Struggling with finding time for self care? Here are 12 5-minute Daily Self Care Ideas that cost nothing and can be easily included in your daily routine.
Ever since the pandemic began a year ago, we've all had to put our travel plans on hold. It's probably been more than that since you took an airplane trip, but you'll likely remember the crew's instructions before the flight took off. They showed us the emergency exits, how to put on the life jacket, and yes - they stressed the importance of putting on your own oxygen mask before helping someone else.
Funny how that last instruction has become more important than ever in a time when we can't travel anywhere. Living the lockdown life for nearly a year has begun to take its toll and many of us find us on edge, easily irritated and feeling frustrated at the current situation. If that sounds like you, you're in dire need of some self care!
Self care has become such a buzzword, it's even turned into a cliché. It has become overused and has even been associated with luxury or an extravagant lifestyle. And it couldn't be farther from the truth, which is that self care is not selfish.
If you're a woman, you've been used to giving and giving, right from a young age. While we've been taught to give, we haven't been taught to care for ourselves so that we're capable of giving. And that's why self care is not a luxury; it's a necessity. In this day and age when we tend to put everyone else's needs above our own, we need to remind ourselves that we deserve the same amount of love and care as well.
That's why putting on your own oxygen mask first is important. But like oxygen, self care is also something that is needed every day. A once-in-two-months trip to the spa is not self care; self care is made of small habits, which when done every day keeps you in the best shape, physically, mentally and emotionally.
Whatever self care habits you choose, make sure to schedule it in your day, and to treat it like a priority - not something to do once you've finished everything else. With this in mind, we've decided to draw up a list of daily self care ideas that you can easily build into your daily routine. These ideas don't take more than 5 minutes, although you can certainly extend the time if you like. You can choose 1 or 2 of them and insert it into your routine - maybe pick one for the morning and one for the evening, however you like it.
5 Minute Daily Self Care Ideas that cost nothing
It may sound strange that something we do for living is considered self care! Yet, several studies have shown that simply taking time out for some intentional breathing can do wonders for the mind and body. What's more, this is something you can do right now, wherever you are, and all you need are your lungs!
Sit down somewhere comfortable, but with your back supported. Lower your shoulders and lift your head, pushing your shoulders back so your chest opens up. You can simply do deep breaths here, or inhale and exhale on a count of 5. Another great option is yoga breathing. If you feel like taking time to breathe is a waste of time, you're seriously in need of self care!
- Take a Bath
Taking a bath may sound like such a routine task for most people, but if you're a Mom, you know how this is a luxury! Find a time when your baby is fed and sleeping, or your older child is occupied so you're not disturbed. You can take a quick 5 minute shower, or if you have time and space, go for a longer bath.
When showering, alternate blasts of hot and cold water for an incredibly rejuvenating experience. Indulge all your senses as you use products with texture, like a scrub, as well as with lovely aromas. When you do everything intentionally and mindfully, you'll realize that even a mundane task turns into an amazing way of self care.
- Enjoy a Warm Drink
If you've seen 'The Big Bang Theory', you'll notice how Sheldon has been taught to offer a warm beverage to someone who's upset. There's something about drinking something warm that soothes us from the inside out, and when you take out 5 minutes to do it slowly, you'll enjoy this simple experience in all its calmness.
You can choose any warm drink you like - lemon water, green tea, masala chai. Most of these beverages also have added health benefits like antioxidants. It's a good idea to avoid coffee that could wind you up instead of relaxing you. However, if coffee's what you really want, try something a little more indulgent, like the now-popular Dalgona coffee, to recreate a café experience at home.
Have you noticed little children waking up? They stretch their body right away, even though no one has taught them to do so. As we grow older and busier, we stop listening to our body's natural instincts like this. If that's the case with you, it may be a good idea to include 5 minutes for stretching in your day.
Stretching stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system and releases endorphins, which help improve your mood. This is over and beyond the various health benefits stretching has, especially if you have a sedentary lifestyle or a desk job. You can do some basic stretches for 5 minutes, but if you have the time, it's a good idea to go for a 15-20 minute yoga practice.
Remember our teen years when we used to have a 'Dear Diary'? Those were days of turbulent emotions and confusing feelings, and writing in a diary helped us cope with them. Nothing has changed - it's still just as effective! Although known by the more grown-up name of journaling, writing about your feelings or problems has some amazing therapeutic benefits.
