Quick, without thinking, what comes to your mind when you think of self-care? Do you automatically envision a woman pampering herself in a bubble bath? Or a room dimly lit by candles as she sips a glass of wine while reading Fifty Shades of Grey? Well, the truth is, at its core, self-care is a set of rituals, regimens, or practices (it can be as simple as you’d like) that help individuals recharge, re-center, and achieve balance in their own well-being and happiness. Self-care takes work and time and is more than just pampering yourself. And yes, it’s something men should absolutely put to practice as well.
Self-care is simply the act of taking time to focus on yourself. You allocate certain time during each day, or even just weekly, to put your stressors on the back burner, with the goal of improving your mental health. The past year has been complete chaos, and as such, an increase and focus on mental health has taken center stage. Over one in three adults in the United States has reported symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorder during the pandemic, which means practicing self-care in any capacity should become a priority.
Because self-care has always been thought of (and marketed) as something practiced primarily by women, men are behind the curve and may not even know where to begin. But why should men even take the time to practice self-care? Well, just like women, we need to take care of our mental, emotional, and physical health.
Self-care is an incredibly personal practice, and there’s no “one-size-fits-all” kind of formula here. But that’s the beauty of it: Self-care can mean anything you want it to mean as long as it will help you stay physically and mentally well, even in times of isolation. And if you need a little help coming up with ideas on how to add self-care into your daily life, you’re in luck because we’re here to help!
Self-care is best pursued one step at a time. Rather than try to overhaul your life overnight, pick one area where you can build a new habit. As you notice the benefits in this area of your life, you’ll find more motivation to shift toward self-care in other areas. Here are just a few ideas to get you started:
Physical activity has shown to have great psychological benefits that include higher self-esteem, better sleep, and decreased feelings of depression and anxiety. When you engage in exercise, your body releases endorphins that help trigger a “feel good” sensation similar to that of morphine. It’s a great way to not only keep your body physically healthy and in shape but also set the foundation of any self-care regimen.
But physical activity is not only relegated to the gym. It can be as simple as getting out of the house and taking a stroll around the neighborhood while soaking up some much-needed vitamin D. Nature walks and getting in tune with the elements are essential aspects of men’s self-care. Nothing beats getting fresh air, sitting in complete silence while the birds chirp, or even watching the breaks of the ocean’s waves. There’s something soothing and healing about nature, and it’s one of the best (and easiest) forms of self-care.
Read more: Best At-Home Workouts for Men
Now I’ll be the first to admit that when a close friend of mine began to rave about the power of affirmations, I thought it was a bunch of hooey; after all, how could uttering a few simple words really improve my life? Well, it turns out the joke was completely on me. Affirmations are positive statements that help you to “rewire” your mind and overcome self-sabotaging negative thoughts. Affirmations permeate our conscious and subconscious minds, helping to reprogram our thinking patterns.
Affirmations are incredibly personal and can be tailored to your preferences. Some people enjoy creating their own affirmations and reading them out aloud. Others, like myself, prefer guided affirmations that you can find on YouTube, and you can also do this while meditating. The best part about guided affirmations is that you don’t even have to really pay attention to what is being said as your subconscious is absorbing the message whether you are paying close attention or not. Adding affirmations to your self-care routine is definitely worth a try and should be followed consecutively for at least 30 days (once in the morning and again in the evening) for it to help shift your mindset.
No matter what hobbies you take up, every guy should make a habit of journaling. No matter what form you adopt (bullet journaling, free writing, sketching, etc.), journaling trains your brain to search for positive things (gratitude, dreams, positivity) instead of focusing on the negatives or imperatives in your life. Over time, this habit rewires your brain in a way that benefits every area of your life.
Another benefit of journaling is that not only does it give you the opportunity for introspection, but it also gives you the space to write down your goals, track your progress, and keep yourself accountable.
Read more: How To Journal
Add CBD to the Mix
CBD is a relative newcomer to the world of self-care and one of my personal favorite staples in my self-care regimen. Why do I love it so much? Because of its versatility of use. Have anxiety? CBD can help. Pain caused by stiff joints or arthritis? Try CBD. Have skin that’s inflamed from acne? CBD can help soothe your skin.
But what exactly is CBD? Also known as cannabidiol, CBD is an active ingredient of the cannabis (marijuana) flower that is non-psychoactive and will not give you the effects of being high like THC, the other active substance found in the marijuana plant. CBD is a great addition to any self-care routine because this ingredient can come in so many different forms and can really be used to help you in a lot of different ways.
