What comes to mind when you think of self care? Do you picture luxurious bubble baths with champagne and a good book? Do you think of face masks? Of therapeutic yoga sessions? Of afternoons spent watching movies with friends, or running around with your kids in the park? Of glorious moments where your worries and responsibilities cease to be of importance?
Or do you think of all of those things, and then go ‘well, I don’t have time for that’?
As I have learned about and experimented with different types of self care, it has come to my attention that most of the self are activities that get all the attention are fairly time-consuming. A luxurious bubble bath can take a whole evening. Most movies are one and a half to two hours long. Yoga sessions can take several hours, once one adds the time it takes to transport oneself to a studio and back, to take a shower afterwards, etc. If we happen to be able to set aside the time it takes to do these sorts of activities, they all have the potential to be great forms of self care. However, as necessary as self care is for maintaining good physical and mental health, many of us simply do not have the hours needed to administer such time-consuming forms of it.
Fortunately, not all self care take hours to do, and there are some fantastic acts of self care that take only minutes to complete, and can be done just about anywhere. Here are ten self care acts that take five minutes or less.
Brush your teeth
Personally, I do not enjoy brushing my teeth. I find it boring to stand there and work a brush around my mouth, trying to get it right to the back without activating my gag reflex. However, the two minutes of boredom are well worth it afterwards, because that clean feeling in my mouth makes me feel less foggy, more refreshed, and more awake than I felt before. A lot of self care is about revitalising, so that you feel refreshed and ready to tackle the next challenge that is thrown your way. So if you are feeling tired and foggy, but only have two minutes to spare, try running a toothbrush along your pearly whites.
Shave/Do some quick skin care
I happen to be a cis-gendered woman who grows a not-insubstantial amount of facial hair. While this fact does not bother me much these days (a testament to the power of radical body love), I do prefer a beard-free look, so I shave fairly regularly. I used to shave in the shower, my attitude being that I wanted to get it done as quickly as possible. Within the past few months I have started turning this necessary part of my grooming into a fun, relaxing little ritual. It only takes about five minutes, and I leave with a clean-shaven face and a sense of inner peace, because I have taken a little bit of time to take care of myself. If you do not need or want to shave your face, try taking five minutes to do some basic facial skin and/or beard care instead.
Make yourself a drink
When I was working a stressful 9-6 job, I often needed to step away for a few minutes to collect my thoughts. When such a time came, I would grab my mug and a teabag, take myself to the kitchen, and make a cup of tea. Making a hot (tea, coffee, hot chocolate) or cold (iced tea, cordial, juice with ice) drink takes a couple of minutes at most, and it is a great way to keep your hands busy while your mind and spirit take a breather from whatever is going on elsewhere. Plus, you have a tasty beverage at the end of it.
We are all told as children about the importance of ‘going outside’ and ‘getting some fresh air’. Admittedly, this was probably normally said to get us off the couch and into the backyard, but there is still some truth to the sentiment. Outside air and sunshine have been shown, both anecdotally and scientifically, to be excellent for overall health and well-being, so it stands to reason that taking a few minutes to go outside, look at the trees, feel the sunshine on our skin, and take deep breaths of outside air, will do wonders to refresh us.
Meditation has been popular in the Western world since the flower children of the 60’s first got into it, but it has made something of a resurgence in recent years as, among other things, a great way to practice self care. While the stereotypical view of meditation is that it takes several hours to do, there are some excellent guided meditation videos on YouTube that take just five minutes to listen through. Best of all, you can do these five-minute meditations anywhere, provided you have a pair of headphones and somewhere to sit down.
Watch a Cat Video
Of course, sometimes the best thing we can do to take care of ourselves is find something that will make us laugh, cry, or feel warm and fuzzy at its cuteness. I am lucky enough to be surrounded by my four cats most days, so if I am feeling the need to look at something cute, I can always leave my desk, find a cat, and spend a few minutes petting it. But if I do not have a cat nearby, a quick video search will take me to an appropriately adorable cat video. If you are not a cat person, search for a cute or funny video that does tickle your fancy.
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When we are stressed, anxious, or sitting in the same position for hours on end, our muscles get tight, cramped, and sore. When this happens, there are few things that are as beneficial for us than to take a couple of minutes to stretch those muscles out. If you are not a seasoned stretcher, there are plenty of five minute stretch guides available online. Here is an excellent guide for stretches that can be done at an office desk.
Lying down is something we all naturally want to do when we feel tired, because it is the closest we can get to falling asleep without falling asleep (although, sometimes, we might accidentally do that!). But a quick lie down can actually be beneficial. For one thing, that straight, horizontal position can be a welcome change for your body if you are normally hunched over a desk during your waking hours. For another, lying down and looking up at the ceiling, or a wall, or something else that you do not normally spend a lot of time looking at, gives your mind a chance to regroup. There is a reason why a lot of psychology patients are instructed to lie down, after all.
Do a Five-Minute Drawing Challenge
One important thing to bear in mind about self care is that our self care needs can differ depending on our situation. Sometimes it is helpful for us to step away from complex activities and let our minds wander naturally. Other times we might need to spend a few minutes focusing intensely on one thing. During these times, one act of self care I find helpful is the five-minute drawing challenge. To do this, find a nearby item (a pen, a bottle, a lamp, headphones, etc.), place it on a table, grab a pencil and a piece of paper, and spend five minutes trying to sketch that object as accurately as possible. Your efforts might look completely disastrous at the end, but that is not important. The point of this exercise is to focus. When the five minutes are up, I feel like my mind is sharper and I am more ready to tackle whatever challenge lies ahead.
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Do 20 Star Jumps
Many self care acts are about resting and relaxing, but sometimes the best thing we can do for ourselves is to stimulate ourselves. When this is the case for me, my preferred form of self-care is to hop on the treadmill and run. But when I don’t have the time or equipment available for that, a short and simple exercise like star jumps does the job almost as well. With each star jump, I can feel my body utilising any nervous energy I might have gathered during my day. My muscles are working, my blood is pumping, and when I am done I feel tired, sweaty, and blissfully free.
As essential as self care is for our health and well-being, many of us are not able to spend large chunks of time engaging in self-care practices. Fortunately, self care does not have to be time-consuming, and there are plenty of ways in which you can engage in effective self care when you only have a couple of minutes to spare.
[Featured Image: A close up photo of a person’s eye. They have a green eye and dark hair. The background is green. Source: pexels.com]
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