Being Gentle with Yourself: 5 Cozy and Restful Self-Care Tips for Coping with Stress and Tough Times

Hi everyone! Time flies… It’s already the second half of February and I haven’t posted once since sharing my 2021 Goals and Habits. I spent the entire month of January off of work, just trying to focus on my goals and get as much done as possible. But as I mentioned in that post, I was constantly worried about how much time I had left and if I was doing enough. By the end of the month, I was so anxious about the time slipping away, and I was being so harsh and down on myself and my perceived lack of accomplishments, that I ended up not really enjoying my vacation time at all. I’m finally back to work this month (it’s still winter break at my school, but I have to teach English camp and desk warm) and after a bad mental health week, I decided that I needed to take a little time to practice self-care. Self-care comes in many forms, but I personally felt that due to my fragile state of mind, I needed to move slowly and be gentle with myself for a few days. Keep reading if you want to know how I practiced self-care during a busy week!

When I realized that I had reached a breaking point, I made the decision to try to live gently for a few days to give my mind and body a rest. There is a diet book called Bright Line Eating by Susan Pierce Thompson that I started reading a few years ago but never finished, whoops! During the early stages of the diet, when things are new and hard and tiring, she recommends to “travel gently. Imagine yourself going through your day wearing bunny slippers…At the beginning, give yourself permission to be gentle with yourself.” Even though I haven’t attempted her recommended diet yet, that image of bunny slippers always stuck with me. For my few days of gentle rest, I tried to imagine myself in bunny slippers, shuffling slowly and quietly, warm and cozy and safe. Here are the 5 main things I did to give myself that bunny slippers feeling when I was in desperate need of rest.

“[T]ravel gently. Imagine yourself going through your day wearing bunny slippers…At the beginning, give yourself permission to be gentle with yourself.”

Bright Line Eating by Susan Pierce Thompson

Tip #1: Have Zero Expectations

The first thing I eliminated was my expectations. I had been setting really high expectations each day and feeling so down when I couldn’t meet them, so then I would set even higher expectations the next day to make up for the previous day. It became a vicious cycle. I had to really scale back my to-do list to the bare essentials and let go of all my pie-in-the-sky ideas, things like film and edit YouTube videos, write for my blog and create content for Instagram, study multiple languages for hours each day, write blog posts, read multiple books, do cardio every morning, deep clean this or that, etc. I cut them ALL out because they were simply not urgent or necessary during this critical time of rest. While I continued to write down various tasks and ideas as they popped into my head, I didn’t have any expectations of finishing them. Writing those tasks down served more as a reminder, like a brain dump, and I told myself that it was okay if I didn’t get around to these additional items, but gave myself a pat on the back for simply remembering them. Again, when it came to my task list, I focused my energy on the most essential items, and any extra energy was used for accomplishing easy wins.

Tip #2: Give Yourself Easy Wins

In a similar spirit to cutting back in tip number 1, I was also setting really easily attainable goals that would give me a chance to feel good about checking something off of my list. For example, read one episode of a webtoon, do a self-massage for 15 minutes, look up my login info for that one website, send a text to so-and-so, drink a glass of water, etc. It was an easy way to get some checkmarks on the page and it sometimes even gave me the motivation do something else more challenging on my list. I also had been feeling like my house needed a real cleanup during this time, but in keeping with the idea of easy wins, I gave myself credit for doing one simple thing each day like taking out the trash, picking up a few clothes in the closet, tidying the coffee table, etc. While each action was small, they did accumulate over time and ended up making my home feel cleaner and neater by the end of my rest period. Easy wins are still wins!

Tip #3: Don’t Cook Anything

This one sounds weirdly specific but I swear it helped me so much. During this week, I had to bring my own lunch to work (the cafeteria stays closed during winter vacation) and prepare dinner on my own since my husband was working nights. I didn’t have the energy or mental bandwidth to prep ingredients, cook, and clean up afterwards for all three meals in a day, so I didn’t. I packed simple items for my lunch that required almost no prep work: a soy milk, a package of rice crackers, a cup of yogurt, an individual package of light Spam (random, I know, but it’s one of my favorite snacks), and a small container of fruit. It was so nice to not worry about my lunch for a few days. For dinner I might have some soy milk and a piece of fruit, or order something for delivery. Doing this helped me save not only time, but also my physical and mental energy so that when I came home after work, I was able to truly rest and recharge.

Tip #4: Actually Be Gentle, Literally

I did everything I could to make my life as cozy and gentle as possible. I dressed as comfortably as I could for work and would change into even comfier clothes once I got home. I would use only warm ambient lights and candles, and turned down the brightness of the screens on my devices. I treated myself to massages and hot pads. I listened to music softly, watched YouTube videos slowly (I usually watch everything at 1.5 speed to maximize time, which can sometimes overload my brain), I walked slowly, I ate slowly, and in general I moved slowly. I even took my time doing simple hygiene tasks like washing my hands, brushing my teeth, and applying my skincare, and moved deliberately and delicately as I did them. I was literally being gentle and soft in my body movements throughout the day. Treating my whole being as if I were shuffling about in soft bunny slippers felt so comforting and special during this time of rest.

Tip #5: Treat Yourself Like an Adult Kid

The whole point of taking all of these measures to preserve my energy and time was so that I could actually enjoy the time and energy saved. I watched light and funny sitcoms that required no mental effort to enjoy. I watched cartoons. I played games on my tablet. I watched my favorite vlogger’s videos. I ate what I felt like and even had a few small desserts. I listened to Disney songs. I hugged a stuffed animal. I even talked to myself, voicing my thoughts like “oh, whoops!” or “where’s the remote?” outloud as I did things around the house (this one sounds particularly silly but trust me, it is very comforting and kind of fun). If you want to sit in silence, or stick to “mature” activities, that’s fine too. But I really got so much enjoyment out of these little childish activities. They sparked joy in my heart and allowed me to look fondly on this time of self-care. I encourage you to go back to activities or interests from your childhood to bring yourself some comfort during your carefully protected free time. Maybe for you it’s coloring, or listening to the Spice Girls, eating childish foods (goldfish crackers, pudding cups, pb&j, etc) or watching an old anime. During this time, give yourself permission to enjoy life as your younger self, with no inhibitions.

My Results and Takeaways

After about 4 and a half days of no expectations, setting myself up for easy wins, avoiding cooking, moving gently, and being a kid again, I can honestly say I feel much better–mentally, physically, and emotionally. I was even able to reignite my motivation and inspiration to work harder on this blog and other arenas of my life going forward. I think I will start incorporating special self-care periods each month or even one day or evening each week if necessary, to really grant myself gentle, unburdened rest. I think periodically making time to rest will probably be a better solution than waiting for the stress and exhaustion to build up until I have no choice but to stop and rest.

I realize that I am in a really fortunate position which allowed me to even take this time for self-care in the first place. I have a stable job with a set schedule, I’m not a student with assignments or tests to prepare for, and I also don’t have any children or pets that require my care. However, if you do find yourself in more demanding circumstances than mine, I hope you are still able to make use of some of these tips when you are feeling overwhelmed. Remember to be gentle to yourself from time to time.

There are many ways to practice self-care, from maintaining a healthy diet and exercise regimine, to learning something new, to journaling out your feelings or talking to a mental health professional. But from time to time when life has you feeling a little stressed or overwhelmed, it’s okay to take a time-out and practice being gentle with yourself. I hope these tips will help you the next time you need to rest and recharge. Thanks so much for reading!

– Veronica

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