I don’t know about you, but whenever I experience anxiety, it’s rarely caused by just one thing. It’s usually a combination of a bunch of little stressors that add up to an overwhelming feeling that I can’t handle what's on my plate. Usually, when I take a step back and analyze what's making me feel so anxious, I can usually work out the steps I need to take to get those stressors off my mind, but often it’s not until I reach my breaking point that I make time for myself to decompress.
We are frequently told that self-care is essential to managing anxiety, especially in this world where we are all under the gun with school, jobs, extracurricular activities, and social obligations. But who really has the time? How much self-care does one need to counteract the constant running around we all seem to do?
What if we were to take just 20 minutes out of our busy days to treat ourselves with some R&R? How might that help us to manage our anxiety? Here are a few self-care ideas that you can accomplish in 20 minutes or less, that might help you to settle down and recharge:
1. Practice 20 minutes of yoga
Put on some soft music, and get into child’s pose. Take some deep belly breaths, and thank yourself for making time for some healing movement. Then literally do whatever feels good.
I like to start with some gentle motion in child’s pose, followed by some cat/cow to limber up my back and hips, then I’ll push back into downward facing dog and linger there for a while, stretching out the backs of my legs, pedaling them out when it gets too intense, sometimes floating a leg up to the ceiling and rolling my hips open.
Sun salutations always feel good and restorative, and I’ll usually go through some variation of a warrior sequence, to get my blood moving and stretch myself out. I’ll end with a backbend like camel or wheel, followed by a hip opener like pigeon, then do some light stretching and seated forward folds before ending up in Shavasana for a minute or two. This isn’t a workout per-se, but the synchronizing of my breath with my movement feels meditative and calming.
2. Take a walk
Head outside on your own, and try to leave your phone in your pocket. Walk at a pace that feels comfortable, and take some deep breaths. Take a look at your surroundings. Sometimes just walking with no other purpose than to walk can clear out the cobwebs in your mind and help you to focus on what’s most urgent in your day.
3. Get a shoulder massage
Pop into a walk-in manicure salon and ask for a 10 or 15 minute shoulder massage. I usually decline these when they’re offered to me at the end of a manicure, but sometimes going in just for the purpose of a massage can feel like a special treat. Human touch can be surprisingly calming, even if it’s from massage therapist.
4. Pet an animal
Do you have a cat or dog? Can you go visit a friend who does? Is there a cat cafe nearby? I find that spending some time doing nothing but loving on an animal can make me feel much better when I’m stressed. There’s a reason animals are used in therapy - they can provide a surprising amount of comfort just by hanging out with you for a while.
5. Take a bath
Though I recommend against daily baths because of the amount of water they require, I do feel that baths are incredibly relaxing and curative. Run the water at the temperature you like, and add some bath salts or essential oils to the water. I like to add a few drops of lavender essential oil. Not only does it make the water deliciously fragrant, but it helps to moisturize my skin. Be sure to apply moisturizer afterwards, and drink some water to stay hydrated.
Sometimes it’s hard to know what’s really causing you stress until you start to talk about it with someone. Journaling can be the next best thing. Simply writing down your thoughts as they come to you can help you to gain some clarity and to connect the dots between how you’re feeling and what’s going on in your life.
7. Apply a face mask
Wash your face with warm water, pat it dry, and apply your favorite nourishing face mask (I like bentonite clay-based masks). While you’re waiting for it to dry, make yourself a cup of herbal tea and sit quietly. Try not to look at your phone or laptop; simply be still and see what thoughts come to you. We so rarely take time to be still without a screen in front of us, and it's amazing how clear your mind can feel after stepping away, even for a short while.
8. Take a tincture
Have you ever tried one? I recently picked up Anxiety Ally by Wooden Spoon Herbs. It’s an alcohol-based herbal tincture that you take simply by putting a few drops on your tongue with the eyedropper. Let the taste dissolve in your mouth, drink some room-temperature water, take some deep breaths, and remind yourself that everything is going to be okay.
9. Moisturize your hands and feet
I know it sounds pretty basic, but how often to we really take the time to do this? My feet are always especially neglected, and taking time to give them a little TLC can feel like a treat. I like to clean them first with a warm washcloth, then massage some of my homemade body butter into them. My toes tend to get very dry and cracked, especially around the nail, and this oily body butter seeps into the dry bits and helps them to feel refreshed. Wash your hands after applying moisturizer to your feet, then give your hands the same love. Gently massaging the webbing between your fingers (and toes) can help to relieve anxiety too.
10. Take a nap
A 20 minute power nap can be surprisingly energizing. Put on some comfortable clothes, lay down, and take some full, exaggerated breaths, letting your belly rise and fall. Try to let go of whatever is troubling you, and let your thoughts drift to something pleasant. Even if you aren’t able to fall asleep, having 20 minutes of restful stillness can help you to sort out your priorities for the day.
When we get caught up in the details of our day-to-day, sometimes we lose sight of what's important. Taking the time to give yourself just a little love and attention each day can help to keep it all in perspective.
Do you have 20 minutes a day for self-care and stress management? What are some other ways that you like to mentally recharge? I'd love to hear from you!