There are a lot of factors in life that you can’t control, and the stress of that can take a toll on your health. A self-care practice helps provide you with a protective buffer of sorts: By taking care of yourself well on a regular basis, you can create more resilience when it comes to all the challenges and uncertainties that life can bring. If 2018 left you reeling a bit from stress and overwhelm, know that there are things you can do to boost your self-care in 2019. A good self-care routine can be a comforting port in the storm as the weirdness of life rages on around you, and, the best part? You get to craft your self-care practice to suit what best works for you, so that you actually look forward to doing it.
"It is almost impossible to separate self-care from your mental and physical health," Kiaundra Jackson, licensed marriage and family therapist (LMFT) and author of Staying Sane In An Insane World: A Prescription for Even Better Mental Health tells Bustle via email. "Self-care means taking care of yourself in every aspect: Emotionally, mentally, physically, spiritually, and relationally. When you make yourself a priority, not only are your thoughts and feelings in better alignment, but you also have the physical and mental energy to do what you set out to do daily."
"When we think of self-care, most people immediately think about massages, or manicures and pedicures. However, self-care is checking in with yourself to make sure you are emotionally well."
Given that the benefits of self-care are best achieved with some measure of a daily practice, here are 12 ways to soothe your soul on the regular, release any lingering stress from last year, and take better care of yourself in 2019.
Taking a break from the hyper-connectedness of life can give you some space to rest, and get some peace and quiet amidst all the daily pinging. Forbes writes that unplugging digitally can be a great way to create balance if you're feeling overloaded with demands, and that all it takes is "pressing the off button on digital devices" for a period of time. If work demands mean that you need to stay connected most of the time, even just switching off for 24 hours on your weekend, or taking digital breaks during vacation time, can give you a breather.
2. Clean Up Your Social Media Contacts
If you've got a bunch of social media "friends" who you either don't actually connect with in real life, or who don't add to the quality of your feeds, then feel free to unfollow, mute, or delete until your social media community is made up of the people who matter the most to you.
3. Try Something New Just For Fun
Don't underestimate the power of fun for busting up negativity and the too-seriousness that can come upon you when your stress levels are high. Want to try a new dance class, throw a costume-themed dinner party, host friends for game night, or try sky diving? Whatever makes you smile, laugh, or just feel better counts, so make sure to make fun part of your self-care routine.
4. Plan A Retreat
5. Go To Bed One Hour Earlier
Prioritizing sleep is one of the most important things you can do for your health, and for coping well with life's challenges. Too little sleep can make stress even trickier to navigate, since crankiness, foggy thinking, and just overall exhaustion make everything harder. If you're thinking that you might want to improve your sleep hygiene in 2019, then make it a priority to get to bed one hour earlier until you reach your goal. And if inching your way up via 15 minute increments per night until you reach your optimal bedtime helps, then try that too.
6. Get Social Support...
7. ...And Spend Time Alone When You Need It
Provided that you have adequate social support when you need it, I probably don't have to tell you that solitude is also an awesome thing. Solo time actually gives you the space you need to do a lot of key self-care activities, like meditation, hot baths, at-home workouts, or a quick nap. Just make sure to reach out when you need support — especially if you're facing tough times.
8. Try Meditation Or Deep Breathing
"Meditation and deep breathing not only have some positive physiological changes on the body, but they help you to slow down," Jackson says. "We live in a fast-paced world, and it's hard to just be present most times without social media and all other obligations pulling at you. [Meditation and deep breathing] are effective because they helps us to be present in the here and now, focus our thoughts, and relieve some of our challenges and worries."
9. Get Some Kind Of Exercise In
Exercise is pretty fundamental when it comes to health and stress relief, says the Mayo Clinic. And, the good news is, you've got so many options to choose from. Whether you like yoga, dance classes, spinning, or running marathons, there's most likely a form of exercise that works best for you. So experiment a bit, and find something you love to do.
10. Be Mindful Of Your Media Intake
This one can be easy to overlook, but next time you watch a movie or TV show, notice how you *feel* during and after. Triggering, frightening, or stressful content doesn't work for everyone, and you might need to manage your media intake if it starts feeling problematic for you. Or, maybe you know that when you're feeling down or anxious, it's best to avoid the news. Either way, take a few minutes to check in next time you watch something, and make sure your media consumption is feeling good to you.
11. Say No When You Need To
Setting boundaries is a key component of effective self-care, Jackson says, "Do not allow others to impose things on you that you ultimately do not want to do. Learn to say 'no', and don't feel guilty about it."
12. Spend Time With Pets
Research shows that spending time with pets is a powerful way to lessen depression and anxiety, while improving overall mental health, the Mental Health Foundation says. Pets are a wonderful source of comfort, companionship, and simple, unconditional love in an often complex world. If you don't have a pet of your own, but are able to adequately care for an animal, consider adoption. Otherwise, offering to walk a friend or neighbor's dog, pet sitting, or volunteering at a local animal shelter are great ways to spend some time with animals.
While life is inevitably stressful at times, your response to its curveballs is sometimes what matters most, Jackson says. "How you manage stress can show how resilient you are in this area. Do you face stress head-on and remember this situation is only temporary?" While it might be tempting to curl up in your apartment and hide out when life gets twisted, there are myriad ways to take care of yourself that can help make you stronger in the long run. By devising a regular self-care practice that works for you, you'll be strengthening your resilience day by day. And that helps make life just a little bit easier to roll with when challenges strike.