We live in a time where self-care has a dedicated day on the calendar and a sticker on Instagram. But if you’re like me, finding the time to practice self care can feel impossible. You’re working nine to five, working on your own side hustle, and then it’s time for bed. When can you catch your breath, let alone make time for a face mask?
That’s where I can help. As someone who works a nine to five job in addition to freelancing, I’ve tried literally everything (and I mean, everything) to find time for my self-care practice. We’ve all become so accustomed to talking about self-care and hearing about self-care, that we’ve forgotten to allow ourselves the time to do it. I’ve found a few key ways you can incorporate self-care into your day. Because who could benefit from lower stress levels, better sleep, and stronger self-awareness? I’m raising my hand. I’ll assume that you are, too!
For me, mornings are the most gentle time of day. You’ve (hopefully) just rested for six to eight hours, and your body is regaining its awareness. Mornings are the perfect time to practice self-care if you tend to have a very busy schedule during the day, have plans most evenings, or consider yourself an early bird. If this is you, then I’d recommend incorporating one of the ideas below into your routine:
Before caffeine, drink 24 ounces of water. So, hydration is not what you had in mind for self-care. But think about it: your body has just spent six to eight hours fasting It spent the entire evening losing body fluids from breathing, snoring, or sweating—I know, such a beautiful way to describe sleep. By “flooding” your system when you wake up, you’re invigorating your body and giving it what it needs to propel you through the day. Another bonus? It kickstarts digestion.
Read (just not the news). For me, the smell of a newspaper reminds me of mornings with my parents. But the news itself can be disheartening, so I now opt for a book. Even if it’s just five pages with a glass of water or tea, it’s a gentle way to reawaken the mind. The ability to get lost in someone else’s world with a fiction novel allows for your own creativity to flourish. You can ignite the creative left side of your brain and the analytical right side of your brain all at once, thereby “enhancing connectivity in the brain and improving brain function”—talk about a lifehack.
Go on a slow walk. Moving your body in a slow, deliberate way is perfect for clearing your mind and setting your intentions. And most mornings, the weather is cooler than it will be during the day, so you won’t break a sweat. Try going on a walk without music, too. Whether you live in a busy city or a quiet suburb, listening to your surroundings can be refreshing.You’ll learn more about where you physically are, a form of awareness that is incredibly valuable for feeling good throughout the day.
These self-care practices are all about utilizing that lunch break effectively. Yes, a lunch break! Many of us neglect our lunch breaks. In a study of 2,000 American workers, 51 percent said, “it is rare or unrealistic for them to take a proper lunch break away from their work.” But that may not reflect the laws in your state—confirm your rights here. If mornings are too rushed and evenings just aren’t your thing, here are a few ways to practice self-care during the day:
Listen to a podcast (comedy, preferably). I love laughing. The type that makes your stomach hurt, like your six pack is one joke away. Turns out, that’s a good thing. Laughing has been shown to relieve your stress response, soothe tension, and improve mood. Finding a way to laugh during the day is a great way to release and reconnect with yourself. If you don’t have someone at work who makes you laugh, take the time to listen to a funny podcast. 2 Dope Queens, My Favorite Murder, and Anna Faris is Unqualified are some of my ultimate favorites.
Be a plant. I mean literally. Do as the plants do and stand in the sun for 10 to 15 minutes (be sure to have sunscreen). While you won't photosynthesize, you will benefit from the added dose of vitamin D, as nearly 80 to 90 percent of vitamin D comes from sunlight. Plus, most offices can be so cold. Warming up in natural sunlight will feel like a much-needed hug.
Chew your food. Now you probably think I’m crazy. Be a plant and chew my food, who is she? There is nothing worse than digestive discomfort during the day. When you inhale your lunch at your desk or annihilate Shake Shack for the third time in one week, you may feel a little… irregular. Pay particular attention to what you eat for lunch, it’s going to fuel you for the rest of the day. Focus on nourishing ingredients that are full of protein and fiber. And like I said, chew your food and chew it well. Slow everything down. Make it an effort to eat methodically and mindfully, stopping to acknowledge how good the food tastes and how it makes you feel.
Mornings aren’t your thing and you work through lunch—I get it. Hello to my night owls! These nighttime self-care ideas are meant to prepare your body for rest.
Eliminate decision fatigue. Your “morning self” will thank you for this one. Have fun choosing your clothes for the next day, assembling your lunch, and putting everything back in its place. Put on some music and go all-out Carrie Bradshaw when she sold her apartment. Try on anything and everything that you want to, so you don’t have to do it in the morning. Make it a dance party, because why not?
Cook a nostalgic meal. My favorite meal of all time is spaghetti and meatballs. Something about it reminds me of home. So I make it for any situation—when I’m feeling down and when I’m feeling good. Loving a certain meal for its nostalgic qualities can boost your mood and reduce stress. Plus, I give you permission to forget about the dishes just this once. Future you can handle that.
Dry brush and moisturize. I’m in love with dry brushing, the act of taking a dry, bristle brush and gently pressing it from the skin of your feet to your neck in circular motions. It’s a thorough exfoliation that stimulates your circulation and aids in lymphatic drainage, which can help the body eliminate toxins. You’ll feel vibrant and glowy. Always follow dry brushing with a good, soothing moisturizer. And please avoid dry brushing if you have sensitive skin, you don’t want to cause irritation.
And that’s all, folks! You can do these practices daily, weekly, monthly, or when you remember to—all that’s important is knowing that self-care doesn’t have to be extravagant. It’s showing your body and mind the love it deserves for serving you through the highs and lows.
By day, Lily Comba works in business development for an online marketplace. By night, Lily lives an entrepreneurial life. After working as a Career Consultant for two years at her alma mater, Scripps College, Lily developed a passion for helping women in their careers. She embodies the mantra, “If not me, who? If not now, when?” in her work as a career advisor to college students, and creative and business strategist for fellow entrepreneurs. Catch her running around Los Angeles or at lilycomba.com.