Whether you’re single or attached this Valentine’s Day, the holiday of love is an annual reminder of the love we have in our lives. But do you ever pause to ask yourself if you’re the one who might need some serious love? There’s no reason why February 14 can’t involve a little self-love—and self care.
Self Care Beyond the Spa
“Self care is any activity or action that helps a person feel relaxed, rejuvenated, or safe,” says Ibinye Osibodu-Onyali, a licensed marriage and family therapist in Murrieta, California. “Self-care does not only have to include pampering activities such as going to the spa, getting a manicure, and getting a massage. Self care can include subtle activities that help you maintain healthy boundaries. Sometimes self-care is simply about the way you speak to yourself in your mind. It’s an act of kindness and self-respect.”
Ready to love on yourself a little bit? Here are five simple self care practices that you can implement right away to give back to your mind and body.
Have you ever stopped doing a zillion things at once and noticed that your chest feels tight? You’re certainly not alone. So many of us don’t take the time to stop and breathe. Breathing sounds simple enough, but when was the last time you breathed deeply and mindfully? Deep breathing exercises can help people deal with anxiety, according to one Tufts University study. It can also help lower heart rate, blood pressure, and perceived stress, according to another study. Dial your stress back by inhaling for five seconds, holding it for one second at the top, then exhaling for five seconds. Close your eyes, and repeat this for 10 rounds.
2. Clean Up
Walk into any messy space, and you probably feel an instant pang of anxiety. A 2011 study published in the Journal of Neuroscience used MRIs and other tools to map the brain’s response to clutter and found that it can limit the brain’s processing capacity. Take the time to declutter, and you’ll reap a whole lot of benefits including better sleep (if you’re tidying up your bedroom, that is) and better mood.
3. Do a Challenging Workout
Maybe you’re big on running, or perhaps you’re more of a strength training fiend. Whatever your poison, allowing yourself some extra time in the gym can have big payoffs, both mentally and physically. “Incorporating Pilates into my routine has been frustrating mentally and physically beyond belief, but the benefits are monumental,” says Bree Branker, a trainer in New York City. “I make sure to celebrate every sweaty victory, no matter how big or small it is.”
4. Practice Gratitude
Taking some time to reflect on the things that you’re thankful for in life can be transformative on a day-to-day basis. Not only can gratitude improve your physical health, but it can also help you sleep better and increase your mental toughness. Maybe it’s writing something down. Keeping a journal can help you increase optimism and communicate better.
5. Recover Appropriately
It’s easy to skip over things like a warm-up before getting your sweat on or that every-so-often bodywork with a physical therapist. But the truth is, taking some time out to take care of your body is necessary to continue performing in tip-top shape. “I always make sure I do something to recover a few times each week,” says Lindsey Clayton, cofounder of Brave Body Project and instructor at Barry’s Bootcamp. “That could be an extra stretch, a sports massage, a trip to my physical therapist, or just literally putting my feet up and chilling at home instead of going out.”
These will also help you and your partner get ready for a first Spartan Race. Check out Spartan’s 2-for-1 Valentine’s Special.