As 2020 comes to an end, you may be considering the tradition of setting a New Year’s resolution. This past year has been stressful and unpredictable (to say the least) for most of the world. Read on for tips on how to lower your stress in 2021 by making self-care a habit this year.
What is self-care? Why is it important?
Self-care is anything you do on purpose to take care of your mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual health. This includes preserving and improving your health and happiness. It involves checking in with your body and learning to listen to your own needs. It involves increasing your awareness of your thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and belief systems. Self-care is NOT selfish–it gives us the energy to pursue a life we love and is about becoming the kind of person you want to be. Self-care looks different for everyone; it’s quite personal. Prioritize self-care in 2021 by making it a daily or weekly habit.
What does self-care look like for you?
To identify what self-care habits are best for you, reflect on the following questions:
- What brings you joy?
- What do you value?
- When do you feel most loved and cared for?
- When do you feel the most recharged and refreshed?
- What calms you down when you’re stressed?
You are your own expert! Don’t worry about what the internet says is best for you. Trust yourself and your body, and listen to your intuition. When discovering your own best self-care habits, you are the most valuable source of information. Think of specific activities that reflect the above questions. For example, if you feel recharged after spending time in nature and you value alone time, then going on a hike might be on your list of self-care activities. Other activities might include:
- Listening to music
- Journaling or visual journaling
- Making art
- Reading a book at night
- Going to sleep earlier
- Mindful movement like yoga or qi gong
- Expressing gratitude
- Taking a bath
- Spending time in nature
- Spending time with friends and/or family (socially distanced walks and zoom calls work well for this!)
- Cooking and eating healthy food
- Moving your body
Try to come up with 3 to 5 things that lead to you feeling your best–centered and grounded. This doesn’t include things you hate. If you hate exercising at the gym, don’t write that on this list. Instead, think about ways you move your body that makes you feel good. This could include dancing, walking your dog, gardening, working out with a friend, or a video game workout.
How to make it a habit
There’s a lot of science behind habit-forming, and plenty of great books written to help you learn how to form new habits. One piece of advice that can help solidify a new activity into a habit is to do it every day–it’s non-negotiable. If you are trying to move your body 3 times a week, you can easily put it off one day. If your goal is to move your body every day, you know you can’t put it off until tomorrow and it can become easier to work it into your daily routine. This daily practice helps develop a habit. Also, reevaluate your habits after seven days and notice how you feel—reminding yourself of benefits and good feelings will inspire you to continue your practice later on!
Additionally, write your self-care habits down and put them where you can see them every day. This will strengthen your commitment and ultimately your practice. Start off with one of your habits on your list and add a new one every week or two. If external accountability is helpful for you, share your goals with friends and family.
Give yourself space
Commit to your new habit and routine but give yourself room to adjust within your commitments. Change how you move your body from day to day, what meal of the day you cook that is healthy, and where you meditate. Give yourself room to skip days and start again when you’re ready. Self-care is about slowing down in our busy world and giving yourself space. Remember to stay positive and remind yourself of your goal of loving yourself and caring for yourself. Let your mindset shift from judgment to self-compassion and acceptance. You can also research the benefits of your habits and get inspired. Keep your long-term goal in mind of becoming a better you.
And remember to start your habits off in a doable way. Try 5 or 10 minutes of walking, and gradually work up to an intense activity like running if that is your goal. If a goal like meditation is a struggle, try starting off with a short guided meditation or deep breathing activity. An important part of forming a habit is establishing a cue–or something that triggers you to engage in an activity. This cue then leads to an activity that leads to a reward. Learn more about the science of habit-forming here.
Are you looking for more support during this stressful time? Please reach out to us. Our team of therapists is here to provide support and guidance. We look forward to connecting with you.
Kate is the Founder and Clinical Director of Sage House Counseling & Art Therapy. With nearly ten years of clinical experience, I partner with you to connect back to your authentic, true self. The self that desires happiness, abundance and greater self-compassion. I work with clients just like you because I believe we all have the innate ability to heal and grow when we are heard and supported.