Looking for self-care ideas to boost your mental and physical health? These sustainable go-to’s are the cream of the wellness crop.
If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that self-care is no longer optional. It’s paramount to how we move through this world, how we care for the planet, and how we support the people we love. There’s no one definition for self-care, though, which can make it more difficult to know where to start or what will work best. These ideas may help you find the perfect way to find some more balance.
What is self-care?
Self-care is not self-indulgence. The two are often conflated, ie the “treat yoself” mantra that permeates social media. It’s not a one-size-fits-all prescription, either, but there are some general ground rules. Bingeing on anything — alcohol, food, drugs, Netflix — as a way to manage stress, for example, is not self-care, even if it feels good at the moment.
Self-care isn’t always going to feel amazing as it’s happening — choosing a green juice instead of a Grigio, for example. But the point is developing or sustaining habits that are good for you, can lead to increased longevity, mental and physical wellbeing, and even financial and professional success.
In short, we’re not designed to live in the world we’ve created. There’s a reason why almost everyone experiences a measure of anxiety, depression, or fear when they try to tackle even seemingly simple things.
Even if you’ve got it together, you need to maintain your physical and mental health to keep it that way.Sometimes you do need a lazy day where all you do is relax. But you also need to be balanced. Active, healthy self-care means mixing things up a bit.
As well as spa days, movie days, and duvet days, diversify your time and keep your body and mind healthy. For example, working out is a form of self-care. You might not enjoy going to the gym, but your body needs to keep moving and your mind will appreciate what you do for it.
Find ways to exercise that you enjoy. Whether it’s half an hour each day of walking or working out at home, or a sport that you play with friends, the trick is to find something. You don’t need to let it take over your life or become amazing at it, just give yourself regular exercise.
Going outside is another form of self-care. Being in nature can help anxiety, make your mind work more efficiently, and if you go for walks or runs, you can combine the two to really help yourself. Nature is therapeutic in so many ways, so take advantage of it.
Take a break
The first thing we need to do is give ourselves time.
It does matter what we do during this time, and this article will tackle that in a moment, but the time itself is even more important.
Our days are taken up by things we do for other people. When we work, we are trying to help other people, no matter what our jobs are. The only way it directly benefits us is that we get paid. Even if you love your job, it’s a lot.
You also spend time in your personal life trying to sort things out for other people. When you do get some fleeting moments to yourself, they are eaten up by chores and everything else you have been saving up. There’s no time to take a break.
While some people feel guilty when they take breaks and force themselves to actually relax for a day or a weekend, it’s actually beneficial to you and those around you. Otherwise, you risk burning out, which can mean that you’re physically, mentally, and emotionally unable to help others or even function in your normal life for a while.
Either you take a break when you choose, or your body will force you to take a break.
Putting in the work
Sometimes self-care isn’t easy. Change is never easy, and if you have a major problem, the best thing you can do for yourself is to make those changes, even if it takes hard work and heartbreak.
So many people try to cope with everyday life by self-medicating with drugs or alcohol, but this will never solve anything. It can dull things and make them fuzzy for a while, but once you’re sober, the problem is still there and you’re stuck with a hangover, or even worse.
If this sounds familiar, look into rehab for alcohol to find a healthier way to regain some control over your life. Nobody is promising that it’ll be easy, but it’ll absolutely be worth it.
For a lot of people, professional help is the only real way to recover from the rigors of real life. Whether you’ve been through a specific trauma or you’re just struggling to cope, there is no shame in looking for help.
Therapy can give you the tools to work through your problems, while medication might give you the ability to manage in the meantime.
So, self-care isn’t always easy or passive. But it’s the best way to look after your well-being and be your best, healthiest self.
Self-care tips for a healthy body and mind
Whether going for a walk on your local beach or curling up with a good book, there’s no one way to self-care. But what’s most critical: stick with things that make you feel good. You’ll be a happier and healthier person for it.