If a blank sheet of paper seems too overwhelming, look for prompts. You can write about something that's bothering you, or simply an experience you had that day. Another excellent journaling idea is to write about things you are grateful for - the more specific, the better. You don't have to keep the paper if you don't want to - it's the act of writing that's more important here.
- Go on a Walk
If local government guidelines permit outside walks, wear a mask and go out for 5 minutes. However, make sure it's a leisurely stroll - do not do brisk walking or any kind of exercise wearing a mask. This is something that can be done for 5 minutes but reaps more benefits if done for longer.
Walking outdoors and being in nature isn't just good for your body, it is great for your mood and mental wellbeing. It is said to boost focus and memory, while reducing the stress hormone cortisol. As you walk, notice what you see around you. When you do this everyday, you'll start seeing familiar patterns as well as notice something new. You'll enjoy the experience so much that you'll want to do this for more than 5 minutes!
- Declutter a Space
Sometimes our mood is a direct reflection of the mess around us. If you have small kids, you're likely to have messes that never seem to end - and that's okay! That's not what we're talking about - we're talking about purging things that don't serve you anymore.
Set a timer for 5 minutes (or 10) and clear out one small area, like a drawer, a cabinet or a shelf. Take out everything and put aside whatever you don't need. Then put the rest back. That's it - you're done! A small task like this can make you feel incredibly accomplished and optimistic, and you'll be encouraged to do it again. Gather all the things you don't need in a box or a bag, get rid of broken or damaged pieces and donate the rest.
Many of us have been avid readers during our childhood, but as life 'happened', the habit fell by the wayside. I'm sure most of you would love to read more, but simply can't find the time. So schedule in 5 minutes in your day to read - just 5 minutes - and you'll find that old excitement for reading coming back.
If you're starting out with this, it's recommended to go for something lighter, like a magazine (not beauty magazines). Books with deep or heavy content can weigh you down, and achieve the opposite effect you're going for. What's more, it will discourage you to pick up the book again the next day. If you can, try to read from a physical book rather than an online version.
- Enjoy a Lovely Scent
It's common knowledge that smells have the power to affect our mood. Walking by a bakery feels good, while walking into a smelly office makes you cranky! Some scents have a muscle-relaxing effect, while some have found to reduce stress in individuals. Based on our childhood memories and life experiences, there may be certain smells that have special meaning for us.
Whatever your favorite smell is, you can use it as a means of self care, and it takes less than 5 minutes! Essential oils are a great way to do this, by putting a few drops in a diffuser. You can also use a scented candle, but make sure it's safe for you and the environment. Lavender, jasmine and sandalwood are relaxing, while cardamom, cedarwood and mint can refresh you.
- Listen to something Nice
One of the easiest self care things you can do in 5 minutes is to listen to something - it could be fun, inspirational or simply calming. You can listen while doing other tasks, but for it to be truly self caring, it's best to be completely mindful and do nothing but listen for 5 minutes.
You can listen to a part of an audiobook or a podcast - there are so many out there on practically every topic under the sun. Or you could put on a fast beat and move your body to it. And if you don't want any of that, you can simply put on some of your favorite tunes and close your eyes. You'll feel so refreshed and good after those 5 minutes!
- Read or Watch Something Funny
American comedian Milton Berle said, “Laughter is an instant vacation”, and he was right! Laughing releases endorphins, hormones that instantly boost your mood and you don't even need 5 minutes for it! If you laugh with a loved one, the shared experience makes it even better.
You can watch a sitcom or funny movie, although that'll take longer than 5 minutes. If you're short on time, a funny YouTube video or comic is perfect. If you enjoy satire, there are many options for it out there too. Just be careful not to fall down the YouTube rabbit hole!
- Say “No”
Self love can mean many things to different people, and the ones we've listed so far may fall in some of your lists. However, saying 'No' is something many of us miss although it is a crucial part of self care. It's something that takes no time and no money at all, but it still requires effort.
Again, social conditioning has us women agreeing to all requests and requirements of our time, energy and mental space - whether they are deserving or not. It's high time we learn to prioritize these and say Yes only to the truly important ones. Remember, your time and energy is finite; when you are saying yes to something that's not significant, you are saying 'no' to the more important things in your life.
If you're a person who's completely stressed out and has no time at all for herself, don't try to implement all these at once. Pick the easiest self care task from this list and start with that. My recommendation would be to start with saying 'No' - that alone can free up so much time! As you include more self care tasks in your day, you'll start feeling more balanced and at peace with yourself. Slowly but surely, you'll learn to enjoy every moment, every day and eventually your life. So go ahead and put on that oxygen mask first!