drift off to sleep. I use a pink light in my bedroom and then use an essential oil diffuser, foam rolling, reading, or doing a good stretch. Most importantly, get off of your screens as you prep for your zzzs.
—Jennifer Cassetta, author of The Art of Badassery: Unleash Your Mojo with Wisdom of the Dojo
Journal. In my mind, journaling is not about what I’ve done for the day or the week. It’s about what I was thinking and feeling. Over time, my journal entries help me understand the flow of my life and what really makes me tick. I’m not much for going back and reading what I wrote last week or last year. For me, the power of journaling is at the moment I put my pen to paper. “Hey, this is me today.”
Enjoy the Small Stuff. I find it’s not wise for me to wait for the next big thing to happen. My emotional and physical well-being happens with the little choices I make each day. I walk up the hill with my dog. I call my sister. I hug my wife for ten extra seconds. I read ten pages of my favorite book. I eat a carrot. I watch a frog and wait for her next hop. You get the idea.
—Don Kuhl, author of Changing with Aging: Little Stories, Big Lessons
Focus on your senses. Contemplate sensory experiences that bring you joy, calm, balance, stillness, happiness, and positive nostalgia. When feeling overwhelmed or experiencing mental health symptoms, use these simple approaches. An example would be to make a cup of hot chocolate, find a fuzzy blanket, look at something that makes you happy (a fun online game, a photo, the trees outside your window), and put on your favorite better-mood music.
—Caitlin Billings, licensed clinical social worker and author of In Our Blood
Go On Micro-Vacations. Traditional vacations are difficult to schedule and often infrequent. Most of us only go on one or two per year. Their value to our wellbeing is immense, but they don’t give lasting benefits at that rate. Here’s where the Micro-Vacation comes in. Completely unplugging from work every evening after work (or whenever works for you). No checking emails, no scheduling meetings, etc. Instead, indulge. Watch a movie, play a video game, hang out with your family, and so on. You will see incredible results if you commit to Micro-Vacations, as silly as it may sound.
—Joey Cofone, Founder & CEO of Baronfig, award-winning designer and entrepreneur, and author of The Laws of Creativity