From a young age, we’re taught the importance of working hard and helping others. Some of us do so much for others, we forget to stop, take a moment and appreciate ourselves. Overworking ourselves might lead to accomplishments in the short term, but can quickly lead to burnout. As the saying goes, you can’t pour from an empty cup. Here are some ways you can practice self care throughout the day in short bursts, to make sure you’re feeling at your best and ready to help others.

Rest: We’re all Bad at It

We’re taught that slowing down to rest is bad. We need to constantly be “on” to keep up with our busy lives, prove ourselves and push forward in our careers. But when we go too long without rest, sometimes our body forces us to. Prolonged stress can make us physically sick or even manifest as debilitating migraines or a stress-related ulcer. If you don’t take time to rest, your body reaches a breaking point.

Instead of working through the weekend or planning a busy social schedule on your free days, schedule at least some of them for a full day of relaxation. This allows you to recharge and be fresh for the week ahead. Even fun stress, like a busy weekend out with friends, is taxing on the brain and body. There’s a time and a place for that as long as you’re prioritizing rest days, too. This includes rest days from exercise, which are necessary for muscles to heal and get stronger. Rest is one of the easiest forms of self care.

Music

We all find ourselves on some commute throughout our week. Whether it’s driving to work, taking the bus or riding your bike, create a playlist that puts you in a great mood and listen to it during these times. Maybe you feel best after listening to a motivational podcast, or throwback songs that bring back happy memories. Whichever it is, cue these up instead of turning to a random radio station where you aren’t in control. It’s a small thing that requires little effort but will boost your mood.

Get Those Steps In

The Mayo Clinic notes light exercise, like walking, to be one of the biggest stress management hacks. Walking 150 minutes a week lowers blood pressure, calms stress levels and increases endorphins, which are the brain’s feel-good neurotransmitters. Step counters like Fitbit, Apple Watch and even the BetterYou app are great tools when you’re trying to walk more and more each week.  The stress relief you get from prioritizing exercise is a simple way to get in extra self care.

Reward Yourself

Small rewards after completing goals and objectives is a great way to keep your motivation up. Try to adjust these based on your goals. If you’re trying to lose weight, rewarding yourself with food likely isn’t the way to go. Maybe instead, buy yourself a new fitness tracker or workout clothes. The same goes for financial rewards. If you’re trying to save money, don’t reward yourself with spending. Instead, do something you don’t have to pay for like watching your favorite movie or trying a fun recipe. 

One Mindful Breath

This one’s for the people who truly believe there’s not enough time in the day to care for yourself. Chade Meng Tan’s mindfulness teaching suggests that one mindful breath is all you need to start practicing mindfulness. Breathe in deeply, thinking of nothing other than that breath. Then breathe all the air out, feeling your shoulders drop and tension release from your entire body. After that one breath, you know you did something to prioritize your mental health and practice self care. And it only took around six seconds.