Now that winter is making days shorter, colder and darker, it’s more important than ever to make self-care part of your regular routine. And I’m not talking about the Instagram #selfcare that requires fancy bath bombs or expensive lotions. I’m talking about 21 easy ways you can get cozy and relaxed this winter — which is especially important if you have a chronic illness as I do! (Hello fibromyalgia and celiac disease!)
Some of these self-care ideas may seem obvious, but others may surprise you — and many of them are scientifically-backed ways to tackle stress. So regardless of how busy you may be this holiday season, check out these 21 ways you can add more self-care into your holly, jolly life.
1. Make yourself a warm, welcoming drink.
On cold winter days, it probably feels natural to reach for something cozy to warm you up. If you’re really looking for help relaxing, though, fill your mug with tea. Research has found that drinking tea can help lower people’s stress levels. Plus, it can be pretty dang delicious! (If you have celiac disease, just make sure it’s gluten-free).
2. Watch a sappy holiday-inspired show or movie.
Sometimes, we don’t need an award-winning movie or TV show to enjoy ourselves. At least a few times this winter, embrace your silly or sentimental side by watching a bad Hallmark movie or bingeing your favorite holiday baking show. (And if you eat chocolate while doing it, that’s obviously worth bonus points).
3. Go thrifting for cute and comfy winter clothes.
Updating your wardrobe for winter doesn’t have to hurt your wallet. Instead, make looking for comfy hats, mittens or scarves a fun adventure by hitting up your local second-hand store or shopping second-hand online!
4. Be your own masseuse.
Massage has been shown to reduce people’s physical tension and mental stress – and if you have a chronic illness or chronic pain like me, a good massage is always a good idea! You don’t need to hire a high-end masseuse to reap some of these benefits, either. Give yourself a massage instead by rubbing your own muscles while lotioning up after your shower or using a tennis ball or foam roller to break up any knots and tension. Pair this massage with a relaxing bubble bath and you have the makings of a perfect self-date night.
5. Set aside extra time to read a book, just for fun.
I know that winter can be a busy time with friends and family, but don’t forget to set aside some alone time in your schedule. Add a good book into the equation, and your quiet night in will be extra enjoyable.
6. Bake yourself something festive!
Besides getting to eat a delicious pumpkin or apple inspired treat, you’ll feel nice and cozy when your kitchen is warm from the oven and smelling like the holidays.
7. Walk it out (outdoors or at a local gym).
Depending on the weather where you live and how your body responds to colder temperatures, going for a walk outside might not be an option. Even if you have to go for a walk inside, though, your brain will still thank you. Research has found that exercise can drastically improve people’s mental health, and even just walking will lower how often people have “bad days.”
8. Take up a new indoor hobby.
And if being outdoors is really not an option, starting a new hobby that takes place indoors is ideal. Start putting together puzzles, learning how to cross-stitch…or even practicing rock-climbing, like I did last year! Who knows — you may end up finding a hobby that you love doing year-round.
9. Try out yoga.
I believe there’s no better escape for winter weather than a relaxing, mantra-and-stretch-filled session of yoga. And thanks to the magic of YouTube and online classes, you can do it from the comfort of your own living room!
10. Light one of your favorite candles.
More research still needs to be done on the benefits of aromatherapy, but science seems to suggest that certain scents can help us chill out. Find a scent you enjoy, like lavender or peppermint, and experiment with burning different candles and seeing which smells work best for you!
11. Purge your social media feeds.
You’ve heard of spring cleaning, but winter is another great time to set yourself up for a fresh start in the New Year. If you find yourself spending more time than ever on social media since it’s too cold or dreary to go outside, pay attention to how each account makes you feel and ditch the ones that aren’t doing you any favors.
12. Get crafty and let out your inner child.
Create a wreath to hang on your door, use colorful pens and papers to create homemade cards or just doodle in a notebook. These kinds of creative activities have been linked to improved mood and creativity the next day…plus, you might end up with some very cute gifts to give this Christmas. Win-win!
13. Pamper yourself with a face mask.
I’ve only started using face masks this last year, and the hype is worth it. My favorite is a simple mix of honey with cinnamon that I apply on “problem areas” for around 10-15 minutes before washing it off, but there are tons of safe (and even delicious!) face mask recipes you can find online. No fancy or expensive ingredients or products required. Plus, dry winter skin will definitely thank you for the extra TLC.
14. Dust off your crockpot and experiment with a new yummy recipe.
I know I’ve certainly been lax in using my crockpot lately, and it can be hard to feel motivated to start cooking dinner first thing in the morning. But your future self will definitely thank you for the little bit of prep you do earlier, and winter is the perfect time to whip up something warm and gooey.
15. Throw a pajama party.
Whether you have a solo party or enjoying socially distanced time with friends, spend a whole, blissful day hanging out in your PJs.
16. Do something nice for someone else.
Acts of kindness have actually been scientifically shown to improve people’s physical and mental health, so passing it forward this winter is actually a win-win. Donate to a local toy-drive, send a care package to a soldier or pay for the next person’s coffee in Starbucks. Little acts can have a big impact.
17. Start a gratitude practice.
If you’re the journaling type, you can start writing what you’re grateful for every day in a notebook. Otherwise, sticky notes or just thinking about two things you’re grateful for each morning or night will still give you a positivity boost!
18. Set aside time to play your favorite “pointless” game.
Whether it’s Sudoku, Words With Friends or a video game you used to play for hours every day in high school, give yourself permission to just sit back and play for a little while. I know that during most of the year, I’m a major multi-tasker and anytime I do get to play a game, it’s because I’m traveling or waiting to start another chore. So chillin’ (pun intended) with my gamer self during winter is one of my favorite ways to relax.
19. Declutter at least one part of your house.
Along with purging your social media feeds, on days when cold weather keeps you in the house, you might try purging cluttered corners as well. Decluttering can not only improve concentration, but it can also improve your mood, lower your stress levels and give you a better night’s sleep. And if you play your latest Netflix binge, favorite podcast or an epic holiday playlist in the background, you can make decluttering feel a lot more fun too.
20. Stretch yo’ body.
At least for me, finding the motivation for a hard workout feels a lot harder when it’s cold, dark and dreary outside. So on days when you feel like you’re in a funk but don’t feel up for a full workout, do some gentle stretches (even in the comfort of your own bed!) instead. It can loosen up your muscles, slash your stress and might even help you be more productive at work.
21. Choose a mantra for the upcoming year.
Obviously, you shouldn’t spend all winter pining for spring…but it can’t hurt to spend a little time reflecting on what you want from the upcoming months. In 2018, my word or mantra of the year was “discomfort.” In 2019, it was “open” and in 2020, it was “change.” And while I haven’t decided exactly what word I want to keep in mind during the start of 2021, I think something similar to “flexibility” will end up winning.
What do you want to get out of this Spring? You still have some cold weeks to help you figure out your answer!
The Bottom Line of Self-Care During Winter
As the days get colder and our social schedules get busier, it’s easy to let self-care fall to the bottom of our to-do list. I know from personal experience, though, that you can’t run on empty… and when you better yourself through self-care, you’re also empowering yourself to be a better friend, family member, and person overall!
How are you taking care of yourself this winter? Give me more of your own self-care ideas in the comments below!