Think outside the bath with these ways to relax, rejuvenate, or energize yourself mentally and physically.
Self-care doesn’t have to mean elaborate spa treatments or expensive accessories (although if you indulge best with a bit of pampering, don’t let anyone stop you!). Self-care can encompass a broad range of activities that help you unwind, protect your health, cope with illness or disability, and connect with your community.
My personal quest for fresh self-care ideas stems from a place of wanting more from my free time — more creativity, more connection with my partner, and more fulfilling ways to relax and recharge (rather than reaching for TV and snacks). Here are some ideas for pursuing activities you love or practicing techniques to help you relax after a long day.
Taking care of your body can be relaxing and therapeutic. Break past the bubble bath cliché and give some of these ideas a try:
- Rub your feet. Some research on stroke patients suggested a foot massage can help improve sleep, especially paired with aromatherapy.
- Walk outside. Walking in nature helps lower cortisol levels and can be a great break from looking at screens.
- Take a nap with a weighted blanket. A weighted blanket (or a long hug, just saying) can help signal your nervous system to rest.
- Stretch. It doesn’t need to be an advanced yoga practice. A few minutes of simple stretching can alleviate some tight spots.
- Make a cozy favorite beverage. It’s tough to say whether a mug of warm milk has enough tryptophan to chemically lower stress — but you know when a calming beverage hits the spot (think herbal, caffeine-free teas like Chamomile or Lavender that promote relaxation).
- Wash your face. Dipping your face in cool water for 10-30 seconds can trigger the mammalian diving reflex, a physiological response that slows your heart rate and can help relieve anxiety. If you like, follow up with your favorite face mask or skincare routine.
If you’re able to make changes in your living environment, setting up a space that makes you feel safe and relaxed is a particularly comforting form of self-care.
- Hang lights. Whether you like string lights for the aesthetic or use a light box to help relieve seasonal affective disorder, light can improve your sleep quality and general mood.
- Light a candle. Candles can evoke feelings of calm, especially if you choose a scent you enjoy.
- Change your sheets. There’s nothing quite like the feeling of crisp, clean sheets. A fresh bed can go a long way in making your entire space feel renewed and inviting.
- Garden or care for indoor plants. Being around plants can help relieve mental fatigue and improve the air quality of your home.
- Set up a bird or hummingbird feeder. Don’t feel like going for a walk? Bring nature to your window with a bird feeder and reap the restorative benefits, even if you’re not an expert birder.
You may crave connection, especially if you spend much of your day alone or working remotely. Here are ideas for a social recharge:
- Call a friend. It can take 300 hours of quality time to go from just-met friends to best friends. Reaching out can improve your mood and your friendship.
- Cuddle with an animal. Numerous studies show the health benefits of having pets, so get snuggle time in with your fur baby.
- Plan an at-home date night. Ask silly “Would You Rather” questions, play a board game, or switch off giving 10-minute shoulder rubs.
- Play a card game. Playing cards together can be an opportunity to chat with a partner, friend, family member, or roommate instead of zoning out.
- Write a letter. Writing a card or a letter to someone to show appreciation can be a low-stress activity if you’re not up for a call. Plus, you’ll undoubtedly brighten the recipient’s day when your letter or card arrives.
Feeding your creative side or pursuing intellectual enrichment can reconnect you with activities you love:
- Read a novel. Whether a literary masterpiece or a juicy beach read, a book can be a fun way to unwind and spark your imagination.
- Do a virtual museum tour. Many museums, such as Smithsonian museums or the Louvre, offer virtual tours.
- Journal. Journaling has widely-recognized mental health benefits and can help you remember important moments more clearly.
- Draw or color. Tap into your imagination to draw freely on your own or buy an adult coloring book — there are options to fit nearly any style or mood.
- Write. Writing stories can be a fun way to get creative, and if you join a local writing group, you can get extra encouragement (and readers!).
- Make a vision board. Whether you use Pinterest or cut out pictures from magazines the old-school way, making a vision board can be a way to get mental clarity and become excited about your future dreams and goals.
- Flip through a hobby book. If you don’t feel up to baking a new recipe, it can be fun to simply page through a cookbook and bookmark your favorite options.
- Plan a vacation. Even if you can’t book a getaway, listing places to explore, adventures to try, or dishes to taste can be a fun way to get excited about a future trip.
Sometimes at the end of the day, I’m too tired to reach for something “productive,” but I still want a break from TV. Here are some screen-free ways to relax:
- Listen to music. Make a playlist of throwback jams, or take time to listen to the new album your coworker is talking about.
- Knit or crochet. Knitting can make you feel calm and happy. The sensory elements of the colorful yarn, the soft material you can hold and touch, and the clicking of the needles can be soothing.
- Listen to a podcast. A podcast can offer education, inspiration, or compelling storytelling.
- Meditate or practice deep breathing. Apps like Headspace or Insight Timer offer guided meditations. Techniques like deep breathing exercises and progressive muscle relaxation are tried and true ways to help your mind and body relax.
- Do a puzzle. Working on a puzzle can be good for your brain and a fun activity to do alone or with a partner.
- Make a craft. Miniature dollhouse kits, Lego sets, and other crafts can be fun ways to spend an evening, especially if you can convince the whole family to join in.
Self-care can help you relax and rejuvenate
Your favorite form of self-care may change from day to day. Whether it’s knitting, reading, lighting a candle, doing yoga, or bonding with a loved one, self-care can work wonders for your mental and physical state. Save your favorite ideas so that you have an energy booster or soothing relaxation technique readily available when you need one.