Amid all the caring we do for others – our partners, children, friends, parents, colleagues, classmates, pets, home, community, and work – it’s easy to forget to care for ourselves. There’s so much to juggle that “self” becomes a low priority. Often when we do recognize the need to care for ourselves, we find that we’re short on time or unsure of what we really want or need.
Self-care means different things to different people, and your needs may change with the time of day or time of life. Sometimes we want a moment alone, whether it’s spent reading a book or indulging in a spa treatment. Other times, we need the nourishment we get from being around others, perhaps a family meal or night out with friends.
Contrary to the low priority many of us put on nurturing oneself, it’s a practice that’s essential to our health. Self-care is about learning to listen to yourself, and becoming attuned to your needs, then setting about meeting those needs. Self-care keeps you centered and present in your life. It allows you to connect to the people around you in meaningful and constructive ways. It provides you with moments when you listen to your body and soul, and find out what you can do to feed them, physically and spiritually.
Connect with yourself. Take a moment each day to listen to yourself. Practice becoming attuned to your needs. Only when you know what you need will you be able to meet those needs. What will nourish you in this moment?
Pamper yourself. There are times when self-care means indulgence, like having a massage or pedicure (or both). An accessible and inexpensive way to indulge is with a therapeutic bath at home. Try our medicinal Salt and Soda bath, setting a calming mood with candles and soothing music and lighting. (Don’t have a bathtub? Enjoy the same benefits by soaking only your feet.)
Create space. Throw away your to do list for a day. Sleep late and stay in your pajamas all day. Say no to an invitation that’s crowding your schedule. Sit in nature to allow your thoughts to settle. Clean the surface of your desk, declutter your closet, or manage that pile of junk mail.
Exert yourself. Does your body need a workout? Or does your body need to skip a workout? If a full-scale workout isn’t in the cards, try a simple routine of mood-boosting yoga poses.
Connect with others. Sit down for an electronics-free meal with your family. Need a break from cooking? We have just the thing… Go offline to connect with a friend in an unexpected way: write and mail a hand-written letter to someone you know.
Nourish your body. When you feel hunger, take a moment to listen to your body: What do you want to eat, and why? Try our recipe for Kitchari, a balancing Ayurvedic meal that’s equivalent to the Western idea of chicken soup.
Relax your mind. Sitting down with a book and losing yourself in a great story is proven to provide a number of benefits. Not surprisingly, reading helps keep your mind sharp. Less predictably, concentrating on a book is scientifically proven to bring relaxation more effectively than other go-to stress reducers like listening to music or going for a walk. Reading a book – ideally a good, old-fashioned book rather than a tablet – before bed is shown to help you sleep more soundly and wake up refreshed.