Self-care habits — from basic hygiene to spending time in nature — can help you reduce stress.

When you experience stress, it’s tempting to shut down or put yourself last. It seems easier to focus on others rather than prioritize your needs, even when you need care and self-love.

Taking the time to nurture yourself can make all the difference when it comes to stress. Self-care is a habit that will serve you when your stress levels are high. It’ll also make you more resilient when stress hits in the future.

These self-care strategies and ideas for times of stress will help you overcome the temptation to keep grinding away when you feel depleted or burned out.

Self-care is taking care of your mental and physical health to feel your best. It’s not selfish or a once-in-a-while splurge. It’s consistent activities that help prevent stress, burnout, and anxiety.

Self-care involves everything regarding health, including physical activity, creative pursuits, and human connection. It also includes seeking medical attention when necessary. Taking steps to manage stress is a form of self-care.

Self-care can help you handle the following situations:

  • work
  • the pace of your life
  • technology
  • lack of time
  • feeling lonely
  • inability to unwind or slow down

Types of self-care

You might envision bubble baths and beauty masks when thinking of self-care ideas for stress. There’s much more to it than that, though.

You can incorporate self-care into your life in many ways. Types of self-care include:

  • emotional: acknowledging and processing emotions
  • practical: finding ways to decrease stressors in your life
  • physical: maintaining or improving physical health
  • mental: engaging your mind with something positive, such as creative expression
  • social: fostering and enjoying healthy relationships
  • spiritual: connecting with your inner being

The best self-care ideas for stress allow you to take a break from your daily responsibilities. Self-care allows you to rest your body and recuperate your soul. You can turn to your favorite activities or immerse yourself in something new.

1. Tap into your changing needs and desires

Self-care is personal. Some people love doing yoga or spending an hour on a crossword puzzle. Some people don’t.

Also, remember that super stressful periods of life typically involve shifts in your needs, wants, and expectations you set for yourself or your family. It’s typical for these to keep evolving.

Consider checking in with yourself periodically to find out what self-care activities would most nurture you. A few specific questions to think about include:

  • What do you feel deprived of?
  • What do you need less of?
  • What do you want to do right at this moment?

2. Carve out weekly time for your favorite hobbies

You can become so immersed in hobbies you experience a flow state, where you’re in the zone and aren’t thinking about your stressors.

Think about the hobbies you don’t feel like you have enough time for or loved as a child. Schedule a nonnegotiable time to do them once a week. Better yet, if they’re group activities, reach out to friends or join a league so that you’re more accountable to your self-care calendar.

3. Be mindful of social media usage

According to a 2018 study, frequent social media use increases:

If you notice that you experience these issues, consider scrolling less on your phone. You can deactivate your social media for a few days or unfollow accounts that cause negativity.

4. Take care of your basic needs

Self-care involves taking care of your basic physical and emotional needs. If you aren’t fulfilling these needs, the stress in your life can become overwhelming. Make sure to:

  • eat a nutritious and balanced diet
  • move your body
  • drink plenty of water
  • get enough rest
  • shower and put on fresh clothes
  • skin care, like putting on sunscreen
  • dental hygiene

5. Spend time with friends and family

Talking on the phone or sending text messages with your loved ones is nice, but it’s sometimes not enough. Spending time in person with your friends and family can decrease stress and help you feel better.

Even scheduling a Zoom call or online game session together will deepen the connection.

6. Face down your ongoing stressor

You know what causes you daily stress — maybe to the point that you avoid it, or it’s been on your “to-do” list for months. For example, financial issues can cause lots of stress, and getting them under control and planning for the future is an act of self-care.

You’re set on finances, but a messy house or scheduling long overdue doctor’s appointments is setting off your stress? Consider planning to tackle whatever it is and getting it done — whether cleaning one room a day or organizing your junk drawer.

7. Soak up nature

Research shows that spending just 20 minutes in nature can reduce stress and promote healing. It helps you disconnect from the stressful aspects of your day and embrace the beauty all around you.

Spending time in nature helps you experience the sense of something greater than yourself. With this realization, you can focus on the important things in your life. You may want to go on a hike, sit on a bench in a park, or simply sip your coffee on your balcony.

8. Ask for help

This strategy involves taking overwhelming or depleting activities off your plate. A few practical strategies for lightening your load include:

  • delegate to others — at work and at home
  • prioritize tasks
  • decide what doesn’t need to be done and take them off your list
  • tap into family, friends, or colleagues for help
  • hire someone, like a dog walker or house cleaner, to free up self-care time

If you still find yourself unable to manage this stressful time in your life, consider reaching out to a therapist for support and tools.

Self-care is personal, and what you do for yourself might be different than what others do. Remember to focus on doing the things that make you feel fulfilled. Self-care involves anything that brings peace and understanding to your life.

Try to start small by implementing one idea at a time, then adding more as you see fit. The self-care activities that most speak to you might change over time, so keep checking in with yourself.

Even if you feel rejuvenated, consider keeping self-care time on your calendar. You’ll be less likely to feel overwhelmed by stress when it hits in the future.