Nowadays, what does self-care really look like? At a time when social restrictions make it impossible to go to our favorite places or visit a local spot in our community to relax and to unwind, home has basically become the epicenter of self-care.
When it comes to self-care, many of us simply don’t practice it. We rationalize neglecting ourselves by saying things like “I have too much to do,” “There isn’t enough time” or “Too many people need me.” Self-care rituals may seem unnecessary, but in reality, self-care rituals are one of the easiest ways to maintain balance and overcome stress.
What is Self-Care?
Before we dive into some easy and inexpensive self-care rituals you can practice at home, or pretty much anywhere, let’s first discuss what self-care is. Self-care is the practice of taking action to preserve and prioritize one’s own happiness, health and well-being, especially during times of stress. Simply stated, self-care is anything that makes you feel happy, healthy and whole. (Just like our blog!) Whether you already have an established self-care routine or are looking for some new ideas, here are six simple self-care rituals to help overcome stress and maintain balance in your life.
#1 Apply Essential Oils
The use of essential oils is a great way to tap into our central nervous system through aromatherapy. Each essential oil has their own unique set of properties. Some essential oils can energize and invigorate, while others can calm and relax. If you are feeling stressed, try rubbing 2-3 drops of a soothing essential oil on your wrists or temples then breathe in deeply and enjoy the scent as you go about your day. Some popular essential oils that can help maintain balance and overcome stress include:
- Clary sage
- Wild orange
- Ylang ylang
Just like food, not all essential oils contain quality ingredients, so it’s important to review the sourcing of your essential oils. One of our favorite brands is Smile Natural Products. Not only do they offer quality oils, but they are also a black-owned company, which we love supporting. Check them out more @smilenaturalproducts
Tip: If you aren’t into essential oils, that’s okay! Simply swap out an essential oil for a calming scented candle of choice and enjoy the flicker of the flame and the relaxing scent as you go about your day.
It may sound simple, but altering the way we breathe can have profound effects on our health. The next time you feel flustered or frazzled, take two minutes to focus on your breath. Inhale for five counts, hold for five counts then exhale for five counts. This is called box breathing and can help you relax at any given moment. There is a vast array of breathwork techniques you can choose from, but no matter which one you decide to try, consciously working on your breath will help you enjoy multiple benefits including a profound sense of calm, a clearer head and an overall general sense of lightness.
Our fabulous and fierce founder, Margaret Barrow, is a big fan of breathing techniques. She recalls, “One of the breathing techniques that helped me during my bout with coronavirus last year was Vim Hof's deep breathing exercises. Since coronavirus can cause lung complications, it's important to practice these breathing exercises at least once a day. Maybe we all need to make it a part of our daily routines. Imagine how much value we would add to our lives if we practiced breathing as part of your daily life. It certainly has changed my life!”
#3 Catch Quality Sleep
Sleep is incredibly important to proper health, but everyday stressors have made catching quality zzz’s extremely elusive for many of us. If unwinding after a long day is challenging, adopt a nighttime routine to help you relax before bed. Apply some essential oils, curl up with a good book, do some light stretching, light some candles, turn off all electronic devices or take a bubble bath. You can even incorporate your new deep breathing techniques before bed. Barrow says, “When I practice the deep breathing before bed, I always fall into a deep comfortable sleep and wake up feeling refreshed.” Don’t mind if we do!
Tip: Why choose one when you can do all of the above? Disclaimer: Don’t stress yourself out about it though. Whatever one, or ones, resonate with you the most will be perfect! Anything you find relaxing that will help you unwind is setting you up for a restful night of quality sleep. Plus, any one of these unwinding activities can also be counted towards an additional form of self-care, so it’s a win win!
#4 Take a Power Nap
Okay, so we know we already covered getting a good night’s sleep, but if catching quality REM cycles at night is still a struggle try a nap! There’s no shame in that game. Our founder is even a believer in the power of a solid power nap. “When I was younger I never really understood the importance of physically shutting down in the middle of the day. Certain cultures have the right idea. Look at cultures that practice siestas. Throughout the Mediterranean and Southern Europe as well as Mainland China, Spain and Italy people know the importance of taking a nap in the middle of the day. In America, we just keep powering through like the Energizer Bunny! That doesn't work.”
Barrow continues, “When I take the time for a power nap, I feel like I can continue to complete my to-do-list without relying on cups of coffee and I'm proud to say that my daughters and husband also practice the power nap.” Mid-day naps are definitely a self-care practice we can get behind!
