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 50 Shades of Grey? Well, the truth is, at its core, self-care is a set of rituals, regimens, or practices (can be as simple as you’d like) that help individuals re-charge, re-center, and achieve balance. And yes, it’s something men should absolutely put to practice as well.
What Exactly is Self-Care and Why Do Men Need It?
Self-care is simply the act of taking time to focus on yourself. You allocate certain time during each day, or even the week 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 have 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, as well.
Self-care is an incredibly personal practice and there’s no “one-size-fits-all” kind of formula here; which is the beauty of it. Self-care can mean anything you want it to mean, 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!
How to Start a Self-Care Regimen
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 in 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 another area. 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 can help quell depression and anxiety. When you engage in exercise your body releases endorphins that help trigger a “feel good” sensation, similar to that of morphine, and is a great way to not only keep your body physically healthy and in shape, but also a great component of any self-care regimen.
But physical activity is not only regulated 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 becoming 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 bunch of statements really improve my life? Well, it turns out the joke was completely on me. Affirmations are positive statements that serve to help “rewire” the brain and your mind to overcome sabotaging negative thoughts of self. Affirmations permeate our conscious and subconscious mind, 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, and you can find those on YouTube. 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 in the evening) for it to help shift your mindset.
No matter what hobbies you take up, Spencer-Thomas highly recommends that every guy make a habit of journaling. No matter what form you adopt (bullet journaling, freewriting, 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, it gives you the space to write down your goals, track progress, and will also help you 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? CBD also known as Cannabidiol, 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. Now 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, extracting their scents and medicinal properties (the “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 an essential oil for whatever concern you may have. Here are just some of the timeless essential oil staples:
Peppermint: Can be used to help improve concentration, focus, boost 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 to a diffuser, or you can apply topically (use a carrier oil to dilute lavender).
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, a diffuser, foot soak, massage oil, and even hair care for my balding brothers; the versatility of these oils are really limitless.
Read more: What are Essential Oils?
Create a Solid Nighttime Routine
Sleep is arguably the most important aspect of self-care, but also probably the most over-looked. Establishing a nighttime routine will not only help you “charge your batteries,” so to speak, it helps you feel refreshed, maintain a healthy weight, improve energy and productivity, and keeps you looking as handsome as a stallion.
But how can I optimize my sleep routine to reap maximum benefits? The first step would be 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, brushing your teeth, and applying a nighttime moisturizer is the bare minimum. Sleep is the time when our skin cells turnover 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 benefits such as healthier hair, under-eye bag reduction, and an overall healthier appearance.
If you have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or struggle from 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. Here 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 the Ancient Greeks to the British Royals, and the health benefits are too hard to ignore. Just as 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 a 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 a great way to alleviate anxiety, insomnia and may provide an alternative to traditional medications. This type of weight therapy is commonly known as “grounding” in which deep-pressure touch is stimulated and uses hands-on pressure 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
Hop on the Self-Care Bandwagon, Men
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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