Originally published March 2020. Revised and republished March 2021.
The pandemic sent the world into panic mode. If you’re someone who already struggles with anxiety, chances are, things are much worse for you right now. I understand. That’s why I’ve put together this beneficial list of 15 self care exercises you can practice to reduce that stress.
Life feels extra scary right now. Some days I just want to hide my phone and curl into a ball. However, as a blogger, the last thing I can do is avoid social media, so I’m finding other ways to cope with the widespread panic. Some of these may seem simple or child-like, but I urge you to open your mind. Now isn’t the time to be haughty or particular about self care. In fact, it’s the time to embrace any sense of juvenile wonder and excitement, focus on the special little moments, and if you’re blessed to be with friends and family that make you feel safe – cherish that!
I have medically-diagnosed anxiety, along with clinical depression and bipolar I disorder. I also have a chronic gastrointestinal disease. So this season is becoming especially challenging to navigate, and I find myself leaning towards manic hysteria and panic on a regular basis. It can be really difficult to refocus and regularly practice self care, but when I do, I notice a massive improvement in my overall demeanor and mood. I’m hopeful these tips will help you too, no matter what level of anxiety you may be facing.
Practical Self Care Exercises to Reduce Anxiety
I am clearly not a medical professional, nor do I claim to be any kind of expert on anxiety reduction. However, I do want to provide resources for anyone looking to incorporate more self care into their daily lives – especially during a season of worldwide fear. These are just a few of the ways I manage my anxiety. I also highly recommend seeking professional help, because you never know the positive impact it could have on your life!
Whenever I’m feeling anxious, I bring out a little jar of bubbles and watch them pop slowly. I see how big I can make them, or just poke them to hear the audible “pop!”
This was something I learned from a therapist years ago, and now it’s a go-to whenever I’m experiencing a panic attack or severe anxiety of any kind. I find the most sour candy I can handle (my favorites are the lemon Warheads – so sour) and once it lands on my tongue, I focus only on how sour it is until the sour sensation goes away. It takes your mind off your anxiety, even if it’s just for a few minutes.
drink red wine
Not in excess, mind you. Red wine can soothe and calm and even promote better sleep, but once you’ve hit tipsy, it’s not going to affect you in the same positive manner. However, it can reduce that anxious feeling – and it tastes wonderful. I suggest a Cabernet Sauvignon.
snuggle a pet
I’m so lucky to have the most wonderful kitty in the world. Okay, sure, she’s actually a little sass but she’s my baby, and just petting her head or scratching her chin and hearing her purr is incredibly calming to me. Whether it’s your cat, dog, hamster, bird, etc. just give them a little extra love and watch them give it back to you.
take a steam shower
Turn your shower on super hot, close the bathroom door, and walk away. Come back 5 minutes later to a free sauna. Add a few drops of essential oils like lavender or eucalyptus and peppermint for a truly relaxing shower. You might want to turn the heat down a bit once actually getting into the water, or you can just sit on the floor of the bathroom and breathe in the steam.
read a fictional book
May I suggest a romantic comedy or fantasy? Just don’t reach for dystopian sci-fi right now. This is a great way to take your mind off of “real life” and escape into a story. It’s also beneficial for your mind, versus binging a television show. Read before bed and you’ll find yourself sleeping better too! (You can find some of my favorite fictional books here and here)
online shop (for fun)
Everyone is so focused on getting “necessities,” but rather than stressing yourself out, how about shopping for your spring and summer wardrobe? Or maybe there’s a new furniture piece you’ve been looking at! Indulge in a little retail therapy!
paint your nails
You don’t need to spend an arm and a leg at the salon. Instead, get your own drying light and treat yourself to an at-home manicure. You get extra points if you clip your cuticles, apply vitamin oils, and give yourself a hand massage with your favorite lotion.
I’ve recently discovered that baking is really enjoyable. Yes, I realize this is a given for so many people, but I’ve never been someone who craves a baking sesh. However, I’ve really enjoyed waking up early on a weekend morning and turning on some light jazz to bake muffins or breads or cookies. It’s fun to try new recipes, especially when you get creative with the ingredients you already have in your home!
play a board game
My husband and I play board games frequently, and we have a routine game night with friends. It’s a great way to de-stress and just have fun. If you’re anxious about spending time with a large group, here is one of our favorite 2-player games (we like to play it while watching the show it’s based on)!
go on a nature walk
Being out in nature is healing in so many ways. Get outside and just go for a walk. It can be at your favorite park or just around your neighborhood. I’m not likely to be in contact with anyone else, and I’m still spending time outdoors.
Face masks solve everything, right? I mean – at least they help your skin! And who says you need to wait for “self-care Sunday” to pour that glass of Cab Sauv and slap on a face mask? My favorite mask of all time is this one and I’ve been using it at least once a week lately. I notice my skin purging all the ick the next day, but then my pores shrink and my skin is smoother and clearer! It’s a great feeling!
crank up some throwback jams and dance
My husband discovered this playlist on Spotify, and we laughed til our bellies hurt over all the songs we loved in middle and high school. It was great to just dance around and sing at the top of our lungs, while simultaneously reminiscing the good times. Singing and dancing increase the production of serotonin (the happy hormone) and literally just makes you feel better!
If you’re spooked by the gym right now, how about looking up a yoga routine on YouTube and practicing at home? Or if you want some decent cardio, try dancing it out with this “feel good” option.
Learn to make a new drink
Coffee lover? How about experimenting with different syrups or espressos or even iced versus hot? It’s fun to create new and unique beverages to enjoy by yourself or with a loved one. Maybe mixology is more your thing! Get on Pinterest and search for some new alcoholic bevs to try out. Might I suggest a perfect springtime drink like this one?
I’ve said it a million times, and I won’t quit saying it until everyone has this app on their phone: Headspace is, hands down, the best meditation app there is. I’ve been using it for over 6 years, and it has quite literally saved my life more than once. It’s 100% worth paying for the subscription, and there are hundreds (if not thousands) of guided and unguided meditations to practice. You can even set it up to listen to ASMR story-telling that helps you fall asleep. I especially appreciate these because it helps turn my brain off at night!