7 Tangible, Psychologist-Approved Ways To Center Self-Care This Year

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If you make only one New Year's resolution this year, I recommend targeting it toward self-care. Your emotional, mental, and physical health will thrive when you make a vow to give yourself small doses of kindness every day.

Self-care doesn't need to be expensive or time-consuming, but it does need to feel good to your body, mind, and spirit. Here are a few small, actionable ways to access the mood-boosting, rejuvenating effects of self-care all year long:

1. Learn to say no.

When your schedule is too full, learn to offer a polite "no" to requests and invitations—whether it's for an extra phone call or yet another expected task. Extra stress can creep in when we try too hard to please everyone. You'll find a less-packed schedule much more enjoyable and far less stressful. Research shows that women, in particular, have a very difficult time setting boundaries and limits. This "I must do everything for everyone" attitude increases stress and anxiousness.

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2. Give yourself a mental lift with positive messages.

When you feel worried, focus on a positive message or mantra that feels strong and calming for you. For example, your mantra might be, "All will be well. All will be good. Things will work out." Keep a copy in your wallet, on your mirror, and on your desk. Repeat the mantra or phrase when you are calm and relaxed. Your brain will come to associate the gentle, supportive words with a positive, relaxed state. It can also be helpful to repeat the words as you press a specific finger or place on your hand—"anchoring" the calming energy into yourself. At the slightest hint of anxiousness or stress, repeat the mantra or phrase.

3. Let go of the idea of perfection.

Actively remind yourself that you are wonderfully, naturally imperfect. Normalize the little imperfections that make you lovely and even quirky. Whether it's your habit of being three minutes late, the wrinkles forming around your eyes (or the laugh lines that are already etched in), allow yourself to be authentically, lovably you. As I note in my book Date Smart: Transform Your Relationships & Love Fearlessly, nothing is more attractive (and wonderful) than being your genuine self.

4. Take mini timeouts.

Taking good care of yourself isn't selfish—it's essential. Self-care can come in the form of making space for yourself to enjoy a cup of tea, a 10-minute meditation, or a brief stretch/yoga session. When you take mini timeouts for self-care, you allow your body, mind, and spirit time to rest and recharge. You'll feel better about sharing your time and energy with others when you're refreshed.

5. Boost your confidence with a positive self-talk tape.

Select a meaningful, positive phrase that will help you combat any negative, critical self-talk. The phrase can be simple, such as "I am a wonderful and valuable person with a good, caring heart." When a harsh, critical voice arises, simply stop and notice the voice without judgment. Then imagine "taking out" the old tape and inserting a fresh, positive one that offers kind, uplifting thoughts. It can also be helpful to post reminders (notes that detail your positive self-talk phrases) on the refrigerator, bathroom mirror, or doors. The more you use your positive self-talk tape, the more you will erase the negative, critical voice that wants to take center stage.

6. Release pent-up thoughts and feelings by journaling freely.

Great benefits can be had by writing down stresses and fears in a private journal. By keeping a journal specifically for this purpose, your psyche knows that it has a "safe place" to unload. Make a daily date with your journal, and allow yourself to offload any negative energy. If possible, write in your journal at least a few hours before bedtime; this will allow any unwanted energy to dissipate as you move through the rest of your evening.

When you write in your journal, try not to self-edit or worry about grammar and such. Simply let your emotions and thoughts flow freely. When you are finished, close the journal—resist the temptation to re-read it, as this often brings up self-criticism and judgment. I encourage keeping the journal in an area outside of the bedroom to reduce the desire to read it at night. This strategy also keeps the offloaded, unwanted thoughts and energy in a different space as you sleep.

7. Decrease stress and worry with a write-off notepad.

Keep a notepad beside your bed for the purpose of "writing off" to-do list items or other thoughts that might interfere with sleep. All too often we worry that we'll forget to do something the next day, and the worrisome thoughts interfere with sleep. Once pesky thoughts are on the notepad, the psyche can unwind and rest.

As we enter 2022, wrap yourself in loving kindness. It's the gift that keeps on giving throughout every season of the year. 

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