In the ‘sustainability’ community, most people focus on activities associated with minimising environmental impact by reducing waste and switching to eco-friendlier habits such as composting kitchen scraps, avoiding single-use plastic items, carrying zero waste kits, offsetting carbon and even investing money in ‘cleaner’ projects.
What many often overlook is the importance of self-care as a way of living sustainably. Think about it; can you really make the impact you want to make and achieve your sustainability goals if you’re feeling low, burnt out, stressed or anxious?
Self-care is a core component of sustainable living; it is by looking after ourselves that we will find the energy for advocacy and activism. Self-care is a way of coping with stress and helps to nurture our physical, emotional, spiritual and mental health. And despite the popularity of #SelfCareSundays, treating yourself with some tender, love and care shouldn’t have to wait until the weekend. By making time for self-care each and every day, you will be better able to maintain mental health, wellbeing and optimal performance.
Here are some simple but powerful self-care activities if you’re stuck on ideas:
1. Read books or magazines
While it can feel indulgent to take the time to read a book, if you enjoy reading, you should make time for it. Whether the book you read is classic fiction or non-fiction, whether you read just one chapter or more, the key is to immerse yourself in the words and just let go.
If you prefer to read magazines instead, do that. Make a cup of herbal tea, get comfy and sit back and flip through those magazine pages. For a more eco-friendly experience, some popular magazine titles have digital subscriptions that don’t result in waste or shipping-related greenhouse gas emissions.
2. Write in a journal
Grab that eco-friendly journal or diary and start writing. There’s no right or wrong way of journaling. The key is to put your thoughts down, whatever they may be. Journaling is a great way to sort out your feelings and release pent up emotions. It also helps you to better understand yourself.
3. Cook food
Preparing, baking or cooking a nourishing meal is another way to indulge in self-care if you focus on intention rather than the deadline. Instead of rushing through the process of cooking and then eating, slow down, take your time to enjoy each bite and savour the flavours. Try out a new recipe if you’re feeling adventurous and bored of making the same dishes.
4. Dine out
Cooking or baking feel too much of a chore? Then dine out (or order in if lockdowns are still preventing you from doing so). Try out that new plant-based restaurant or opt for your favourite meal. Just make sure to relish the moment.
There are many benefits to gardening. You can convene with nature, find peace and tranquility, create landscape art and grow your own food all at the same time. If you’re new to gardening, try your hand at growing some culinary herbs or edible flowers. For more eco-gardening tips, check out our post ‘18 Plastic-Free Gardening Tips for the Eco-Conscious Gardener‘.
6. Go to the park
Live in an apartment or don’t have space for a garden? You can still enjoy the beauty of plants and flowers by visiting your nearby park or local Botanical Gardens and appreciate the floral scents, gorgeous colours and beautiful landscapes. If you have time, why not make it an event and enjoy a romantic zero waste picnic?
7. Sleep in
If it is at all possible, don’t set that alarm and just let yourself sleep in in the morning. Your body may need those extra hours of sleep as it catches up on rest, particularly if you’ve had a gruelling week at work.
8. Have a nap
Find it hard to sleep in? Then take an afternoon nap. A 15-minute pow-wow can do wonders. If you have more time, take an hour. You’ll feel refreshed, rejuvenated and will have more energy to tackle the rest of the day.
9. Alone time
There is no doubt that other human beings can bring stress to our lives, and if you’re feeling especially exhausted from all the emotional labour you’ve provided, taking some time to be alone and do whatever it is that you want to do – without having another person influence how you spend your time can be one of the best things you can do for your mental and emotional health.
10. Family time
If you spend lots of time alone through the week (because you work as a freelancer for example) then family time may be the thing you need most. So play with your kids or pets, hang out with your parents or siblings or just build memories by spending quality time with them.
11. Make art
Unleash your creativity and imagination by making art. Even if you’re not an artist, painter or illustrating, you can still indulge in a creative exploration through writing poetry, drawing, making music, floral arrangements, outfit styling or even re-designing your home’s interior. Forget about making your ‘art’ good, just go with the flow and just express yourself.
12. Learn a new skill
Sometimes it is in the act of learning something new that we fully let go of ourselves and are fully present. Whether you’re learning how to surf or learning how to cook more plant-based meals, learning a new skill is an act of self-care through self-development.
Feeling like your life is in complete chaos because of all the visible mess and clutter you see in your home? Do yourself a favour and start decluttering. Go to each room and do an audit of things that you no longer love, want or need and consider donating them to charity, selling or giving away. Reflect on what made you buy or acquire the items so as not to make the same mistake next time. Decluttering your home is a way to declutter the mind. By the end of it, you’ll breathe a sigh of relief and have more space and energy for the people and things you really love.
14. Do chores
There is no life without chores but these routine life maintenance activities doesn’t have to be a chore. Put on your favourite album, sing and dance as you clean out your fridge, mop the floors and make your bathroom sparkle. Leaving chores to build up over months will just create more chaos – doing them regularly is an act of self-care even if you don’t necessarily recognise it at the time.
According to WebMD, when you exercise, your body releases chemicals called endorphins which interact with your brain and triggers a positive feelings and reduces anxiety and depression. There are many benefits to physical activity, from improving memory and brain function, maintaining weight and protecting yourself from heart disease. Your body is the vehicle for your life and just like a vehicle, it requires regular maintenance. Working out is one way to care for your body.
This is a no-brainer. Do whatever you activity you find relaxing. It could be any one of the activities already on this list or it could be other things such as disconnecting from social media, practicing meditation or yoga, going for a walk, or just heading to the beach for a swim. Be kind to yourself in this moment and forget the feelings of guilt that comes with doing nothing – you need to learn to relax!
17. Binge-watch Netflix
In an overly communicative social media world where you are pushed and influenced to think, discuss and feel outraged by the activities, thoughts and opinions of others, tuning out, leaving all those conversations and binge-watching Netflix can bring peace. They don’t call it Netflix and chill for nothing.
18. Listen to podcasts
Podcasts enable us to multitask in ways that reading a book or watching a movie on Netflix just can’t. So put on a podcast as you go for a hike or garden and just let your mind absorb the words, or not. It’s completely up to you. Stumped for what to tune into? We recommend these podcasts:
- 5 Podcasts for Conscious Living Enthusiasts
- 10 Podcasts Hosted by BIPOC Women to Tune Into
- 10 Sustainable and Ethical Fashion Podcasts
- 10 of the Best Female Leadership Podcasts
Love this post? Save it on Pinterest or share with your networks and let’s spread the self-care message far and wide.
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Cover image by Ponderlily.