5 Ways To Practice Self-Care

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Since August 2015, I’ve been on a bit of a sabbatical, thanks to some complications from my celiac disease. Because my doctors requested that I stop working full-time for a year in order to heal, I’ve spent the last nine months trying to take better care of myself, destress and really choose my schedule, including self-care.

I’m being very deliberate about what I do (and what I don’t do) and often, little rituals of self-care are the most important pieces to maintaining sanity.

Some of them are daily rituals; others are things I make time for on a monthly basis. The point is that they all are about what I’m choosing. Because self-care doesn’t have to be about sitting on the couch and watching a whole season on Netflix (though if that’s on your list, go for it!). Instead, it’s about creating space for activities and rituals that make you feel energized, alive and restored. It can be active, like making time for working out, or going to the museum to see a new exhibit. Or it can be restful, like slathering on a face mask and watching TV. The point is that there’s no right way to do it, as long as “it” makes you a fuller, better version of yourself.

My Top Five Self-Care Tips

  1. Apply a face mask. Ok, so this isn’t a new tip or even a unique one. It’s just proven to make me feel better, restored and more connected to myself. DIYing a face mask or selecting one from my beauty arsenal requires me to sit still for at least 20 minutes. It forces me to not go anywhere, to not do laundry, to not check the mail. It reminds me that I should take a deep breath and calm down for a few. Plus, I know that I’m doing something good for myself by taking care of my skin—skincare IS self-care. I’m putting nourishing, healthy ingredients on my skin to renew and revitalize it. And that’s important to me.
  2. Brew a cup of tea. This is another no-brainer: Making a cup of tea not only calms and soothes my soul, but it also boosts my insides to reveal healthier skin and aids in digestion. I love a floral or detox tea that helps detoxify and support my immune system. Turmeric tea or dandelion root give me immunity boosting goodness and, with a dash of honey, taste a little like a dessert. Plus, the warmth of the concoction is especially welcome during chillier months.
  3. Color. It’s all the rage right now, right? Coloring books for adults? Well, let me tell you—it works! It’s a fun, light-hearted activity that infuses me with creativity and gets my brain moving in a way that sitting in front of my computer or TV never does. Selecting colors and then rhythmically applying them to the page is calming and enlightening all at once. I’ve come up with some great ideas for blogs and photo shoots while my hands are busy creating a kaleidoscope of colors in my coloring book.
  4. Paint your nails. Getting a manicure or pedicure is one of my favorite indulgences, but because I can’t afford that all the time, I’ve taken to becoming a great self manicurist. It again requires concentration, but it’s a different kind of focus than I use when I’m working. It’s creative in and of itself, while also being a task I feel good accomplishing. Plus, just like with all the previous tips, it requires me to set aside time, to think about myself and to reflect on how I want to present myself. Maybe that sounds a little deep for nail art, but I go through a process of thinking about what I want to say to the world about me when I choose my nail polish color. Yes, it’s a little silly, but it’s a nice reason to hold a mirror up to myself and make sure I’m really aligning what I do with who I want to be.
  5. Self-massage + stretch. Both of these are requirements in my regular routine. As a former dancer, I can’t get through an entire day of sitting behind a computer, in my car or on the couch without taking stretching breaks and without a little dedicated stretching time before bed. I have a short, gentle series of yoga moves that I do to unlock tight hamstrings and hips, relax shoulders and relieve tension. The self-massage comes in as more of a weekly ritual, though I’m sure my psyche would be elated if I made time for it daily. I got the Ayurvedic practice of abhyanga from a past NMDL post, and have been applying to my self-care routine ever since. Its basic method uses long strokes and circular motions to invigorate your body and balance your emotions and hormones. Using warm oil, you tailor the strokes to how you’re feeling, the time of year and what your body needs. You can read more about the how tos here, but suffice it to say that the ritual is one that I count on to reset, whether I’m upset, tired, anxious or sad. Plus, a massage is so incredibly healing, especially when you dedicate time to do it for yourself.

And those are the top five things I’ve been doing for self-care. The key piece in all of them is that they work for ME. They provide me the restoration and solace I need when I’m drained, and they remind me that taking care of myself isn’t a luxury—it’s a necessity.

What do you do to take time for yourself?

A version of this was originally published on Organic Bath Co.’s blog.

Comments
9 Responses to “5 Ways To Practice Self-Care”
  1. Victoria says:

    Hi Nicole,

    Gosh, I’m sorry to hear about your celiac disease struggles. Hopefully this time has helped you heal in more ways than you know. I’ve been seeing those coloring books all over the place. I may have to purchase one for plane travel. I find staying creative while traveling helps with the anxiety of TSA, crying babies, crowds and all the un-fun stuff of getting from point A to point B. It’s just not my cup of tea these days although I love being someplace else. A coloring book may do the trick!

