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Whether we’re kicking it with our cat, hunkered down at home with our kiddos, or getting to know a lot more about our roommates than we ever wanted to, there's one person we are all definitely spending a lot more time with these days: ourselves.
And—no judgment—but for most of us, our self-care muscles aren’t exactly bikini season ready.
It’s understandable—we normally live busy lives, and many of us don’t have time to focus on (really focus, not just read memes about) our mental wellness. But letting your mental health sit and eat chips on the couch just won’t cut it anymore.
In the times we’re living in, self-care isn't a luxury—it's a necessity. If we’re going to make it through these dark and stressful days, we quite literally can't afford to not take care of both our bodies and our minds.
So, while you may not be able to attend your favorite Bootcamp right now, that doesn't mean you can't enroll in a Bootcamp of mental wellness. And honestly? It's a lot less sweaty.
Here are six helpful tips based on the tried and true advice from mental health care experts.
Cultivating good routines is one of the mainstays of a healthy mind. Sure, gratifying your inner ten-year-old and eating ice cream for breakfast for a week started off fun, but at some point, it can make you feel untethered and contribute to your anxiety. Having a routine doesn’t mean scheduling every hour of the day, but it does mean having consistent patterns for waking up and going to sleep, as well as dedicated time for both work and fun. Bonus: a sense of routine will give you things to look forward to, and will help the time pass more quickly.
Right now there's still a lot we don't know, and you probably don’t need a therapist to tell you that it’s a pretty straight shot from uncertainty to anxiety. Staying informed is smart, but spending hours reading the rants of strangers online won’t diminish your stress level and will clutter up your brain. So pick a few trusted sources of information, and limit the time you spend reading up on them. And be strategic about when you do so—for instance, consider wedging in your research during the day so that it's not the last thing you're thinking about as you try to get some restful sleep.
Now that you’ve cut back on the negativity coming from your phone or your TV, you might be noticing it from another source—your own head. That’s because it’s easy to be hard on ourselves, particularly when we’re stressed. But when the world outside gets toxic, it’s even more important for the inside of our minds be a safe place. So, make an effort to talk to yourself like you would a friend who’s going through a difficult time. Take the time to acknowledge your accomplishments for the day, even if they’re minor (you did laundry!? Heck yeah!). And if you just can’t silence the negativity, it’s okay to ask for help. There are a lot of fantastic and affordable remote therapy options, and now may be the time to make exploring them a priority.
Now that you’re in your own head—in a good way—the next step to learning what you need is to ask questions. It’s a great time to try out something like a personality test to learn more about who you are and how you relate to the world around you. But don’t get stuck feeling existential—you should also learn how to pay attention to what you need in the moment with easy mindfulness techniques like a Body Scan. Once you’re done, follow it up with some gentle probing: What would taste, smell, sound, or feel good right now? You’ll be surprised at what your body is asking for if you listen. Or, try a virtual meditation class to help you find focused calm.
Once you’ve determined what your body and mind are craving, be intentional and generous. We all have a tendency to mentally multi-task, even when we’re doing things we enjoy—but being intentional means taking time to hyperfocus on whatever nice thing you’ve chosen to give yourself. So savor the sensation of taking that deep breath of air, or throw yourself into a performance of your favorite song. And don’t hold out on yourself: do this kind of thing multiple times a day! It may seem insignificant given the larger life problems you’re up against, but performing small acts of kindness for yourself throughout the day can provide the serotonin boosts that your body desperately needs to stay functional.
Not only is learning super good for us, but it’s also a healthy distraction, which is a very powerful tool for mental wellness. If there’s a topic you’ve always been curious about or an achievable skill that you want to improve in (think organization, not opera singing) now’s the time. Listen to a Podcast on a topic that fascinates you. Open a language learning app and dust off your high school Spanish. And while you’re learning, remember to set reasonable expectations for yourself, because it’s okay if you’re not the next Marie Kondo. The point is to continue to stay mentally active, even if your physical activity’s taken a hit.
Shelter-at-home can mean a lot of time alone with some very scary thoughts. We can either be totally swamped, or we can be kind to ourselves.
Taking time to learn and apply good mental health hygiene will benefit us long after this crisis is over. Hang in there. Be nice to you.
When you think of self-love what do you think of? Bubble baths, walks on the beach, facemasks, or what? Self-love can mean so many different things but when we think about self-love, we have to acknowledge loving ourselves both on the outside and on the inside. The way that we show ourselves love is one of the most important things we will ever do.
How do we treat ourselves? How do we talk to ourselves? What foods are we putting into our bodies? How are we thinking about our overall well-being when practicing self-love?
As self-love defines and redefined itself for you over the years, here are a few foundational tips to think about when easing into your self-love journey.
Don’t we love this one? Loving ourselves has a lot to do with the boundaries that we have for ourselves, with others, and for others. Take time to think about your own emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual needs when setting boundaries that reflect your personal needs. Boundaries don’t have to be big and scary; they are here to remind us that you get to have your lived experience and still have expectations about how you’d like to be treated and what you’d like to feel.
When thinking about your boundaries, ask yourself:
In a world where perfectionism and curated existences have been rewarded, begin to cultivate compassion for yourself. You are a soul having a human experience and it’s totally okay if things are not perfect.
Mindfulness exercises such as Breathwork, self-care activities, and self-compassion, all help train the mind, emotions, and even the body’s stress chemicals to be able to deal with undesired situations. Self-compassion means, can you be nice to yourself? Can you find empathy and kindness for yourself in the middle of what feels chaotic, stressful, or unwanted? Self-compassion means that we get to make mistakes, have our plans not work out the way that we wanted, and we still get to celebrate that we are doing the best that we can and it is enough.
When thinking about self-compassion, ask yourself:
In every sense of the word “nourishment”, begin to learn what nourishes you and what depletes you. Nourishment doesn’t just mean food for yourself; it means that whatever you are consuming whether it be media, podcasts, people, energy, information, etc. all impact the way that we think, feel, and experience life.
Nourishing yourself definitely goes right along the lines of having your boundaries intact and practicing self-compassion.
When thinking about nourishment, ask yourself:
That’s it. Those are the foundational steps to cultivating a self-love practice that you can ease into your daily routine. Come back to these questions often, because like anything else, self-love is a practice and it takes effort, time, and intention to maintain.