In the last year, self-care has become a big part of my daily routine. Self-care has become somewhat of a buzzword in the past years and consequently, there has been a huge market of self-care products you can buy under the header of taking care of yourself. These products have become so ubiquitous, that it almost becomes imperative to buy more things.
If we’re honest with ourselves, we know that self-care shouldn’t be about buying expensive skin products or investing all of your money into the latest obscure superfoods. It’s primarily a balancing act, where you have to ask yourself what you really need at that moment. The answer to that can vary greatly, from day to day.
But of course, there are simple items that can facilitate your self-care regardless of what the answer to your daily balancing act is. In this post, I would like to share some of my personal favorites and why they help me.
1. Yoga mat and bolster
As an avid yogini, I, of course, had to start with my yoga mat, which is one of my main self-care items. What I love about my yoga mat is that the mat itself is unbiased. It doesn’t dictate anything or prescribe a certain type of practice. If I feel like I need to get out of a rut, the mat facilitates a smooth and steady flow. On other days, when I need to give in and rest, my yoga mat allows me to sink into gravity during my shavasana. On such days, my bolster comes in handy too. Especially when I’m stressed and need to calm down, I love to lie back in supta baddha konasana, resting my upper body onto the bolster and placing my hands on my heart and belly.
2. Hot water bottle
Giving heat or warmth to the body has an almost magical effect. Whether it’s a hot bath, a visit to the sauna, or a warm cup of tea – warmth tends to provide nourishment. It’s interesting to me that when I have menstrual cramps (which, unfortunately, is still the sad reality of my menstrual cycle), even serious painkillers don’t work as well as a hot water bottle. But also when I feel anxious or need some extra comfort, a hot water bottle really helps to bring my awareness down from my mind to my belly. Placing a hot water bottle on your belly is also a great way to tune in to your emotions.
3. Eye mask
Since a year or so, I started sleeping with an eye mask. This naturally evolved from using an eye mask during my travels, as I have been on quite a bit of intercontinental flights and have always struggled to sleep on an airplane. Although I can still hardly sleep during a flight, I have noticed how much my eye mask helped me to calm down. This is probably because an eye mask reduces the sensory overload that many people experience when they are stressed out. Another reason why the eye mask helps me to calm down is that I have bought a soft and fluffy version. By now my brain has come to associate the eye mask with rest. Every time I wear it, I either calm down or fall asleep instantly.
4. Tarot cards
Tarot cards are a new item in my self-care routine. Sometime before I bought them, I thought that tarot cards were only meant for old ladies in long purple dresses who use the tarot to tell you that you will meet a tall, dark and handsome stranger. But as I read more about how they are used by people on a daily basis, I realized that tarot cards are really just an aid in a process of self-discovery. Tarot cards are not used to predict the future (although some people do use them that way) but are rather a way of showing you things you need to know about yourself. Every card has an amazing backstory infused with meaning, symbolism, and myth. Even if the cards somehow don’t relate to the question or issue you raise, you can still learn a beautiful lesson from them. I use my tarot cards as part of my morning routine or sometimes do a more elaborate spread, and they never fail to amaze me.
As may be clear from the mere fact that I have a blog, writing is important to me. It is something I have done for as long as I remember and something I always go back to. Journaling, in particular, has had a steady position in my self-care routine. I journal about four or five times a week and usually just write about whatever is on my mind. Whenever I’m going through something, I take out my journal to write down my feelings about the situation, or I write down notes on my phone or laptop. Even if I don’t know exactly what I feel, journaling helps. Sometimes the simple act of starting to write gives me more insight to carry on writing. The great thing about having a consistent journaling practice is that after a while, you can start seeing patterns in how you feel and act in certain situations.
6. Herbal tea
Even before I stopped drinking coffee every day, I fell in love with herbal tea. Having a hot cup of tea is similar to a hot water bottle, in the sense that it’s something warm and comforting to hold close to your body. But whereas a hot water bottle only warms you from the outside-in, herbs nourish you from the inside-out. I love the fact that there are so many herbs that have amazing benefits, such as the calming effect of camomille, or the warming effect of fresh ginger. In addition to drinking the tea, the act of making tea is a self-care practice in itself for me. It already starts with the question that should be the basis of every act of self-care: what do I need right now? When I crave tea, I check in with what my body and soul want and choose a type of tea accordingly.
7. Incense and essential oils
Earlier this year, I took a workshop on DIY cosmetics. This was the first time I learned to make use of the healing properties of essential oils. It is scientifically proven that the smell lavender helps calm down the nervous system. There are other essential oils with amazing effects as well. Vetiver helps to ground, peppermint boosts your energy, and frankincense can help relieve anxiety. Though I have no therapeutic experience with aromatherapy, I do notice that certain scents can uplift my mood. This is also why I have made a habit to burn incense every day. In many spiritual traditions, incense still plays a part in ritual. My friends from Hong Kong told me that you actually need to set an intention whenever you burn incense. I now use incense during a meditation or yoga practice, or with the intention to unwind in the evening.
Maybe this is not an item per se, but music is a hugely important part of my self-care. I think I’m the kind of person who likes many different types of music, as every genre has a different quality that can enhance or improve my mood. Post-rock makes me feel dreamy. Ambient, folk and neo-classical music help me relax. Indie and electronic music give me energy and joy. I listen to hip hop when I need some extra power, and like to burn off my frustration with noise rock or breakcore. Music gives me a home away from home, as listening to certain songs can help me ground. I can even get lost in entire worlds or experience all kinds of bodily sensations, simply by listening to music. It really is like therapy to me, which is why I make sure I can listen to music wherever I go.
I have written before about how much I have benefited from taking ashwagandha. Ashwagandha helps relieve my anxiety and makes me feel better in my body overall. But in addition to ashwagandha, there are some other supplements I take that improve my wellbeing. In terms of vitamins and minerals, I take extra vitamin B12, vitamin D, calcium, magnesium, and zinc. I also take a vegan omega-3 supplement and a special menstrual care supplement every day. On days when I feel like my digestive system needs some extra help, I take a probiotic. And in winter, or when my immune system is low, I take a herbal mix of echinacea and cat’s claw. This little cocktail of herbal and vitamin supplements really ensure that I feel good in my body and that my energy is generally quite high.
Last but not least: soap! I wrote an Instagram post about soap some time ago, but it bears repeating here as well. As may be clear from the things I mentioned above, I love warmth, soft textures and great scents (who doesn’t, though?). One place where all these things combine is in the shower. Not too long ago, I was a big fan of Weleda’s pomegranate shower gel. In terms of scents, it has some of my favorite things: sesame oil, pomegranate, and orange. But the plastic packaging really bothered me. So, starting this year, I have reintroduced the good old soap bar back into my house and I love it! Of course, I don’t just buy any bar of soap from the supermarket, but I make an effort to buy soap that doesn’t just smell good, but is organic and has natural ingredients as well. My favorite soaps are from Werfzeep, but I may be biased because I started working there a few hours a week.
I could probably list a few more things, but I’ll leave it at this for now. What are some of the self-care items you can’t live without?