What’s your 2023 self-care strategy?

woman relaxing and listening to music on sofa, self-care concept

For many folks, the pandemic brought an increased level of awareness about mental health and the importance of managing it. As someone who has struggled with generalized anxiety disorder since I was a kid, managing my own mental health is never far from mind. There was even a time when it in many ways controlled my life. Although medications can be incredibly helpful for these conditions, for me they were a temporary solution that actually led to rebound anxiety in the long run. But I am happy to report that these days, self-care and a better work-life balance have helped prove pivotal in helping me manage the condition.

After all that we’ve been through over the past few years between the pandemic, all of the inflation, and some of the frightening news we’ve borne witness to, one commitment we could all make is to take better care of ourselves in the coming year. Not only does it make us better parents for our kids, but it teaches them the value of prioritizing their own self-care – an essential life skill in an era when kids are suffering from anxiety at unprecedented rates.

Even if you don’t do new year’s resolutions, one of the easiest things you can do is make a personal commitment to pencil in a little “me time.” While everyone’s needs are different, here are a few of the things that I do or have done to manage my anxiety day-to-day. 

1. I quit my day job.

By far the best thing I have ever done for anxiety management was to leave my job and go freelance. I realize this isn’t a viable solution for everyone, but switching jobs to a far less stressful one could be a good goal to have in sight. For years, I realized I was spending more of my waking hours with my coworkers than with my family, at least on work days, and it felt like it was eating away at my life. I was also sleep-deprived and felt that I had no time to look for better options, a condition that was keeping me trapped in that situation.

Although I initially took a pay cut when I left my job, rearranging my life gave me the flexibility and time to look into other options and eventually move into the full-time freelance position I have now writing for Looper. If you feel like your job is part of the problem, making a dramatic change could go a long way in changing the way you live overall. 

2. I treat sleep very seriously.

Between anxiety and back pain, getting to sleep and staying that way can be something of a challenge for me. But I’ve learned that certain rituals can help me keep my mind calm and clear, and that has been a game-changer. My sleep routine involves putting on a very quiet, boring audiobook from LibriVox and dropping the audio speed to 75% – listening to someone else’s voice keeps my own inner voice from hyperfocusing on all of the what-ifs and ruminations that used to keep me up at night.

I also use a weighted blanket and sleep with a strategically-placed pillow to help with my back pain. If your mind won’t shut off at bedtime, shaking up your bedtime routine could make all the difference. 

3. I don’t fault myself for opting out.

Do you have a problem with agreeing to do everything you’re asked? I do – to the point that it’s actually caused problems in my relationships in the past. I struggle with overextending myself or even offering to do things with or for others when I don’t really have the bandwidth for it. But over the past few years, I’ve had to learn to give myself permission to admit I’ve taken on too much or I need a time out.

Sometimes, this looks like taking an afternoon just to paint my nails, play Fallout 4, or catch up on my favorite shows. And other times, it means being comfortable with the idea of a last-minute cancellation or no-show. Although some folks might be less-than-understanding, my closest friends and family don’t need an explanation, and they’re just happy to know I’m taking time out when I need it. 

4. I listen to music.

Anyone who has ever wallowed in a break-up with a sad love song mixtape knows that music can be incredibly impactful when it comes to managing your mood. And thanks to platforms like YouTube, it’s easier than ever to create a perfect playlist for every occasion. While I am typing during the day, I listen to channels like Lofi Girl, and I have my own curated playlists for everything from cleaning to mid-day dance breaks. 

5. I take technology breaks.

Although I don’t have set work hours, I spend at least a few hours every day typing on my laptop to churn out all of the content I write every week, and it’s easy to get into the habit of constantly checking my phone throughout the work day. And when I am not typing, I have to consume an awful lot of television since I write for a TV and movie website – all of which adds up to way too much screen time.

But even if you don’t have a job that keeps you tied to a screen, we could all benefit from less time in front of a screen. I have gotten into the habit of putting down my phone altogether for a little while every day so that I can physically engage in my environment whether I’m going for a walk, cleaning house, getting into some craft project, or jamming out to The Weeknd

No matter what your plans for 2023 include, it’s a good idea to factor in a plan for self-care. And since every person’s self-care needs look different, it’s also a good idea to spend some time thinking about what that plan should look like. No matter how you make time for yourself and your family in the coming year, here’s wishing you a healthy, happy, and prosperous future in your nebula.

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