    Lately, I’ve been carving out time to take long, quiet walks through different parts of the city. Keeping my eyes wide open and relishing in views like it’s my first time on earth. It’s led me to be more mindful of the pleasure of simple acts and truly notice a bit more. No cellphones or podcasts allowed, just walking, seeing and listening. I do carry a notebook to jot down ideas, which seem to flourish in waves during these moments. Plus I love to keep moving and going forward. Sometimes I end up miles away from home and take public transportation back or I just find a nice coffee shop and write down what I’ve seen and who I met along the way.

    Hope you are on a path to wellness in health and spirit. Thank you for sharing.

    Xo Victoria

  2. Carrie says:

    I’m so sorry to hear about your health concerns. I hope things are gradually getting better for you.

    I learned how to give myself really good manicures last summer. Not only had the NYT article about exploited nail techs just come out, but I had six weddings to go to, which made finding both the time and money to get my nails done impossible. Now I love to do my own nails, and I feel so empowered to be able to give myself an expensive beauty service for free (well, $5 here and there for new supplies and polish).

    In addition to coloring, another very relaxing and meditative “kid” thing I like to do now is play in the sand with my toddler. I wondered why he was so gung-ho about going to the sandbox every day, and then when I started digging in with him, it was like “Ah, yes” . . .I think any activity (nails, coloring, sandbox) that keeps your hands busy and your mind clear works. I think this is what gardening is for lots of people too?

  3. Silvy says:

    Gardening certainly does that for me! Even just putzing around, looking for weeds to pull.

    Another thing I love, especially at the end of the day, is sitting or lying on the floor with my animals. I have two dogs and a cat, and it’s so soothing to just be around them, watch them play, and get some good cuddles in!

  4. Naomi says:

    @Nicole – so good to see you back here! I’m sorry you’ve faced such challenges and am glad it sounds like you are truly on the mend. Thanks for sharing your story with us. I love that you give “permission” to approach self-care in the way that suits you best, whether it be something a little flaky like Netflix (I love me a good viewing marathon) or anything else, as long as it is about YOU.

    @Victoria – I used to do the long, wandering walks around the city and for some reason I can’t remember the last time I did that! I will have to pick it up again, thanks for the reminder. I love the idea of settling into a coffee shop and writing in a journal, I’m going to add that into the mix :)

    @Silvy – I adopted a dog about 15 months ago and every moment I spend with her nurtures my soul. Just looking at her adorable, loving wee face makes my heart sing with joy. She doesn’t make every problem in my life or every frustration I face disappear, but she helps to put them in perspective and she gives me an incredible balance that I hadn’t had for nine years, since I lost my last dog. Cuddle time is my favourite time of the day and I swear she is better than any prescription drug could ever be for soothing my temper and bad feelings. Fur friends are just the best!

  5. beth says:

    I’m so sorry your illness has forced you to do a hard reset, but it sounds like you are practicing healing habits which will go a long way to helping create wellness.

    I struggle quite a bit with anxiety which, in the past few years, has started to manifest itself in very physical ways. In addition to sticking to a supportive daily routine, I actually have a list on my phone titled “self care non-negotiables” that I refer to when I need a nudge in the right direction. For me, the biggest things are yoga/gentle stretching, salt baths, lots and lots of water, flower essences and self massage. All of these things alone and in combination have helped a ton!

  6. Victoria says:

    @beth Just in case you’re interested in podcasts here is a link to one entitled, “Why We All Need To Practice Emotional First Aid.” I find is very encouraging and supportive during anxious moments. Somehow, self-care has turned into being “selfish” which is entirely untrue. I hope you enjoy the podcast and Guy Welch. :)

    https://www.ted.com/talks/guy_winch_the_case_for_emotional_hygiene?language=en

  7. ashley says:

    Makes me a little sad to think some of us are forced by a health or life event to practice self-care. I really hope what you’re doing is working. I know I only started to do my own pedicures as a way to save money and to have more control over what chemicals were being used on me – I never looked at it from the way you described. Interesting perspective.

  8. beth says:

    @Victoria I LOVE podcasts, how did you know?! ;) I will definitely take a listen – thank you so much for recommending!

  9. Nicolle Mackinnon says:

    @Victoria – Thank you for the kind words and for the lovely recommendation! It’s definitely been an interesting year and self-care has been what has kept me sane as I discover new food allergies and try to change the way my body reacts to stress. I love the walking around the city idea. My house backs up to the greenway in Minneapolis, a long biking and walking trail that goes through basically the whole city and I use it often!

    @Carrie – I love this! And doing my nails is so relaxing to me too. It’s like a little piece of self-care that reminds me daily of the time I took for myself. And being outside, getting to play with your kiddo sounds like great time to recoup!

    @Silvi + @Naomi – I LOVE animals! This is such a great way to relax and destress. They make us feel so loved, so calm and so good! Great self-care czars. :)

    @Beth – your journey sounds a little like mine! I have those non-negotiable things too, and so often it really just is about giving yourself permission to make them a priority. And to realize that you’re not your best self if you don’t make time for them!

    @Ashley – thank you! And saving money in and of itself can be self-care, right? Glad to share a new perspective on a fun activity you’re already doing yourself.

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