Self-Care Ideas to Manage Stress

By Tina McManus, ND
Let’s face it.  These are strange times.  The pandemic is still ongoing with some predictions that there will be an increase in cases as we head into fall and winter.  It is hard not to be affected by current events, with social discord ever present and environmental tragedies all over the country.  The way we respond to chronic stress can vary widely from person to person.  Some people might feel worry and anxiety, leading to poor sleep.  Others may not experience stress as much in an emotional or psychological way but instead experience digestive issues, muscle/joint pain, or elevated blood pressure or blood sugar levels.  In any case, chronic stress lowers our overall resilience, and so engaging in self-care practices to help manage stress is more important than ever.

​In our busy lives, it seems like oftentimes self-care practices are the first on the chopping block.  However, like they tell you on an airplane, when the oxygen mask drops, you should first put the mask on yourself before helping other people.   Self-care can be anything that builds you up so that you have better mental, emotional, physical, or spiritual health.  Here are just a few suggestions.
Find Joy:

  • Take more time to pursue your hobbies.
  • Listen to your favorite songs.
  • Draw in a coloring book.
  • Listen to or watch some comedy skits.
  • Read a book.

Connect with others:

  • Spend quality time with loved ones whether it be in person, on the phone, or online.
  • Reach out to someone you have not talked to in ages.
  • Write someone an old-fashioned letter.
  • Volunteer for a cause that is meaningful to you.

Love your body:

  • Prioritize sleep.
  • Take a relaxing bath with Epsom salts and/or essential oils.
  • Schedule a massage.

Move your body:

  • Go for a walk – especially in a green space.
  • Dance in your house.
  • Check out some online yoga, qi gong, or other movement classes.
  • Exercise but don’t overtrain.

Feed your body:

  • Take time to chew and thoroughly savor your food.
  • Try out new foods.  Variety is the spice of life!
  • Make sure you are eating enough but not too much.

Feed your spirit:

  • Mindfulness meditation
  • Try paced-breathing for 5 minutes.  Breathe in through the diaphragm for 5 seconds and exhale for 5 seconds.
  • Practice gratitude
  • Prayer

Clear out what you don’t need:

  • Say “no” to requests that overwhelm you.
  • Donate clutter that you no longer need.
  • Take a break from social media.

The above list is a small example of different self-care activities and by no means exhaustive.  Because we are all individual, what works for some might not work for another.  Self-care can be anything that helps a person to feel better mentally, emotionally, and physically.  It can increase our resilience in the face of chronic stress, and since we are going through a particularly stressful time, prioritizing self-care has never been so important.

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