How Can I Practice Self-Care
There has been a lot of discussion recently about the importance of self-care, but what does that actually mean? For adults, its about finding time in a very busy schedule to take care of oneself emotionally, physically, and spiritually. A mature adult with good time management skills will always find the time to give to him or herself.
The theory behind self-care is that you cannot give of yourself if you are worn out, emotionally drained, or experiencing spiritual drought. Once you have filled yourself with love and cared for your physical and spiritual needs, you are more able to give to others and be more present in social or caretaking situations.
You may be thinking, I’m just a teenager – I’ve got so much energy, I don’t need to spend extra time on myself. But, you would be wrong. You don’t realize how many people you are giving energy to besides yourself. Are you in sports? Then you are giving to your teammates and your coach and your school. Do you participate in choir or band? Then you are using your talent for the pleasure of others and that takes a lot of energy. Do you act as a tutor or peer counselor? If so, you are emotionally sharing your energy with others who are frustrated, upset, or otherwise need your help.
So, teens especially need to engage in effective self-care. He we will review techniques for the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual self-care. Many of the practices here are simple, free, and will really help you improve your overall state of balance and self-love.
In everyday life, it can be incredibly hard to find time for yourself. Sometimes, even when we do, we can feel preoccupied about what we “should” be doing instead. But learning to make time for yourself is critical.
Any amount of time you take for yourself is important. Being focused on the self for as little as five minutes in the middle of a day packed with obligations can be meaningful. It helps to keep you from becoming overwhelmed by your responsibilities. The point is not what activity you choose or when you do it, but that you take the time to care for yourself.
Self-Care Ideas for the Body:
- Give your body ten minutes of mindful attention. This can be just brushing your hair or treating yourself to a healthy snack.
- Oxygenate your brain and body by taking three deep breaths. Breathe in through your nose and blow out through your mouth.
- Dance! Put on your favorite music and dance like no one is watching – because no one is.
- If you’ve been sitting for hours on end, a good, five minute stretching session will increase blood flow to the brain and extremities, giving your mental mood a boost.
- Run or walk for 5-10 minutes. And try to get outside to take your stroll. The fresh air will bring even more oxygen to the body.
- Avoid unhealthy foods. Plan your meals to ensure maximum nutrition.
- Practice self-soothing. Stroke your own arm, play with your hair, or wiggle your toes.
- Drink lots of water! Your body needs at least 64 ounces of water per day to maintain optimal health.
- Be still. Sit somewhere green, and be still, listening to the wind, the birds, and the leaves rustling.
- Get some sun – but don’t forget the sunscreen!
- Inhale an upbeat smell. Essential oils like lavender help you relax, and peppermint can control your cravings.
- Laugh – a lot. Watch your favorite stand-up comedians or read your favorite comic strip every day.
- Take a quick nap. You’d be amazed how refreshed and energized a 15 minute nap can make you feel.
These simple ideas are great for boosting your physical self-care. And many of them crossover with mental self-care techniques as well!
After you have some physical self-care ideas engaged, start working on your mental state. Now, let’s be clear– this isn’t about your emotional state. Emotional self-care is a different segment of self-care. Here are two techniques for improving your mental state through self-care.
Notice the Positive
Try to write down one thing each day that was good. Even if the positive thing seems insignificant, it’s real and it counts.
Gather Strength from Others
There are hundreds of support groups available to offer you guidance and reassurance from other people who have faced similar challenges and understand your needs. Talking with others about your experiences will help. No one can do it alone. Being willing to accept help is a tremendously important life skill. And stay connected with friends and family as they are your ultimate support group.
Mental self-care often involves activities to declutter your mind and reduce stress and anxiety. These can seem hard when life gets busy. But, by scheduling time each day – even just five minutes – to care for your mental health, you can improve your overall happiness and create a balanced state of mind.
Self-Care Ideas for the Mind
- Start a compliments journal. Write down the great things people say about you to read later.
- Finish a project that has been on your to-do list for ages.
- Change how you make decisions. Decide from the heart instead of your head, or vice versa.
- Go cloud-watching to find fun things in the sky. Lie on your back, relax, and watch for the occasional bunny rabbit or chipmunk made of clouds!
- Take a different route to work. Mix up your routine to create new neural pathways in the brain. The more you build, the more healthy your brain becomes.
- Give full attention to something you normally do on autopilot, like brushing your teeth, driving, eating, or your morning routine. Noticing the little things can help you make positive changes where you didn’t know they needed to be made.
- Goof around. Schedule five minutes of “play” several times each day.
- Create a deliberate habit, and routinize something small in your life.
- Fix a small irritation at home that’s been nagging you. Everybody has that one light bulb that can’t seem to ever remember to replace.
- Practice mini-meditation with one minute of awareness of your thoughts, feelings, and sensations.
- Be selfish. Do just one thing every day only because it makes you happy.
- Recycle things from your wardrobe or kitchen that you no longer need.
- Switch everything to airplane mode and be still and quiet for an hour. Maybe pick up that book you keep meaning to read.
- Edit your social media feeds, including trolls and lurkers.
Self-care of the mind is all about keeping your intellect healthy – but now it’s time to examine emotional self-care – keeping your heart healthy.
