Self-care is so much more than bubble baths, face masks, and spa days.
In fact, according to social worker and Best D Life founder Daniela Wolf, self-care is a "necessary part of our day-to-day lives." This is especially true, she says, when it comes to managing stress, happiness, and productivity levels.
Although establishing a self-care routine is vital, finding and implementing one that works for you can feel overwhelming. "The brain is a complex system," Annalise Oatman, MA, LCSW of Deeper Well Therapy, tells House of Wise. She adds, "We each have to figure out our own unique formula for producing an upward spiral effect."
In honor of National Self-Care Month (September), House of Wise reached out to mental health professionals for insight into simple yet effective ways to incorporate healthy self-care habits into your daily life.
"No" is a full sentence.
To ensure you’re not overburdening yourself and creating unnecessary stress, you’ll need to get used to setting boundaries — and this includes saying no. "By filling up your own emotional cup first, you’re in a better position to then help others," says Wolf.
"By focusing our attention on what we’re grateful for, we can have the perspective and the peace that we need to be happy," Wolfe tells House of Wise. Plus, one 2020 study found that gratitude can help reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. Meanwhile, journaling, praying, and meditating are all popular ways of practicing gratitude, which bring us to our next point . . .
Meditate twice per day.
Sex therapist and Orchard Toys founder Cay Crow recommends meditating 20 minutes in the morning and 20 minutes before bed. What’s more, The Mayo Clinic credits meditation with reducing stress since it produces "a deep state of relaxation and a tranquil mind," which may lead to "enhanced physical and emotional well-being."
Take regular breathing breaks.
Wolf recommends setting alarms on your smartphone throughout the day as a reminder to practice deep breathing. "Deep breathing decreases your cortisol levels and can help lower blood pressure and heart rate," she says. Additionally, the social worker credits deep breathing with providing "an instant mood shift."
Have an orgasm.
"Orgasm[s] releases happy hormones, including endorphins and natural pain killers like enkephalins in the body," Crow explains. Additionally, according to Psychology Today, orgasms are associated with the release of dopamine, which "facilitates the experience of pleasure" and oxytocin, which "reinforces feelings of love and attachment."
Whether you’re watching a funny TikTok, streaming your favorite show, or chatting with friends, laughter truly is the best medicine. "Just like [an] orgasm, laughter releases endorphins and reduces anger," Crow says.
Get some shut-eye.
Self care starts with a restful night’s sleep, which can help to boost your mood. If you’re one of approximately 70 million Americans who suffer from chronic sleep problems, Crow recommends avoiding screens "at least an hour" before bed. Instead, use this extra time to unwind (think: curling up with a good book, drinking tea, drawing a bath, or listening to music).
Break a sweat.
"Research demonstrates that exercise reduces anxiety and depression and protects the brain from cognitive decline," Crow tells House of Wise. If you’re not a fan of the gym, consider walking, which serves as an easy way to get your heart rate up.
Stay connected to friends and family.
According to Take Root Therapy’s Saba Harouni Lurie, LMFT, ATR-BC, connecting with a friend or loved one can help you feel supported and cared for — especially if you had a difficult day. Additionally, the same advice holds true if you have a great day. "Having someone to celebrate with can amplify our feelings of joy," she says.
"Considering pleasure in any form to be a vital, daily nutrient tends to help tip women into an upward spiral," explains Oatman. It’s also worth noting that, according to the social worker, pleasure encompasses everything from masturbation to eating chocolate.