For many of us, our 9-to-5’s leave us in a state of constant stress, feeling overwhelmed and exhausted. With all the demands of modern life, it’s not surprising that so many of us feel this way. Long-term stress can negatively affect our physical and mental health, leading to illness, anxiety, and depression. Taking proper care of yourself is essential for feeling healthy and present in everyday life. The most powerful way to process stress and overwhelm is to make time for self-care. Below you’ll find 11 ways to help you improve your well-being by caring for your body, mind, and self.
Find 3-4 Simple Pleasures Every Day
Train your mind to look for happiness in the little things that make up your routine. In an article by TheMindFool, written by Life Coach Katina Tarver, Tarver tackles the misconception that people need to be able to spend money to enjoy the simple pleasures of life. Simple pleasure could be anything from receiving a letter from an old friend, eating your favorite meal, finding money in an old jean pocket, or stepping outside for a breath of fresh air on a nice day.
Slowing down and taking a moment to indulge in the simple pleasures of life gives your brain a much-needed break. This indulgence takes up very little time, and very often little money, but the results are massively beneficial.
Enjoying the simple pleasures in life rejuvenates the mind, keeps you healthy, and helps you develop and maintain a positive attitude.
Colorful foods contain many of the vitamins and antioxidants we need, with fewer calories than other foods. According to the Winneshiek Medical Center, the nutrients in fruits and vegetables help to protect against cancer, heart disease, vision loss, hypertension, and other diseases.
Red fruits and vegetables such as tomatoes, radishes, beets, strawberries, cherries, and pomegranates tend to be good for our cardiovascular systems. The red color in most fruits and vegetables contains antioxidants that reduce one’s risk for atherosclerosis, hypertension, and high cholesterol, as well as different types of cancer.
Blue and purple fruits and vegetables such as eggplant, purple cabbage, blackberries, blueberries, and plums aid in protecting against heart disease, stroke, and cancer. They also promote memory capabilities and healthy aging.
Orange and yellow fruits and vegetables such as carrots, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, apricots, oranges, pears and mangoes are full of nutrients good for your nervous system, help promote eye health and a strong immune system, and prevent heart disease.
Green fruits and vegetables such as broccoli, spinach, brussels sprouts, kiwi, green grapes, and avocados protect eye health. Leafy greens also contain folic acid, an essential nutrient for pregnant women which increases the chance of a healthy, successful pregnancy. Nutrients found in green fruits and vegetables also help protect the body from cancer and bad cholesterol, regulate digestion, and support the immune system.
Integrating a gratitude practice into your daily life has a variety of benefits, according to healthline.com.
Gratitude exercises such as journaling, making an effort to pay attention to the little things, telling someone you’re grateful for them or something they did, doing something kind for someone to express gratitude, meditating on the positive aspects of life, or giving thanks through prayer, have been shown to boost overall mental health and well-being.
Make Time to Meditate
Meditation has been shown to reduce pain and enhance the body’s immune system. Meditation can also reduce feelings of depression, anxiety, anger, and confusion.
During some types of meditation, blow flow to the heart increases while simultaneously slowing heart rate and decreasing levels of cortisol, the stress hormone.
Find Enjoyable Physical Activities
When you were a kid, you got enough activity without consciously exercising. Running around playing tag, swinging from the monkey bars, and playing soccer with friends were effortless parts of an active childhood.
It’s recommended that adults do 150-300 minutes of activity a week, but nobody wants to spend 30 minutes a day sweating doing something they hate.
Some ideas for “non-workout” ways to get some activity in include having a dance party, playing frisbee, taking the stairs, organizing walking meetings, going to dance class, hiking, rock climbing, hula hooping, joining a team sport, cleaning your house, shopping, trampolining, paddle boarding or kayaking, and bike riding.
Protect Your Skin
According to Harvard Health Publishing, good skin care keeps your skin healthy and glowing. Proper skin care contributes to increased self-confidence, minimized wrinkles and age spots, and lower rates of skin cancers.
Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15. Apply sunscreen generously and reapply every two hours.
Avoid the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when the sun ray’s are the strongest. If you can’t find shade during these hours, consider wearing protective clothing, such as tightly woven long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and wide-brimmed hats.
Don’t smoke. Smoking makes your skin look older and contributes to wrinkles. It narrows the tiny blood vessels in the outermost layers of the skin, which decreases blood flow and makes skin appear paler. This depletes the skin of oxygen and nutrients essential for healthy skin. Smoking also damages collagen and elastin--the fibers that give your skin strength and elasticity.
Limited amounts of short-term stress have been shown to sharpen our cognitive skills and strengthen our immune system. Long-term, chronic stress, however, can seriously negatively impact our health, compromising sleep quality, our immune systems, physical health, and emotional well-being.