Read more: What Is CBD?
In a world of chaos, stress is inevitable, and we are constantly trying to find balance; adaptogens have now entered the chat. It’s no secret that stress can cause physical havoc on the body (low energy, loss of sexual desire, insomnia to name just a few), but incorporating adaptogens into your personal wellness program is an easy and effective way to counteract these harmful effects.
One of the most popular and well-known adaptogens for men is ashwagandha. Not only is ashwagandha a great overall herb, but we see that it has properties that specifically help men regulate cortisol levels (one of the stress hormones), while simultaneously building DHEA (testosterone), a sex hormone said to increase male vigor.
Read more: What Are Adaptogens?
Start Using Essential Oils
Incorporating essential oils into your everyday routine is a simple yet effective way to practice self-care. Essential oils are compounds that are derived from plants (their scents and medicinal properties, or “essence”) and are often used in aromatherapy. Inhaling essential oils is thought to be beneficial for overall health because of how they interact with the limbic system. The great thing about essential oils is that there’s one for whatever concern you may have. Here are just some of the timeless essential oil staples:
Peppermint: You can use peppermint to help improve concentration and focus, boost your energy, and stimulate your mind. Add in a diffuser or apply one drop under your nose when you need a little pick me up.
Lavender: Lavender is great for managing stress and anxiety. Add it to a diffuser or use a carrier oil to dilute and apply topically.
Cedarwood: This essential oil helps induce sleep and can be applied topically on the brow ridge, temples, and wrists.
Rosemary: You can also apply essential oils to your hair to promote hair growth. Rosemary strengthens scalp circulation, preventing hair follicles from falling out.
The great thing about essential oils is their versatility. You can add essential oils to your shower, diffuser, foot soak, massage oil, and even hair care, for my balding brothers; the versatility of these oils is really limitless.
Read more: What Are Essential Oils?
Create a Solid Nighttime Routine
Sleep is arguably the most important aspect of self-care, but it’s also probably the most overlooked. Establishing a nighttime routine will not only help you “charge your batteries,” so to speak, but it will also help you feel refreshed, maintain a healthy weight, improve energy and productivity, and stay looking as handsome as a stallion.
So, how can you optimize my sleep routine to reap maximum benefits? The first step is to solidify a nightly skincare routine that is easy to follow. As men, we tend to struggle to build and maintain a regular skincare routine, let alone a nightly one. Washing your face and applying a nighttime moisturizer is the bare minimum. Sleep is the time when your skin cells turn over and regenerate, so taking the time to give your skin and hair the proper TLC is a great way to show self-love. Not to mention the numerous other benefits it provides, such as healthier hair, under-eye bag reduction, and an overall healthier appearance.
If you have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep or struggle with racing thoughts at night (like I do), you’ll want to find ways in which you can reduce your stress, anxiety, and limit external stimuli. Creating a relaxing atmosphere is the key to creating an optimal sleep environment. Below are some things you can do to help create that atmosphere.
Sip some calming tea: Herbal teas have been used for thousands of years, from ancient Chinese emperors to the British royal family, and the health benefits are too hard to ignore. Just as some teas can be a great replacement for coffee to get your senses going in the morning, other teas with naturally occurring sedatives help to ensure relaxation and better sleep quality. Adding an herbal brew to the mix can have a calming effect that may help your body and mind prepare for sleep.
Enjoy a weighted blanket: Weighted blankets (also known as gravity blankets) are typically 5-30 pounds heavier than your normal comforter and are a great way to alleviate anxiety and insomnia that may provide an alternative to traditional medications. This type of weight therapy is commonly known as “grounding,” in which deep-pressure touch is used to reduce cortisol levels and trigger the release of dopamine and serotonin. Think of a weighted blanket as your personal cuddle buddy!
Slow down the mind with reading: Getting lost in a book is a great way to signal to your brain that it is time to slow down and get some rest. Put down the phone, close your laptop, power off the television, and prepare for sleep by reading 15-30 minutes before bed.
Read more: How To Get Better Sleep
There’s no denying that the past year was one of the most stressful years the world has ever experienced, and with that we must remember that self-care is crucial for fostering a healthy mind and for renewing our souls. What was once thought of as something that wasn’t really meant for men has become a way of life for the modern man. In order to live up to your full potential and achieve success, you must have a clear mind. And that, my friends, is what self-care is all about.
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