The headlines only begin to tell the story about how much healthcare workers are struggling to cope. You're so burned out that 30% are considering leaving the profession. Twice as many of you say that stress from the pandemic has harmed your mental health. The increased workload, next-level pressure, isolation from friends and family, and absolute chaos have led to unprecedented burnout.
This is why doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals need self-care more than ever. You prioritize others' needs over yours at work, when you get home find a way to refill your cup, even in small doses. Here are 11 indulgent self-care ideas to help you de-stress.
Why is Self Care Important?
I know, I know. Everyone is talking about self-care right now. But why?
Your employer may be overly communicating about self-care as they know from studies that burnout can result in risks to patients, worker call-outs, and billions of losses to their bottom line. But I want you to take time out to take care of yourself. In our busy, high-paced, stressed-out lives, we’re always doing something – whether that means working, taking care of someone else, running errands, or volunteering in our communities. Our lives are incredibly demanding – it's never-ending!
And that’s why taking a step back to recharge and take care of ourselves is so vital. I know what you’re thinking – that sounds selfish with so many people in need right now. And yes, we may have been taught to believe that taking a moment for ourselves is selfish, and we often feel guilty for even considering it. But that isn’t true. We can’t take care of others if we are suffering from burnout. Taking time to care for yourself is vital to being ready for the crises that await you at work.
Self Care “Sunday”
Taking care of yourself is so incredibly important that you should pick a day of the week to prioritize your own care. It's often called Self-care Sunday by the media, but pick one of your off days and make a commitment to yourself.
It’s not that you shouldn’t be practicing self-care every day. You absolutely should be when you can. The point of Self-care Sunday isn’t to say that’s the only day you can take care of yourself! Instead, it’s saying, “Hey, this is super important. Make sure you remember to do this, at least on this one day, and more often if you can.”
How Can I Have a Self Care Day?
Instituting a self-care day may seem out of reach to you with all that you have going on. There’s always a ton of stuff to do when you're off. You may be responsible for child care while your spouse works, or you try and fit one week's worth of errands into a couple of days. You don’t have to dedicate the entire day to relaxation (though you really should if you can!).
You can start with finding just 10 minutes for treating yourself. Give the kids an activity that will keep them occupied – or even institute family self-care time (why not teach them at an early age that taking care of yourself is important?). Let the chores wait – they aren’t going anywhere anyway. Even the busiest among us can find 10 minutes one day a week to relax.
After you make the 10 minutes a habit, work on expanding it. Take 20 minutes the next week, and see if you can build up an hour. You’ll be amazed at how much better you feel.
What are Some Self Care Ideas?
I know – this is what you’ve been waiting for. What can you do to institute self-care Sundays into your life? And I get that some of us are super busy – so it’s broken down into things you can do if you only have 10 minutes, if you have 30 minutes, and if you have more time for self-care.
If you Only Have 10 Minutes
Go for a Walk
It’s amazing how refreshing a five-minute walk can be. Simply being outside is enough to give us a tiny little boost and help us recharge. Getting the blood flowing with a bit of exercise is a bonus.
It doesn’t have to be a long walk. I’ve found that a quick stroll around the block works wonders to get me feeling refreshed and refocused. Give it a try!
Try Deep Breathing
Taking a few minutes to focus on deep breathing is an excellent way to ground yourself. Maybe 10 minutes isn’t quite enough for a full-on mediation session, but taking some time to concentrate on your breathing, and take in full, deep breaths, will do wonders for your stress levels.
Start by closing your eyes and taking a full deep breath in. Slowly exhale, completely emptying your lungs. Breathe deeply like this for a few minutes, and I guarantee you will feel at least a tiny bit better.
Another quick way to get some self-care in is to stretch. Stand up and reach for the sky! Then, try to touch your toes. Stretch out your back and your arms. It will give you a tiny boost of energy, and it’s good for the muscles too!
Journaling is a great way to let all of your thoughts flow out of you. Sometimes we don’t even realize that we are holding things in until we start writing them down. And, the great thing is that you can do this even with a limited amount of time. It’s an easy way to incorporate a self-care ritual into your daily life.
One great thing to journal about that will help reduce your stress and make you feel better about yourself is gratitude. I like to write down three things I'm thankful for every day. Taking time to acknowledge the little things that we have going for us helps to bring a little balance to all the sadness healthcare providers internalize.