1. Manage stress with adaptogens
If it seems like you’re seeing products boasting adaptogenic properties everywhere you look, you are. They’re so hot right now and for good reason. That reason? Stress sucks. It’s important to remember that stress isn’t just the icky stuff like a boss stressing you out or rush hour traffic. It can be more subtle—the stress of not sleeping well, a poor diet, physical stress from sitting all day, and so on.
It’s why so many people love adaptogens like ashwagandha and reishi mushrooms. Botanical drinks like Kin Euphorics are loaded with good-for-you botanicals including Saffron, Reishi Mushroom, and Passionflower along with L-Theanine, L-Serine, L-Tryptophan, Magnesium Glycinate that take the edge off almost immediately. And it tastes amazing, too.
2. Read a book
We are so glued to our phones that we all too often forego reading books for doomscrolling. And that’s a shame. Reading a book isn’t just introvert activity; it is better for the eyes than the blue light of smartphones, so you can count that as self-care, too. But the bigger benefit is the story—fiction or not—that takes us into another world.
These don’t need to be books about self-care at all, by the way. Try a novel, a memoir, a book of poems to find inspiration for taking some ‘me time.’
3. Cook a meal
We’ve all been cooking more in the last two years of the pandemic. But that’s survival cooking. Making a meal because you need to eat is so different than making a meal because it’s beautiful, nourishing, and wholly rewarding in different ways.
We publish a lot of recipes here at Ethos, but you’ll find yourself wowed over the collection from Lauren Lovatt. She’s taken a mental wellness approach to food in her new cookbook Mind Food: Plant-Based Recipes for Positive Mental Health. The recipes are stunning, good-for-you creations that are worthy of some quiet kitchen time and a reason to bust out the fancy tableware.
4. Grow something
There are lots of studies pointing to the benefits of nature; forest bathing is popular for good reason. But when most of us live in cities, we can’t always get out to the middle of a forest. And for most of us, the pandemic has quashed vacation plans for the last two years. But when it comes to nature, a little can go a long way, even if it’s just a windowsill herb garden.
Growing something connects us to the planet in important ways. And if you’re growing food? Well, it helps with the self-care goal of eating better too. Even if your history with houseplants isn’t the best, don’t give up hope. This windowsill herb garden can help you grow healthy herbs and reconnect you to the planet we all share.
5. Forest bathe
If you think forest bathing involves tubs and suds surrounded by trees, you’re not alone. Rebel Wilson recently spoofed that concept alongside Jane Goodall. But the bigger takeaway is — naked or not — getting into a forest has benefits for our mental health. Credit the increased oxygen produced by trees, moving your body, birdsongs, or any number of wildlife sightings and it’s easy to see why forest bathing is such a panacea for our modern world.
Need a really deep immersion after these last few years? Why not take a nature-immersed vacation? Check out our list of hotel destinations around the world that are completely surrounded by nature.
6. Move more
Move more. Movement isn’t just good for your physical health, it’s good for your mental health as well. When you move your body more, you feel better about yourself. It can be hard to move your body when you’ve been sitting for hours at work, especially if you have a sedentary job. When you make time for exercise in your routine, you’re going to find yourself feeling lighter and freer. A busy schedule is not something that should get in your way of movement, but if it is, then it’s time to prioritize. Movement is going to help you to be held happier and healthier for longer, so therefore it should be a priority. Try out a new yoga or pilates class. Working from home? Grab an eco yoga mat and take a few minutes for a Yoga Works class to stretch before you start your day.
Are you chronically dehydrated? It’s more possible than you might think. You should be looking at ensuring that you are drinking at least two liters of water per day. Not only will this make you feel good, but it will help you to open up your blood vessels and help your skin to feel clearer and healthier than ever before. It keeps all things working smoothly, and who doesn’t want that? Keep a sustainable water bottle filled and with you at your desk or in your car so you can stay hydrated throughout your day without the waste.
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