There’s no denying that self-care is the buzzword on the block. But take it from your bank account: In today’s world, self-care is hardly ever free — and sometimes these pastimes don’t help your inner voice grow stronger.
So, let’s talk the no-cost option that really gets to the root of feeling balanced on the regular. Let’s get to feeling our feelings.
In a world where CBD seems to pay off, slowly getting to know your feelings can seem anti-productive. But hear us out: Exploring your emotional intelligence might help you quickly kick stress to the curb.
“Emotional intelligence is the ability to recognize our feelings, emotions, and moods to better identify what we are feeling and why,” says Jen Shirkani, keynote speaker and author of “Ego vs. EQ” and “Choose Resilience.”
Shirkani emphasizes the importance of reading yourself. “By [doing that], we can channel our emotions to respond in healthy, intelligent ways rather than allowing our emotions to take over and undermine us.”
Ready to get emotional with us? Here are the seven feelings that we’ve found make or break our self-care techniques.
It’s amazing how much taking stock of your life and what you have can do for your self-care. And gratitude is more than a thank-you note to your body.
According to Grace Suh, a licensed mental health counselor based in NYC, practicing gratitude actually means being humble in your thanks. That means really seeing the bigger picture and even reaching out to the people who helped you get there.
“Humbleness is the key in gratitude, having different perspectives in life, and being able to see the source of generosity or unearned privileges,” Suh says.
Suh recommends going out into nature and breathing in the beautiful scenery found on Earth. Bring a journal and use the time to reflect on what things truly make you feel gratitude.
And we’ll say it: A cheap, local pizza place totally counts.
To be empathetic is to be able to understand and share the feelings someone else carries. This moment of separation can be incredibly cleansing, but it doesn’t work for everyone.
If you’re more of an introvert or someone who recharges by being alone, you might not want to tap into your inner empath. Becoming too invested in someone else’s situation can cause added stress, even if it’s a good exercise in boundaries.
“Pay attention when communicating to how you’re reacting and why and how those reactions are affecting your behaviors,” Shirkani says. Being aware of what makes you tick is key to stopping empathy overload.
But if empathy rejuvenates you, there are ways to do it without worrying about being a burden to others or accidentally falling into a rabbit hole of emotional labor. The trick? Reading!
Digesting a character’s story, the good and the bad, allows your brain a release. As the tension melts in the story, you might just feel yours go away, too. And maybe you’ll even get a new perspective on your situation.
If a book is too long, we’re also fans of stressing and rejoicing with Claire Saffitz as she conquers old-school treats the “Bon Appetit” video series “Gourmet Makes.”
Hope is both an incredibly powerful emotion and a terrifying one. It’s easy to quickly cross off hope with the expectation that we’ll be let down. But that’s giving hope a bad name.
“Despite trying circumstances, belief that things can change can actually motivate you to change. Hope is empowerment,” Suh says.
Anyone who has continually exercised hope can tell you it’s far worse to forego hope before the finish line is even in sight.
Suh recommends allowing yourself to be inspired and actually anticipate a positive future. So keep a goal journal and write down the wildest, most outlandish dreams you can think of. You’ll be surprised how, when you admit what you want, you find the ambition to achieve it.
The worst case scenario is too often something your brain creates to stop you from going after what you hope for. Tell it to get lost — hope is here.
It can be easy to feel the need to put off any kind of self-care that feels time-consuming. But the point of pursuing self-care is having compassion for yourself.
Many times self-care starts with finding compassion for your mind and body. You wouldn’t push a friend who was burned out to do more, so why not respect yourself in the same way?
Then there’s compassion for others.
Suh stresses the importance of remembering that you’re not in this alone. Exploring the idea of what we can do for each other, from the small to the big, allows for a better life for everyone.
“Even small gestures like a smile or an encouraging word or simply listening to someone’s problem can help us to be an ally, not an enemy,” Suh says.
Can you guess whose opinion of what you do matters the most? Look in the mirror if you need a clue. Giving yourself validation for difficult decisions you’ve made and times you gave it your best is just as important as celebrating those #winning moments.
We forget that validation is also looking back at your life and simply giving yourself permission to be human.
“At the end of the day, spend some time reflecting on both positive and negative interactions and ask yourself what made them feel good or bad,” Shirkani says. Being aware of how individual situations made you feel allows you to grow and take care of yourself.
Of course, you’ll also seek validation from others — it’s only natural. Being aware of who you’re seeking it from and why can help you be better cared for.
While validation from others is rarely turned away, finding a wholehearted love for yourself can go a long way toward removing the need for that validation.
It’s about “feeling that you are enough despite what others say about you, having no doubt that you are enough,” Suh says.
Of course there are times you’ll have doubts — you’re human after all! But it’s about being able to access that self-love when the doubt pops up.
In Brené Brown’s book “The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are,” she writes, “Wholehearted living is about engaging with our lives from a place of worthiness. It means cultivating the courage, compassion, and connection to wake up in the morning and think, ‘No matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough.’”
Practice telling yourself this first thing in the morning to start your day from a place of encouragement.
“We spend too much [time] thinking about what we are not, comparing ourselves with others on a daily basis,” Suh says.
When it comes down to it, you are with yourself at all times. Through finding wholeheartedness, you may not always like yourself, but you can always love yourself.
Finally, we’ve gotten to the epitome of self-care: peace. When you think of feeling relaxed or being 100 percent at peace, where does your mind go?
Finding relaxation is different for everyone, and the most important thing to remember about self-care is that you completely deserve to do it.
The best way to self-care is to remember what inspires gratitude, empathy, hope, compassion, validation, wholeheartedness, and peace within you. What can you do that helps you preserve those feelings?
Whether it’s putting your phone in airplane mode (with a heads-up to friends and family!), going hiking, or having quality time with friends, you can find the right ritual for you.
Being in tune with your emotions allows you to coexist with them instead of feeling out of control. It’s also an important foundation for being truly productive with self-care.
Sarah Fielding is a New York City-based writer. She covers social justice, mental health, health, travel, relationships, entertainment, fashion, and food.