#5 Eat Mindfully
Eating mindfully may not sound like a form of self-care, but it can be. Just think how relaxing it is to sit back with your favorite snacks and a hot cup of coffee or tea. When selecting a quality snack, look for options made with real, whole food ingredients like dried or fresh fruit, nuts, seeds and high quality fats like unsweetened shredded coconut flakes. (Yum!) By eating mindfully, you’ll feel good from the inside out.
Barrow explains a bit more. “Eating whole foods help to renew and heal the body, which is why I like to focus on consuming foods that help with cell rejuvenation. Did you know that alkaline foods help to repair the body? Some of our favorites include apples, berries, broccoli and pomegranate. Even some seasonings like oregano possess the same abilities.” How cool is that?
Another easy way to eat mindfully is to plan a home cooked meal for yourself or your entire family at least one day a week. Choose a recipe made with high quality, whole food ingredients and enjoy.
Tip: Need some recipe inspiration? Check out @MBVeganShare or join our CEO live @itsnolasnack every other Sunday when she shares some delicious and nutritious Vegan recipes. Don’t worry, even if you aren’t Vegan, you will enjoy these dishes.
#6 Express Gratitude
Focusing on what we are already grateful for can really shift our perspectives to focus on more positive things in our lives. During the day, grab a journal or mentally list five things you are grateful for in that moment. A gratitude practice helps us focus on our internal state instead of focusing on our external state, which can ultimately lead to more happiness and positivity throughout the day. Your gratitude list can include something small like enjoying your favorite midday snack or they can be as exciting as an upcoming visit with family or friends whether in-person (socially distanced of course) or virtually!
Other self-care rituals include, but are not limited to:
- Building up your self-esteem by writing down seven things you love about yourself or your life
- Calling and chatting with a family member, friend or neighbor
- Drinking tea, coffee or another warming beverage you enjoy
- Doing yoga
- Listening to music or a podcast
- Practicing self-massage
- Repeating positive affirmations
- Showering and/or taking a luxurious bubble bath
- Spending time in nature
- Watching your favorite film or television program
- Writing and so much more
When asked about her favorite self-care rituals, our founder shares some of her favorites. “Educating. I believe in learning, diving deep into a subject I want to know more about or reading that novel I’ve been putting off because I’ve been too busy and too stressed. I also think self care includes taking the time to listen to your favorite music. I’m always looking for new voices and love playing the oldies but goodies.”
See, self-care doesn’t have to be complicated. Try one, or all of these self care rituals the next time you feel overwhelmed or stressed and return to a state of balance, calm and peace, even if it’s from a cozy corner in your very own home.
The spring season is all about renewal and spring is the perfect time to incorporate greens (e.g., leafy and/or wild )that will help with liver and gallbladder renewal. This is because greens help with strengthening digestion and immunity.
An easy (and delicious) way to add more greens to your springtime finds is by whipping up a homemade sauce. Sauces are a great way to bring out the flavors in foods. Two sauces you can use for dipping your veggies, pour on quinoa or other grains, or use as a salad dressing is one that focuses on greens. Check out our two original sauces recipes below, which are both perfect for springtime fare.
Green Sauce - Cooked
In the oil, cook the onion first. Slowly cook onions to caramelize them. When you slowly cook onions over an extended time, you release the natural sugar in them. Then add the kale. (add water as needed) Add the salt and pepper. Let cook until the kale is soft or braised. Once finished add to the blender or food processor. If you need to add some water, then do so.
Green Pesto (Pesto simply means stomp in Italian)
Optional: ¼ Cup Vegan Parmesan Cheese (Take a look at this review of vegan parmesan cheese. It’s worth a read! Nutritional yeast, or vegan parmesan cheese, makes recipes cheesier (taste and adjust as you go along). It’s a good food investment because you can use it in soups and salad dressings as well as pour some on popcorn with your vegan butter. Note: If you don’t have any nutritional yeast and don’t want to purchase, try capers (2 tsp) or sundried tomatoes (in oil).
Bonus Beauty Tip: Did you know that you can use kale directly on your skin? Rich in both vitamins C and K, which are essential for glowing youthful skin, kale is the perfect addition to your beauty routine.
First, you’ll have to pulverize it with some water in a blender then you can use it in a homemade mask. Simply mix with coconut milk (½ tsp), and lemon (1sp), and brown rice syrup (1tbsp) and use it as a mask. This mask is often made with honey, but if you’re a vegan you most likely won’t use honey. Leave on for 8-10 minutes and rinse with warm water. Use cold water to close your pores. It’s super refreshing!