“A woman knows by intuition, or instinct, what is best for herself.”
- Marilyn Monroe
We’ve all been there: pushing ourselves past the point of exhaustion and letting the stress of our daily lives take its toll on our minds and bodies. It’s exciting to see that self-care is becoming more of a priority, but the truth is that still isn’t always enough to sustain us. Why? Because the self-care isn’t targeting the places we need it the most: it’s scratching our backs, but not relieving the real itch.
Women in particular need this time to reflect on what they really need, because while we're advancing in many areas of equality, we're still handling much of the emotional labor in our relationships and in our careers. Rather than just turning to the prescriptive nature of the internet's emphasis on self-care, turn your attention inward to find out if you really need to take an hour-long bath or if that's something that works better for someone else.
So when things reach peak overwhelm or you're just feeling generally worn out, here are seven ways you can quiet your mind in order to find greater clarity about what you really need from your self care routine.
1. Reduce your screen time
The best thing you can do to quiet your mind in this technology-heavy age is to put down the phone. You may need a screen for work—but do you need to spend hours on your phone or watching Netflix during your off hours? Take a trip to the library, walk around the block a couple of times, call a friend, or prepare a healthy snack for yourself.
If you’re working on “breaking the twitch,” here are tips from a writer that focuses on that very thing. From small changes like daily habits to large changes like switching to a minimalist lifestyle, these tips will allow you to refocus your priorities towards meaningful, healthy things—not just refreshing Twitter all the time.
If you're struggling, apps like Moment can help you track your screen time for a better understanding of how you’re allocating that time, and even offer free and paid mini-courses to help you reduce the time you spend on your phone.
2. Listen to what your body needs
Another way to tap into a more intentional lifestyle is to find a food routine that works with your body instead of against it—no more counting calories. Get in the habit of swapping in healthy foods to fight cravings for the less healthy (albeit delicious) alternatives, like eating roasted chickpeas instead of potato chips, or fruit instead of a candy bar. Here are a few great ideas to get you started.
Naomi Arnold suggests asking yourself “will this sustain me or exhaust me?” and that can be the most simple (but effective) tool for gauging whether or not you should indulge.
In order to clearly hear what your body is trying to tell you, always try to remain proactive on the hydration front: usually by the time you’re thirsty, you’re already dehydrated. If you’re having trouble, try fruit-infused waters, herbal teas, eating water-heavy fruits, and of course, always keep a reusable water bottle handy.
3. Spend more time outside
This one has been proven to help us connect with ourselves—our minds benefit greatly from even a few minutes a day out in nature. If you’re a city dweller, seek out the nearest park and take a stroll amongst the trees as regularly as you can.
Get in the habit of hopping out before work, during your lunch break, or right before bed for a couple of laps around the block to clear your mind and get some movement into your muscles. Office and computer-based jobs are more common than ever, and it’s easy to remain sedentary far longer than is healthy. Get your colleagues to join you, or challenge your friends to see who can complete their 10,000 steps each day.
4. Let everything breathe
Incorporate more breath into your daily life by starting a habit of taking deep, meaningful breaths. Here’s a video of three great exercises you can practice during your commute to work, or at the beginning or end of your day to feel more grounded and calm.
We all can benefit from taking a few minutes to remove ourselves from the daily hustle and take a deep breath, so why shouldn’t our skin get the same treatment? If makeup is your go-to each morning, set aside a day every week or so to skip the products. Giving yourself time to love your face for what it’s like without makeup can be a radical form of self-love for some people. By reminding yourself that makeup is your way of adorning yourself rather than covering up your imperfections, you’ll be nurturing a healthy, confident self-image.
Finally, let your nails breathe too—nails can become brittle or chip more often if you’re constantly covering them with paints and polishes. Once you’re ready to return to your favorite colorful nails, invest in some nontoxic polishes to keep harmful chemicals off your body. Paying attention to these little details will keep your mind sharply attuned to your body, fostering a better vision of whole health.
Our daily lives can be demanding, and our senses can easily get fatigued thanks to the level of inputs we receive each day. Although sometimes it can seem logical to lean in to our to-do lists to reduce our overwhelm, this is actually a critical time to take care of yourself.
Pause and take a deep breath, and instead of trying to list off all the things you have to take care of, break it down to the most simple next step. Need to run a thousand errands? Make it a goal to put on your shoes and head out the door. By breaking down our endless list of chores and work projects into small steps and focusing on the task at hand, we can make better use of our energy and our attention in the long run.
6. Indulge in a little quiet time
Has the daily social media comparison game taken its toll on your mind? Do you find yourself with inexplicable road rage during your commute home? Untangling our feelings can be tricky, so give yourself grace and patience—and room for quiet time.
Music is an essential piece of the self-care puzzle for many of us, but spending a few minutes in silence each day can help replenish and stabilize your mind. You don’t have to go on a day-long silent retreat, just spend a few moments in the car without the radio on, or pause the music for a sweet & silent morning routine while you’re preparing for your day.
This goes for media consumption, too—even if you're just reading it. There's an almost constant stream of bad news showing up in our feeds nowadays that can clutter our minds, and it's okay to take an intentional break from the noise. Don't worry about missing out if you take a break—it will still be there when you return.
7. Create space to connect with yourself and your desires
Once you're feeling soothed and quieted, create a space for yourself to speak directly to your intuition so that you can make sense of your emotions and to help guide you when you have to make important decisions. Is it time to go back to school? Is your career the right fit for you anymore? Is it time to take a leap and do something outside of your comfort zone?
A practice that Jess Lively recommends in her podcast, The Lively Show, is writing to your intuition. This means going beyond what our ego wants for us and digging deeper into our gut feelings about what the next step should be. Instead of flying by the seat of your pants, this allows you to make grounded, rational choices that are full of—you guessed it—self-love and awareness.
If you’re not necessarily looking for an answer to a specific question, it’s still a good practice to get in the habit of downloading some of the information we’re taking in all day every day. Creative types and more business-oriented types alike use the practice of Morning Pages to get rid of all the clutter in their mind before doing their real work. Learn more about Morning Pages and why they’re important here.
Not a big fan of writing? This might show up in your life as doodling, making collages, or even taking photos of what you love most in the world around you.
Use these tools to narrow down what self-care really looks like for you in your unique situation! There's no one-size-fits-all solution for everyone, these soothing practices and habits can help you get more in touch with what it is that you really need.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Emily Torres is an Editor at The Good Trade and the writer behind Ennaree, a blog dedicated to intentional, colorful living. She’s a Los Angeles transplant who was born and raised in Indiana, where she studied Creative Writing and Business at Indiana University. You can usually find her reading or writing, caring for her two rabbits, or practicing at the hot yoga studio.