What do you look forward to at the end of a long day or week? Maybe it’s a bubble bath with your favorite book in hand. Or, maybe it’s watching the next episode of your current Netflix binge. Whatever it is, it probably centers around taking a well-deserved break—letting your body relax and your mind rest.
This is self-care: any deliberate action taken to care for your mental, emotional, or physical self. You don’t need any fancy plans or equipment. You just need the time built into your calendar to engage in a simple, yet widely beneficial practice. And you know what the best part is? You get to decide on what that practice is. In fact, the key to experiencing the benefits of self-care is picking an activity you actually enjoy, look forward to, and follow through with.
This begs the question, “What is the best form of self-care for me?” Fortunately, there are many beneficial self-care practices to choose from:
Bathtime: Rife with Health Benefits
When’s the last time you took a bath? You might be transported to 15 minutes ago or 15 years ago. For those who still enjoy a bath from time to time, you’re one step ahead of the rest: Science says that taking a bath is a beneficial self-care activity that brings with it a number of mental (and physical) benefits.
According to a recent study “Physical and Mental Effects of Bathing: A Randomized Intervention Study” from the Japan Health and Research Center, taking a bath versus a shower can lead to:
- Better overall mental and emotional health
- Lower levels of stress
- Reduced anxiety
- A decrease in depression
- Pain relief
- Improved quality of life
If you enjoy taking baths, it might be worth investing in this underrated self-care practice whenever you can. If, on the other hand, you’re struggling to remember the last time you took a bath, it’s definitely worth revisiting this nostalgic activity. Carve 20-30 minutes out of your evening to relax in the tub and see how you feel afterwards. If you decide that taking a bath isn’t for you, that’s okay too. Remember, self-care is all about finding an activity that you enjoy and actually want to engage in.
Watching Netflix: A Break for Your Brain
Netflix and other streaming platforms have gotten a bad rap—at least when it comes to our mental health. Studies have shown that binge-watching TV can lead to higher stress, anxiety, and depression. The reality, though, is that too much of anything can have a detrimental effect on our wellbeing (think: too much food, too much alcohol, too much work). However, if we practice healthy streaming habits, watching Netflix can serve as a form of self-care.
I’m sure many of you will take this at face value (and log into Netflix ASAP) but if you need some convincing, consider:
- Watching TV serves as a welcome distraction for our busy minds
- It transports us to another world, allowing us to forget about our own issues
- It offers a break from responsibilities and to-do lists
- It doesn’t require any real effort (mental or physical)
So, if you enjoy watching a couple episodes on Netflix when you get home from work or you like to spend Sunday night catching up on your favorite show, more power to you—but, make sure you monitor how much time you’re spending in front of your TV and create boundaries. To make this a successful self-care practice, consider watching Netflix as a reward or treat every now and then. And if the pop-up has asked “Are you still watching?” more than once or twice, know that it’s probably time to take a break.
Naptime: No, It Isn’t Just for Kids
When’s the last time you took a nap? As with bathtime, the answer might be just a few moments ago or a number of years ago. Either way, naptime comes with some serious benefits that deserve our attention, including:
- Enhanced performance at work
- Boost in mood
- Improved memory
- Stress reduction
- Greater alertness
The benefits above explain why many might take a nap on their lunch break or after a stressful week at work—napping doesn’t just offer mental health benefits but enables us to recalibrate our minds and then press play on life again.
So yes, napping is a form of self-care and might be the answer to your “What is the best form of self-care for me?” However, if you do decide to incorporate naptime into your self-care routine, you should follow a few basic guidelines for when and how long to nap:
- Aim for a 20 or 30-minute nap, no longer
- Work your nap into your mid-day or early afternoon (not earlier or later)
- Once you have a nap routine that works, stick to it
What’s Your Favorite Way to Practice Self-Care?
What do you say? Is taking a bath, watching Netflix, or napping on your schedule for this evening? Or, is there another self-care activity on the calendar? Remember, practicing self-care is all about engaging in activities that you truly enjoy and want to spend your time on. If you aren’t interested in bubble baths, TV, or naps, no problem—but you should find something that gives your mind and body the chance to recharge. You’ll thank us later.