When people hear the term self-care, they tend to assume that it revolves around personal grooming, long hours in a bathroom, manicures and yoga sessions... And they're not wrong. Self-care does include those things, but it's also so much more.
Self-care runs far deeper than an epsom salt bath. In fact, there are 7 forms of self-care (you can see them in my Forms of Self-Care Infographic), with emotional being one of them.
Since life has become increasingly harder these days, I specifically want to focus on emotional self-care today, which enables us to deal with hardships in healthier ways.
But first, let's talk about emotional self-care it. Emotional self-care, as defined by Desert Alchemy, is caring for your emotional needs by identifying and nurturing your feelings, your conscious inner state, and your intellect.
Simply put, emotional self-care is caring for your emotional needs by identifying what it is you’re feeling and then moving forward in a way that honors yourself and those emotions.
When our emotional self-care needs are not being addressed, we tend to feel frustrated and burnt out, leaving us with a feeling of, “how the hell did I get myself into this mess?” and no real plan to climb out.
When we practice emotional self-care, we live a happier and more content life. It becomes especially important when you're going through a really hard phase in your life. During those tough times, emotional self-care can help you feel more grounded and not be afraid to face your challenges head on.
How Do You Improve Your Emotional Self-Care?
Truthfully, you have to give yourself the space and grace to allow yourself time and allow yourself to heal. There are some key emotional self-care activities that can help you overcome emotional challenges, withstand hard times, and aid you in the journey towards a better relationship with yourself. So, if you're ready to get better, keep reading...
Here are 18 simple emotional self-care practices to help when life gets hard:
1. Set and create healthy and loving boundaries
Boundaries are essential when it comes to emotional self care. If you have a problem putting yourself first, then maybe you also struggle with enforcing boundaries that are necessary for your wellbeing. Create boundaries that leave you feeling good and help you keep your space sacred. Get comfortable saying no more often, and be prepared for others not to be ok with it. If you haven't set healthy boundaries in the past and others get upset when you do, remember that they liked you because you didn't have any in the first place.
2. Protect Your Energy From Others
You are the master of what energy you let into your life. If you're an empath or highly sensitive person (HSP) like me, you're especially prone to absorbing the emotions of those around you. If those emotions are positive they can be energizing. If they're negative, it can be very draining—I call these people energy vampires! Surround yourself with people who lift you up and make you feel good. Obviously this cannot be achieved all the time, but if anybody makes you feel drained or negative too often then distance yourself from them or let them go from your life.
3. Use breath work to ground and recenter yourself
When I am feeling overwhelmed and my emotions end up running the show, I like to use the 5-5-7 breathing method. It's super simple. Inhale for a count of 5, hold for a count of 5, then exhale for a count of 7. Repeat ten times. I promise you'll feel so much more relaxed after this practice.
4. Practice meditation
I am an avid believer in the power of a positive thinking. If your mindset is right, you can do anything! Meditating regularly can help to increase resilience in difficult situations and make you react from your emotions less often. I know I find regular meditation helps me find my zen, even when everything’s gone to sh*t!! (Yes, we’ve all been there!). Try to meditate daily to maintain that zen feeling. If you're new to meditation, test it out with my free 7-day fully guided Mindful Meditation Program.
5. Feel your emotions
Have you ever felt like you just want to suppress your emotions when times are tough? Culturally, we have been taught to try and avoid unpleasant emotions, but this is actually one of the worst things we can possibly do for ourselves. Many of our problems arise when we try to fight off our emotions and don’t address them head on, which leads to a variety of self-harming behaviors such as using drugs, alcohol, binge eating, and so on. By allowing the experience of our emotions we can then begin to take further steps to heal them and then let them go.
6. Get to know your emotional triggers
Once you allow yourself to sit with and feel your emotions, you will become become much more familiar with them and you will start to notice patterns behind them. Take note on what causes you to feel sad. Is there a particular person that you experience certain negative emotions around like anger? If you get curious and ask yourself what causes your emotions, you will know how and be better able to reduce negative ones in the future.
7. Start and keep a journal
Journaling is an amazing way to release your emotions and gain some clarity. It's an ideal way to work through and express the emotions you are feeling. It may also help you recognize what your emotional triggers are. If you feel like you get too caught up in your emotions and can’t let them go, try making a regular habit of writing them down in your journal. You’d be surprised how beneficial journaling can be!