Once your mindset is clear and focused, you can then attend to the raging teenage emotions that create so much turmoil and chaos. Emotional self-care is just one more essential component of creating true habits of caring for yourself.
Here are some small ways to care for your emotions:
- Forgive yourself for small mistakes. Be compassionate to yourself.
- Find a personal mentor.
- Block off 15 minutes in your day as white space. Slow down and be silent.
- Listen to at least three songs you love every day.
- If you feel your self-esteem start to slip, write a love letter to yourself.
- Journal every night. Draw cartoons, write poetry, or keep a gratitude list. Mix it up.
- Don’t use your free time to please others. Nurture yourself.
- Give yourself permission to experience your emotions. Feel your feelings without shame or regret.
- Do something creative each day. You don’t have to be a professional artist – just write a poem, or sing a song, or play an instrument!
- Give yourself three compliments each morning. Start the day with a positive self-image.
- Don’t do everything yourself. Ask for help. People are generally willing!
- Learn to receive a compliment as a piece of empowerment, rather than awkward.
- Develop gratitude. Take note of small joys in your life every day.
- Learn to say no. You don’t have to please everyone – you only have to please yourself.
- Take deep breaths when you are livid, stressed, or fearful.
- Eat something delicious every day without guilt.
- Listen to the way you speak to yourself. Engage in positive self-talk.
- Take note of one thing you love about your body every day.
- Set boundaries and respect them without criticism.
- Learn to meditate. There are apps to help you with just a five minute meditation.
Now, you may think that as a teen, you don’t need all this. You are correct – you don’t need all of it. But, there are certainly things in this list that can help you become more emotionally balanced and able to love yourself. And loving yourself is not complete until you examine your soul and engage in spiritual self-care.
While some may argue that nothing else can be balanced without the physical well-being, or without emotional stability, or without mental acuity, the true depths of your strength and well-being come from the soul. Does this mean that you have to be religious? Absolutely not.
Spirituality is about connecting with the deepest part of yourself. If you practice a particular religion or connect with the universe in other ways, these make the pathway to spiritual well-being a bit easier because they have scriptures or scrolls or other sacred writings that give you guidance. But, you don’t need religion to find and care for your soul.
Taking time for spiritual selfcare is soul-fulfilling. Spiritual self-care is about introspection and finding clarity and peace. Studies have shown that cultivating spiritual self-care can have health benefits. “A practice in spiritual self-care quiets the mind and helps to calm the turbulence within, leaving space to begin feeling and honoring what your heart yearns for, and having the courage to take the necessary action for good change. Your body and emotions can’t lie; when you are truly happy and thriving you will know it at your core. You deserve to live life from this place.”
Spiritual self-care can help you to
- Improve relationships and connections with others
- Deepen relationship with self
- Enhance feelings of oneness and universality
- Experience more inner peace
- Find clarity on what makes you happy
- Diminish feelings of isolation and loneliness
There are multiple techniques that have been developed over the decades to help with spiritual self-care. Here are just a few.
The intention behind yoga is to harmonize your body, mind, and spirit and is designed to benefit you and how you are feeling at the time. Yoga is more than getting a good workout. It helps you to connect with your soul and emotions stored deep inside. Yoga encourages acceptance for the self.
Meditation is one of the easiest spiritual self-care practices to sustain. It may seem weird, but once you get going, you’ll find it to be a peaceful, calming balm in your crazy teenage world. You will reduce stress and a clearer connection to who you are and what you want in life.
Any physical activity is great, but walking is different. It allows you to be in the moment. Breathing in fresh air, feeling the pavement under your feet, and seeing the wide-open sky help you ground and nourish your senses.
Clear Your Space
You are constantly exchanging energy and information as a teen and it is hard to connect to your true self if you are tired or dragged down. Run some relaxing lavender or eucalyptus oil through a diffuser and cleanse the energy in your space.
Connect with Community
“Connection, laughter, exchange of ideas, emotional support, and strength to persevere are some of what you can experience through community. If you don’t have these connections already, you might need to step out of your comfort zone and find some.” If you are more of an introvert, maybe find a chat board of introverts online and talk with them about the benefits of alone time.
Read Inspiring Material
While a teenager hardly has time for sitting down with an inspiring novel or biography, there are lots of places online where you can find inspiring quotes or read about inspiring people.
Be in Nature
Being in nature is self-healing. It’s important to disconnect from the day and nature gives you a chance to bask in the healing that comes when surrounded by earth, wind, and water. You are experiencing something greater than yourself.
Unplug from Technology
Technology is extremely distracting. How many hours per day do you spend online? It’s time for a digital detox to reap the benefits:
- Better sense of self and needs
- More time to observe and reflect
- Improved relationships
- Increased creativity
- Better night’s sleep
The more you unplug, the more you can get to know yourself.
“To err is human; to forgive divine.” Life is too short to stay stuck in patterns of anger and regret. Too much energy is diverted to maintaining grudges when that energy could be directed toward creating the life you want.
Be present and accept both pleasure and pain as part of your journey to spiritual health and balance.
Self-care is essential. For teens, the crazy school schedules and social activities leave very little time for taking care of the self. Even if you do just one thing mentioned here for your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being, you are one step closer to engaging in real self-care.