If You Have 30 Minutes
Read a Book
Obviously, you aren’t going to be able to read a full book in 30 minutes, but sometimes it's the escape we desperately need. I have a giant reading list of books that I want to read, and it’s been so difficult for me to find a few spare hours to read them. But, when I realized that I don’t need to read through an entire book in one sitting (rocket science, I know), I miraculously started reading more books. Thirty minutes every day is more than enough to get through a book a week.
Thirty minutes is definitely enough time for a productive meditation session. When you’re meditating for self-care, it’s best to focus on Zen meditation. This method of meditating is all about clearing your mind and trying to letting go of all your stress and worries. Spotify has some great options for Zen meditation, but you can also buy some digital downloads on Amazon. Just 15-30 minutes of mediation can do wonders to improve your mood and increase your mindfulness.
Go for a Jog
Exercise is one of the best things you can do for self-care. I know it’s hard, and it hurts, but it has tons of benefits. The most obvious one is the physical health benefits you know – burning calories, weight loss, healthy heart, all that jazz. But it has immense mental benefits as well. Working out releases endorphins, feel-good hormones that will help your mental state throughout the day.
There’s a reason Adult Coloring Books are all the rage. Coloring is a great way to tune out the world and focus on something non-consequential. It may seem mundane, but you’re really giving your brain a break from all the stress and worry. I have a Buffy the Vampire Slayer adult coloring book, and I love it. I pull that bad boy out whenever I’ve had a rough day, and after about 20 minutes of coloring, I feel my anxiety melting away.
If you Have Longer
Take a Bath
A bubble bath is the quintessential self-care idea for a reason. The luxurious appeal of a warm, fragrant bubble bath can’t be overstated. It’s indulgent, relaxing, soothing, and the perfect way to unwind after a long week.
It takes me nearly 15 minutes to draw a bath to my liking, and then I want to soak for at least 15 minutes, if not more. It’s my favorite way to pamper myself after a truly stressful week. I also like to play calming music, light scented candles (Chamomile is one of my favorite bath time scents), and treat my skin to luxurious scrubs.
Go for a Hike
Hiking is so much better than walks around your neighborhood or jogs. It combines the getting outside and exercising portion of both of those with being out in nature! How can you beat that?
Hiking is honestly my favorite thing to do for self-care. But it’s been hard to do lately because it’s been cold and rainy outside. Some people enjoy hikes in the cold, but I’d much rather be comfortable.
But when it's nicer out, hiking is the absolute best self-care activity. Physical activity is always good for the body, and being outside in nature is does wonders for your emotional health. A walk through the woods has a way of making us appreciate the majesty of the world that we live in. Sometimes that is all we need for a boost.
Watch a Guilty Pleasure Movie/Show
Yes, self-care can mean watching tv. It can mean indulging in a movie or tv show that you actually want to see or something that’s just mindless entertainment. Sometimes self-care means taking the opportunity to check out, if only for a few hours.
My favorite way to unwind and destress is with my good old trust Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I can rewatch my favorite show over and over again, and it never gets old. Also, there’s an episode for every mood. If I want to laugh, I turn on Intervention. If I want to cry, I’ll opt for Passion (or Homecoming, if I want happy tears). Sometimes falling into a fictional world is a great release from everything we have in this world.
More Self Care Ideas
There are thousands of self-care activities out there. It doesn’t matter which one (or ones!) you pick; what matters is that you make time for yourself. Let go of your responsibilities and nurture yourself, if only for a few minutes.
Other Ways to Practice Self Care
Self-care isn't limited to one day a week. There are more things you can do, throughout the week, to take care of yourself. Start by eating a healthy diet and getting more sleep. It's amazing how much taking care of our bodies in these little ways improves our wellness. Next, learn the art of saying no. I understand that can create immense feelings of guilt, but you don't have to be everything to everyone all the time, especially when you're burnt out.
Finally, start listening to your body. It will tell you when you're exhausted, when you need more me-time, and when you're ready to seize the day. Take care of it, and it will take care of you back for years to come.
Self Care Isn't Selfish.
The final thing I want to leave you with is this: Self-care isn't selfish. It's worth repeating! It's not selfish to look after yourself (and if it is – it's okay to be selfish now and again!) Caring for others is an extremely intense full-time job, and you deserve time to take care of yourself too.