The day after my 50th birthday felt like I was stepping into the second half of my life. Like many people who experienced the COVID-19 pandemic, I reflected  on what matters most in my life and how I wanted to live it. Out of the darkness of the pandemic, I finally gave myself permission to prioritize my health and well-being in a way that I hadn’t previously. I made a commitment to show up wholeheartedly for my family, friends, career, and – most importantly – myself. How had I gotten so far out of my self-care habits? Ironically, as a yoga practitioner, I spend my days guiding others to feel ease in their bodies, yet, there I was, stressed and unwell. Elevated blood pressure, bruxism, and migraine headaches were all things I experienced. Fortunately, an old Cherokee Proverb called my bluff: “If you listen to your body whisper, you won’t have to hear it scream.” Thus began my journey to find ways to soften and allow progress (not perfection) to seep into my days.

Self-care is how we care for our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health. With our busy lives, this can often be pushed to the background as we provide care to others.

My Self-Care Journey

Although my health and well-being have improved significantly, my self care journey hasn’t always been smooth or easy. Indeed, it often feels like I’m playing “Jenga” with my schedule to manage a business, transport an active teen to and from school and sports, and co-run a household. However, I’ve learned to prioritize and savor the short spaces between it all. This practice shows up in various self care short breaks:

  • Taking a few deep breaths before getting out of bed in the morning (time commitment 1-2 minutes).
  • I stop, park the car, and do nothing but daydream before picking up my kiddo from school (time commitment 3-4 minutes).
  • Sipping a cup of chamomile tea in the evening or taking a walk around the block, depending on what my body needs to wind down (time commitment 5-10 minutes).
  • Stepping away from work to pause for meals (time commitment 45-90 minutes).
  • Writing down three things each day that I’m grateful for (time commitment 2 minutes).

My Self-Care Activities

When the opportunity presents itself, and I have longer blocks of time to rest, regroup, and restore, my self care list may look like this:

A guided yoga class (not a surprise, huh?). On the days my energy is low, I head to a gentle, restorative, or Yin yoga class, preferably with some mindful breathwork. Click here to access current Kind Body Yoga classes. On days when I’m looking for a more vigorous class, I may choose a vinyasa or steady flow class. (time commitment 45-75 minutes)

yoga
self-care-at-the-park

Many people find time in nature very southing and restorative. This can be a great self-care idea! If I’m tired, I grab a blanket and set it up near a garden, a park with trees, or near water (think lake or river, but a park fountain could work too). If I have more energy, I like to get out for a hike or trail run. These options take me out of my busy mind and tune me into my senses. I take a moment to notice 1-2 sounds, sights, and scents outside. (time commitment 15-60 minutes)

A phone call with one of my close friends. This typically gets setup ahead of time to ensure that our schedules align. (time commitment 10-60 minutes)

self-care-phone-a-friend
self-care-dog-park

Here’s a self-care idea you probably haven’t thought of. Visit a dog park, with or without my dog. Watching animals interact is instantly playful and relaxing. I’ve never left a dog park without having at least one burst of laughter. For days when time’s not abundant, a YouTube search for the best funny animal videos may do the trick. (time commitment you decide)

When I was in the early stages of my self-care experiment  I needed to create reminders on my phone to pause and take a few deep breaths. Or I would block off 15-minute appointments in my calendar that said “Me Time” to give self-care a chance to take root. I learned the hard way that if I was not intentional about building self care into my week, I would end up flat on my back with a migraine.  My body screaming!

15 Self-Care Ideas to get you started:

self-care-deep-breathing

Breathwork

take 3-5 breaths and extend the exhale longer than the inhale (for free guided practices, try the Insight Timer app).

Hug

Give or get a hug (embracing for a minimum of 7 seconds can release oxytocin and decrease the stress hormone cortisol).

self-care massage

Massage

Trade a shoulder massage with a friend or family member.

self-care-bath

Relax in a Hot Tub

Soak in a warm bath with Epsom salts (add lavender essential oil for extra calm).

Paint

Watercolor sets are available for $1-$3 at the Dollar Tree and Fred Meyers.

Really Enjoy a Meal

Sit down with something you enjoy eating and give your full attention and permission to the experience. Savor the smell, taste, and colors of what you are eating.

self care walk

Relaxing Walk

A mindful walk around the block where you engage your senses of sight, sound, smell, and touch.

Play a Game

Play a board game with someone much older or younger than yourself.

self-care-foodie-night

Have a Foodie Night

Make a foodie date with yourself or a friend. Pick a favorite restaurant or try a new one you’ve been waiting to visit.

self care color

Color

There’s a reason why adult coloring books have hit the stands. They ignite creative energy, calm the mind, and allow our inner kid to be present.

self-care-tip-read a book

Read

Read a good book to wind down right before bed. Consider choosing a good novel, mystery, or stop that gives your brain a break. This may mean steering away from books related to work or self-improvement.

Relax while you are doing laundry!

Listen to your favorite podcast or audiobook. Your local library has thousands of offerings in every category! It can transport you to other times and places with the stories.

self-care-old-movie

Movie Night!

Watch an old movie with a friend.

gratitude journal

Gratitude Journal

Write down 3 things each day that you are grateful for (hint: the little things are the big things).

Puzzle

Do a puzzle (150-piece puzzles are a great place to start if you’re new to puzzles).

Self-Care is not Self-Indulgence!

Self-care for many of us may be viewed as a luxury that happens only after we’ve worked hard and long enough to deserve it. Before my bluff was called, I thought self-care involved paying for services like a mani-pedi, a massage, or going out to a nice meal. These things may fall into the self-care category for some, but they may be too time or cost-prohibitive for others. What if we re-imagined self-care to include both states of mind and things you do? Could setting boundaries, engaging in skillful communication, tuning into your feelings throughout the day, and practicing self-compassion also be self-care?

I’m now two years into my second half of life and have some consistent self-care experiences under my belt. My go-to list has grown. I’ve also found that what feels nurturing, restorative, and mood-boosting can vary from one day to the next.  The one thing I’ve found with any of the self-care practices I weave into my week. If I am fully present with what I am doing it allows me to feel more at ease. 

What feels like self-care to you? I’d love to hear what replenishes you, re-kindles your creative energy, and allows you to show up as your best self; email Natalie Murphy, RYT-200, RD, LD @ braverevolutionyw@gmail.com

Click here if you’d like to set up a free 15-minute Discovery Call with Natalie if you’d like to explore ways yoga, mindfulness, and nourishment may be a part of your self-care practice.

Click here to read about Natalie as part of the Ruby Health and Wellness Collective. 

Click here to check out Natalie’s practice in Bend, Oregon: Brave Revolution Yoga and Wellness.

Ruby Health and Wellness