8. Make you your #1 priority
Do you struggle to put your needs before the needs of others? This struggle is very real for so many of us . When we have other people who are dependent on us we can see our own needs as a last resort and neglect to take care of ourselves. Switching your focus to yourself is the best thing you can do, not only for yourself but for others because you can't pour from an empty cup. So put your oxygen mask on first and see how it elevates your mood and approach in every area of your life (TIP: it magically brings more joy and confidence to everything you do.)
9. Practice self-compassion
One of the most important things you can do to care for yourself is to practice self-compassion. Self-compassion involves treating yourself with the same kindness, concern, and support you’d show to a good friend or a loved one. Become aware of the dialogue you have with yourself within your own head. Are you too hard on yourself? If you find yourself constantly criticizing yourself and using negative language, you need to switch it up and start treating yourself with the love and respect that you want from others. Not sure how to get started? Check out my blog: Self-Compassion: What It Is and 8 Simple Ways to Practice It.
10. Don't be afraid to ask for help
Maybe the reason you’re feeling overwhelmed with emotion is because you’re trying to take on the world on your own. There is no shame or weakness involved in seeking support where necessary. Sometimes we just need to accept that we can’t do everything alone and ask for help when we need it.
11. Get a good night's sleep
Getting good quality sleep is one of the cornerstones to good health, yet it's it's often a neglected component to every person's overall wellbeing. Sleep enables the body to repair and be fit and ready for another day. Getting adequate rest may also help prevent excess weight gain, heart disease, and increased illness duration. Not only does sleep deprivation lead to this multitude of health issues, but it can amplify your feelings of overwhelm. Learning how to improve your sleep is not just a luxury—it’s a necessity!—so check out my How to Sleep Better infographic for some tips.
12. Do something you love, EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.
Not only is sleep important, but so is doing something fulfilling every day. If you feel like you're caught in this mundane life, just watching it pass you by (I've been there!)... do something! You will be so surprised by how much better and uplifted you feel when you add in something to your day that nourishes your soul.
13. Practice gratitude
Gratitude is a simple but powerful tool, which can change your life forever. I have a simple end of day gratitude practice I share with my clients that leaves them heading for some zzz's on a positive note. Here's what you do... Ask yourself:
What am I grateful for?
What did I do well today?
What do I want in my life?
You don't have to limit yourself to this end of day practice however. I actually have a gratitude jar. Any time I experience a moment where I feel immensely grateful for something, I write it down and put it into my gratitude jar. On New Year’s Eve, I empty the jar and review everything I wrote over the course of a year, which starts my New Year off on such a beautiful positive vibe.
14. Learn to accept compliments
It may sound silly, but every time you dismiss or deny a compliment you are knocking your own confidence and selling yourself short. The next time someone compliments you, try responding with a simple “thank you” and acknowledge how the compliment makes you feel. You don’t have to necessarily agree (at least not at first) but learning to accept compliments can positively affect the relationship you have with yourself!
15. Learn to give yourself compliments
Just as important as accepting compliments from others is giving them to yourself. It's easy to forget your own worth in life, but you should always look for opportunities to recognize all of the good things you achieve by being your own cheerleader and giving yourself compliments when you complete a task. A positive relationship with yourself will keep you motivated to stay strong while all the storms pass. If you struggle to speak positively about or to yourself, check out my Self-Love 101 Daily Ritual.
16. Stop apologizing all the time
Similarly, when you apologize for doing nothing other than being you, you’re putting out the idea that who you are isn’t acceptable. Of course, apologize when and where it's necessary, but stop apologizing when you may feel shame, embarrassment or like a burden. You are worthy and accepted just as you are.
17. Create a playlist filled with calming music
I don't know about you but music instantly soothes my soul. I have a playlist on my phone that accommodates every mood I feel—classical for says where I need to feel a sense of calm and heavy metal when I am letting off some steam when I do a trail run to reground myself in nature.
18. Reframe mistakes as opportunities
Oftentimes when we make a mistake, we berate ourselves and think we should have done something differently. However, one of the best things we can do for our emotional wellbeing is to see our mistakes as an opportunity to learn, rather than as a failure. Mistakes are an inevitable part of life and they help us grow and evolve into better versions of ourselves. Each time you make a mistake, acknowledge where you went wrong and work on ways to improve your approach in the future.
So there you have it, my emotional self-care ideas. Having a solid emotional self-care routine will set you onto a pathway to a healthy mindset so life doesn't continue to feel like a drag. Mindset is everything after all! Practice the ones that resonate most with you to make your new emotional self-care habit sustainable.