7 Free, Science-Approved Ways To Practise Self-Care This Festive Season

Relaxation doesn't have to come with a hefty price tag.

self-care
Image: Instagram @vobathco

Between Christmas shopping, a hectic workload and nosy relatives who ask ‘so, when are you getting married?’, there’s no doubt the holiday season can be uber stressful. It’s a time when practising self-care to keep your stress levels in check becomes even more essential than normal.

But when you’re pressed for time and cash, you can’t exactly just run out and get a massage or manicure as soon as you feel anxiety creeping in. You need to have effective self-care strategies in your arsenal that don’t require a huge investment of time or money. Here, we’ve rounded up seven FREE, science-approved self care activities to help you stay sane during the festive season.

1. Take a bath

Do not disturb. 😌 @dinnigancocks

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Nothing says ‘Please, don’t talk to me for an hour, I need some time to myself’ more than having a bath. Whether you listen to music, read a book, watch some Netflix or simply just relax, there’s no better way to calm both your mind and body. In fact, research shows that taking a bath is just as effective for stress relief as one hour of exercise. However, not just any old bath will do. Check out our guide to making bath time a super luxurious experience.

2. Tune in

‘Wow, listening to music to unwind — how groundbreaking!’ you may think. But hear us out — these 7 songs are scientifically proven to cause relaxation-inducing physiological changes in the body. Add them to your playlist (or find them conveniently in one place here) and feel your heart rate start to go down almost immediately.

3. Try earthing

There’s no doubt that getting out into nature is a fantastic self-care activity in itself. But to take it one step further, try earthing. That is, coming into direct contact with the earth. You can do this by kicking off your shoes and sitting on the grass or walking barefoot along the beach. In doing so, you absorb some of the earth’s negative charge, which is thought to neutralise the positively-charged electrons known as free radicals. Research shows that earthing helps to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system and improve cortisol levels, which reduces stress levels.

4. Get active

We know, the last thing you feel like doing when you’ve got a billion things to tick off before Christmas is working out. But research shows that exercising for as little as 30 minutes per day works wonders for keeping your stress levels in check. Very doable! The best part is, you don’t even need to hit the gym — check out these 7 YouTube workouts you can do in 20 minutes or less, from the comfort of your own home.

5. Meditate

It’s hard to beat meditation as a form of self-care; it’s free, it’s easy and most importantly, it actually works. Studies show that people who practise mindfulness meditation have significantly reduced stress hormone and inflammatory responses to stressful situations. That said, the whole ‘close your eyes and don’t think about anything for 20 minutes’ approach to meditation isn’t for everyone. To help determine which one is right for you, check out our guide to the different styles of meditation.

6. Cuddle a pet

You don’t need a scientific study to tell you that cuddling a furry friend is a seriously effective form of self-care. But just in case you wanted some solid evidence — research shows that people who pet-owners are generally happier. That said, not all of us are lucky enough to have a four-legged pal to hang out with during the festive season. Apps like BorrowMyPooch and Pawshake help you get around that dilemma, by letting you borrow a pup.

7. Write it out

Write like no-one’s watching…

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At this time of year, most of us are busy planning 2018 in our brand spankin’ new diaries. While it’s a great way to kickstart your motivation, it can leave you feeling overwhelmed. A great way to counteract this is by doing some freeform writing in a journal — whether it’s about your day, your feelings, the things you’re grateful for or anything that comes to mind, really. A study published in Behavior Modification showed that expressive writing can lead to significant decreases in generalised anxiety disorder symptoms, including worry and depression.