The more time you spend caring for others, the more likely it is that you will put your own needs on the back burner. If you do a lot for people, you are probably thinking: ‘My needs can wait, my children need me right now.’ And if it’s not your children, then it’s your parents. Or your spouse. Or your friends. And while it is important that we are there for the people that we love, there is one thing that compassionate people everywhere fail to understand: You cannot take care of anyone if you do not take care of yourself first. How will you help your children with their homework when you are so sleep deprived you can barely think straight? How will you help a friend cope with their depression when you are neglecting your own mental health? We all have our limits. The sooner you recognize them, the better off you and your loved ones will be. Find ways to care for yourself and to cope with everyday stressors. If you are not sure where to start or if the only idea you can come up with is a much too expensive island vacation, I’ve come up with a list of simple, healthy coping strategies that anyone can use.
Have a spa day If you can’t afford to go to the spa then you should pamper yourself at home. Soak in a bubble bath with epsom salts and essential oils. Give yourself a manicure or pedicure. Give yourself a foot massage with sugar scrub.
Go for a drive Crank the radio up and clear your head. (Note that you should try to avoid driving if you are upset or distracted because this could cause you to wreck).
Go for a swing This is one of my favorites. I find the motion of rocking back and forth on a swing to be very relaxing. As it turns out, there is a science behind it. The rocking motion stimulates your system to release more dopamine, the chemical that makes a person happy!
Jump on a trampoline In the same way that swinging releases dopamine, the jumping motion can make you happier as well. Plus, it’s fun.
Exercise Getting in at least thirty minutes of cardio a day has been proven to improve your mental health as well as your physical health. Even if you don’t enjoy going to the gym, you could take a walk (or jump on a trampoline) to get these benefits.
Go out of town It doesn’t have to be a week in Miami. Even if you can’t afford to take a luxurious vacation, a short change in routine and scenery will do wonders when you’re stressed. Go visit relatives (if you have any that you enjoy spending time with) or stay at a friend’s beach house for a weekend.
Listen to music I like to do this most when I’m on my swing. Music really helps you to clear your mind and distract you from life’s stressors. If you’re really upset, try listening to some happy, upbeat music. I know a lot of people, myself included, like to listen to songs that match their mood. However, I find that when I am upset, listening to sad or angry songs on repeat only drags me further down into a bad mood. By contrast, happy music can help lift you out of a bad mood.
Read a good book If you enjoy reading, there is no better get away. You can forget all your own troubles and become immersed in the troubles of your favorite characters instead.
Watch a good show As with music, I would recommend something light-hearted that puts you in a good mood. The last thing you need is to be upset about your favorite character getting killed off again when you already have enough to worry about in reality.
Bake Punching a bowl full of dough is a great stress reliever. Making something that you and others can enjoy is uplifting too.
Find your inner artist Art is a great way to express your feelings, even if you’re not good at it. I can barely make a poster much less a real work of art, but even simple doodling can be soothing. And you could always fill balloons with paint, tape them to a canvas, and throw darts at them like in The Princess Diaries.
Find your inner child You are never too old to color, play with playdough, or build a fort. In fact, being childish can be a great stress reliever. They even make adult coloring books now for this reason. So grab your dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets and a coloring book, and chill in your blanket fort with a glass of wine.
Spend time with friends Even if you’re an introvert, being connected with people is important to your health and happiness. You don’t need to have a lot of friends to be happy with your social life, you just need a couple people that you can talk with, laugh with, and be yourself around.
Talk it out We all need to vent now and then. Find someone who will really listen to you and support you if you are having a tough time.
Join a support group If you don’t have a great support system right now then joining a support group might be a good option for you. Google support groups offered in your area. Alcoholics Anonymous is the most famous one but support groups also exist for grieving children and parents, narcotics abusers, new mothers, people with cancer, people with mental illnesses, and many others.
Talk to a counselor If you’re having a tough time coping, seeking professional help can give you the tools you need to feel better. You will have someone to talk to and you can learn new coping strategies. Some might not want to see a counselor because they feel that there is a stigma attached to doing so. However, no one will know you are seeing a counselor unless you tell them. Secondly, you’d be surprised at how many people are in the same boat you are. While it might feel strange to talk to a professional at first, most people are glad they took that step toward a happier, healthier life.
Life isn’t usually easy, especially when you really care about people. But taking time to care for yourself can make things much easier. Find ways to let go and relax so that your life can be more enjoyable.
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