Exercise, deep breathing, meditation, clean eating, limiting caffeine and alcohol intake, connecting with supportive people, spending time on things you enjoy, bonding with a pet, and getting enough sleep have all been shown to help manage stress and its negative effects.
Keep Things Interesting
Structure and routine are important. But they could be killing your creativity, according to Annie Murphy Paul in an article for Time. Paul writes that by not following a strict morning routine and allowing your brain to naturally unwind, you enable yourself to carry out your most creative thinking.
Adhering to a strict routine inevitably results in the buildup of stress. In creating routines, you feel pressure to meet the demands of these routines. When you don’t, it can feel as if you’re falling short of your own standards. A break from this routine can introduce stress into the rest of your day.
“The stress hormone cortisol can harm myelin, the fatty substance that coats our brain cells.” According to Paul, damage to our myelin sheaths decreases the frequency of quick, “light bulb” ideas.
John Tierney of the New York Times argues that humans are best suited to maintaining a routine of complete and utter spontaneity. Tierny believes the perspective of Mencius, an ancient Chinese philosophy, to result in the most success. The philosophy of Mencius is summed up by Tierny: “Try, but not too hard.” Essentially, try to avoid your day-to-day life getting too structured, and embrace spontaneity.
Drink Your Water
According to an article on healthline, water is one of the most necessary ingredients for maintaining overall health. Dehydration can lead to issues with body temperature control, reduced motivation, and increased fatigue. Optimal hydration has also been shown to reduce physical and mental fatigue during exercise. Dehydration is also known to impair mood, memory, and brain performance.
Increased hydration may help improve headache symptoms and decrease headache frequency. In a study of 393 people by BMC Public Health, 40% of the participants experienced a headache as a result of dehydration.
Proper hydration may also help promote regular bowel movements. Increasing fluid intake is a standard part of treatment protocol for constipation, and studies have shown that mineral water rich in magnesium and sodium supports regularity in people who struggle with constipation.
Additionally, water helps reduce hangovers. Alcohol is a diuretic, so it makes you lose more water than you take in, which can lead to dehydration. Having a glass of water between drinks and at least one large glass of water before going to bed has been known to significantly help with hangover symptoms.
Lastly, getting enough water can help you lose weight. Water can increase your feeling of fullness and maybe even improve your metabolic rate. Some evidence suggests that increased water intake can slightly boost your metabolism, increasing the number of calories that you burn each day.
Drinking water half an hour before meals makes you feel more full so that you eat fewer calories. In one study done by the Department of Human Nutrition, Foods and Exercise at Virginia Tech, dieters who drank a half liter of water before meals lost 44% more weight over 12 weeks than dieters who didn’t.
Spend Time With Friends and Family
A strong network of family and friends can act as your rock, especially in difficult times. A support system like this helps enhance our mental well-being, and has positive physiologic effects too. It is important to surround ourselves with family and friends for support and comfort in both times of joy and distress.
Those who spend time with friends and family find healthier ways to cope with stress. A study at Carnegie Mellon University found that people who use their family and friends as a stress buffer and talk about their problems are less likely to seek negative coping mechanisms like drinking alcohol, smoking, or doing drugs.
Additionally, a strong social network has been shown to be good for your cardiovascular health. Stress can encourage inflammation in the arteries, which can result in atherosclerosis.
Good family and friend relationships can also help relieve stress. A study published in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine found that those who discussed difficult times in their lives had a lower pulse and blood pressure when they had a friend by their side.
The American Society of Aging published an article saying that older adults with larger social networks have good episodic memory, better cognitive functions, and experience less stress. Good relationships with partners, children, siblings, and friends support these positive effects.
Social relationships have a positive influence on your overall mood. Researchers have found that making new friends lifts your spirits through the release of oxytocin in the body.
Also, those with strong social ties seem to be more satisfied with their lives. One study found that people who view their friends and families as supportive reported a greater sense of meaning in life and felt they had a stronger sense of purpose.
Spending time with our friends and family improves mental health, school performance, lowers the risk of behavioral problems, boosts self-confidence, promotes adaptability and resilience, enhances physical health, and lengthens life expectancy.
Maintain Your Brain
Regular cardio has been shown to reliably increase cognitive function and memory capabilities in controlled studies. Animals who exercise regularly increase the number of blood vessels that bring oxygen-rich blood to the region of the brain responsible for thought.
Exercise also results in the development of new nerve cells that make your brain more efficient, plastic, and adaptive.
Also, any mentally stimulating activity, such as reading, taking courses, or trying word puzzles or math problems, will help keep your brain in tip-top shape.
Explore activities that require manual dexterity in addition to mental effort, such as drawing, painting, playing an instrument, or other activities.