With the state of the world these days it’s easy to feel stressed out and overwhelmed. Our world’s have been turned upside down, which has brought on a multitude of emotions for most, if not all of us, in some shape, form, or fashion. The concept of balance seems to be completely elusive. All the while, we are all still trying to figure out how we fulfill our life roles and function amongst the chaos.
Now more than ever, it’s crucial that we take time to take care of ourselves. Many of us are so busy running around drained and depleted while we tend to the needs of others that we forget to take care of ourselves. The term self-care has been misconstrued as this concept of extravagant spa days, luxurious vacations, and frivolous shopping trips. While those things can be absolutely amazing and nurturing, they shouldn’t necessarily define self-care. In reality self-care is the little things that we can incorporate into our day to day lives to nourish ourselves – mind, body, spirit, and soul.
We need to shift the mindset that self-care is selfish and indulgent to it being a necessity for us to function optimally. I know it can sound so cliché, but the saying “You can’t pour from an empty cup” is so true. It’s really hard to love and serve the people in our lives with a joyful heart when we are exhausted and overwhelmed. Being intentional about taking care of ourselves can help manage stress levels, energy levels, and our emotions, increase our immune function, and boost our overall health and wellness, which in turn helps us to fulfill our calling and live life to its fullest potential.
10 Self-Care Practices to Stay Grounded in the Chaos
1. Be intentional about spending time with God. Reading and meditating on God’s truths and consistently conversing with Him in prayer can do wonders for one’s state of mind and well-being. Keep yourself rooted in Him.
Let your roots grow down into Him, and let your lives be built on Him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness. – Colossians 2:7
I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. – John 15:5-7
2. Move your body. Not only does exercise help with weight management, strengthening, and endurance, it also produces several chemicals that help decrease anxiety and depression, regulate our moods, and make us feel good from within. Find some type of physical movement that you enjoy to do each day. Working out doesn’t have to be brutal and time consuming. You’re more likely to stick to it if you actually enjoy it. Mix it up and have some fun. Go for a hike, try a yoga class, have a dance party in the middle of your kitchen, do some squats while you fold clothes. Just bust a move.
3. Get outside. There are so many benefits to hanging out in the great outdoors. Soaking up some sunshine provides us with vitamin D, which can reduce depression, increase our immune system, and help with concentration, memory, and learning. Research shows that the various smells in nature can be calming and relaxing – aromatherapy at its best. Touching natural elements can increase your microbial diversity in your gut, which helps support the immune system and boost overall wellness. The various sounds in nature help promote a relaxation response, which decreased stress levels. Connecting to the Earth helps realign electrical energies throughout the body, which has shown to reduce inflammation and pain, increase mood, and restore natural rhythms of the body. Marveling God’s creation can also promote a sense of gratitude and awe.
4. Learn something new. Learning new information stimulates and rewires the brain, improves our ability to focus and learn, increases self-confidence, improves mental well-being, and creates joy. Learning also gives our brain something else to think about, which in turn reduces stress and anxiety. Research suggests that learning new facts and skills can also reduce the likelihood of dementia and other mental health issues. Grab a book, watch a Ted Talk, try a new recipe, join a Master Class, go back to school. Geek out, sister.
5. Get creative. Find a new hobby. Pick an old hobby back up. Do something that sets your soul on fire. Being creative induces a relaxation response, helps to reduce depression and anxiety, promotes thinking outside of the box, releases the neurotransmitter dopamine, which increases happiness, and promotes growth in your skills and craft. You may even find yourself a nifty little side hustle. Who knows? Express yourself.
6. Eat whole foods. What you put into your body plays a huge part in hormone regulation, mood stability, energy levels, ability to concentrate, memory retention, and how you feel overall. Eating junk foods that are high in sugar, caffeine, additives, and preservatives can take a major toll on your overall health, wellness, and quality of life. Focus on eating whole foods that support your bodily functions and increase the power of healing. Your gut health plays a vital role in your mental health, so choose foods that decrease inflammation and support digestive health.
7. Get some zzz’s. Getting an adequate amount of sleep is crucial for our mental health, metabolism, immune system, hormones, memory and learning, energy levels, and overall health. Sleep deprivation can cause irritability, fatigue, lack of motivation, impaired brain function, inability to manage emotions effectively, premature aging, and increased risk of serious health issues. Just to name a few. Most adults need somewhere between 7 to 9 hours of sleep to function optimally. Try creating a bedtime routine that signals your body to start winding down. Turn off the electronics at least an hour before bedtime. Create an optimal environment by keeping your bedroom cool, calm, and dark. Preparing your body for sleep can help you to fall asleep faster and stay asleep through the night.
8. Try essential oils. Essential oils are plant extracts that can support overall health and wellness. They can be applied topically with a carrier oil to be absorbed by the skin, inhaled, and even some can be ingested. (Please do not consume essential oils orally unless you are absolutely certain that is what they are intended for. Young Living has a Vitality line that is specifically labeled for oral ingestion. Always be sure to follow the directions.) Here are a few of my favorites:
Lavender- For years lavender has been used to help with various ailments including: anxiety, depression, insomnia, headaches, and skin irritations. It is also said the have anti-fungal and anti-microbial properties.
Peppermint- Peppermint can help alleviate digestive issues, respiratory issues, headaches, and muscle pain, as well as stimulate the nervous system and increase alertness and ability to focus.
Valor- Valor is a blend of black spruce, blue tansy, and frankincense. It can be very uplifting and grounding. It’s also known to reduce anxiety and increase courage and confidence.
9. Take a warm bath. Just soaking in a tub alone can reduce stress and anxiety, but adding ingredients such as Epsom salt, baking soda, and essential oils can add other healing properties. Epsom salt and baking soda both help detox the body, regulate the body’s pH level, lower stress related hormones, and boost the immune system. Submerging your body in warm water helps stimulate your cardiovascular system, clears your lungs, hydrates your skin, relaxes tense muscles, and so much more. Try this combo in your next bath:
1 cup Epsom salt
1 cup baking soda
10-15 drops of lavender essential oil
Soak for at least 20 minutes.
10. Focus on your breathing. Most of the time we tend to take very shallow breaths at a fairly rapid pace. Try slowing down your breathing patterns and take deep full breaths that fill your lungs. This will help with the blood gas exchange and can help decrease stress, anxiety, and depression, establish healthy sleep patterns, increase mental clarity and awareness, and facilitate a relaxation response. Here are a few exercises to try:
Deep breathing: Get comfortable. Place one hand on your belly and one hand on your chest. Take a deep breath in through your nose and feel your chest and belly rise. Slowly exhale through your nose and feel your chest and belly lower back down. Do this about 10 times and start to feel your body release tension.
Cleansing breath: Take a deep breath in through your nose and then audibly exhale out your mouth like your fogging up a mirror or cleaning your sunglasses. It may seem a bit weird at first, but give it a few tries and see just how relaxing it can be.
You can also try adding breathing cues to your inhalations and exhalations. You can repeat the same cue over and over or use different cues for each breath. Some examples are: Inhale grace and love, exhale fear and worry. Inhale peace, exhale anxiousness. Inhale humility, exhale pride.
Take the time to figure out what works for you. Self-care is not all or nothing and it doesn’t have to be expensive or super time consuming. Make time for you so that you can love people well and let your light shine.