33 Self Care Ideas for Stress Relief
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Self care is not selfish.
It's essential - no matter who you are or what you've got going on in your life - especially if you've got a lot going on.
And it's not just about bubble baths and bath bombs. Self care is good for the mind, body and soul.
Here's a list of 33 self care ideas for stress relief broken down into 3 categories - mental self care, physical self care and spiritual self care.
I hope you find something new to add to your self care Sunday routine!
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Mental Self Care
1. Brain dump
Most of us have so many things to take care of day in and day out that it can become overwhelming.
It’s hard to keep track of all those little things you have to do or want to do or have been meaning to do, especially if they’re all just swirling around in your head!
Something that helps me with this is one of the best self care ideas for stress relief - the simple but almighty brain dump.
Getting all those thoughts and “to-do’s” down on paper really helps to clear the mind and feel in control of your life.
Here’s a post on how to do a brain dump. There are also brain dump worksheets available in the Freebie Library for download to help you.
2. Creative expression
If you want to be happier and less stressed, have a hobby or some sort of creative outlet.
Doing something that is challenging yet enjoyable presents an opportunity for “flow”.
You know you’re in a state of flow when you’re “in the zone” -you lose track of time and become completely immersed in what you’re doing.
Many refer to this flow state as the secret to happiness. Experiencing flow will also allow the parts of your brain that become consumed with stress and worry to relax. This in turn allows other parts of the brain – the ones that are involved in problem-solving and creativity – to function better.
3. Declutter your home
Our brains aren’t the only things we have to clear out. We also have to declutter our physical environment.
Mess causes stress.
It can be hard to concentrate when there’s clutter all around you. And if you’re not able to concentrate, you either don’t get your work done or it takes you way longer than it should.
And that’s frustrating. So, another self care idea for stress relief is decluttering and cleaning your space.
4. Social media detox
How often do you take some time away from social media?
While it has its benefits, social media can be a stressful environment.
Most of us don’t even realize how much time we are spending on social media, watching TV, browsing the internet, etc.
Try keeping track of how much time you are spending on those things each day. There is a time tracker worksheet in the Freebie Library to help you.
I wound up doing a 3-month digital detox a few years ago and it literally changed my life.
Of course, yours doesn’t have to be that long! It can be for a weekend, a night, or even a few hours during the day.
5. Read a book or watch a movie/TV show
When’s the last time you read a book?
Reading (especially fiction novels) is one of the most effective forms of stress relief because it transports you to another time and place, allowing you to temporarily escape from all your problems.
Not only that, but you learn a lot from reading so it doubles as a self-improvement exercise!
Reading can also be coupled with other things on this list like the social media detox or drinking tea.
If you’re not a fan of reading, how about watching a movie or having a little bit of a Netflix binge? 🙂
It’s the same principle – becoming immersed in someone else’s story helps you to not be so focused on your own.
Sometimes, when you take your mind off a problem, you come up with better solutions.
So, give yourself a break! Take some time to unwind with a movie or a show.
6. Plan goals
“If you don’t know where you’re going, you might wind up someplace else.”
This self care idea for stress relief goes hand in hand with the brain dump.
Once you get everything out on paper, then you can see what your priorities are.
When you know what your priority goals are, then you can begin working towards them. This requires forethought and planning.
Having a plan in place where you complete mini goals over time until your big goal is accomplished helps to minimize stress associated with overwhelm and increases your chances of actually accomplishing your goal.
There are goals worksheets in the Freebie Library to help you with setting and reaching your goals.
Being mindful is not something that requires any extra time.
There are plenty of ways to incorporate mindfulness into your everyday life.
Showering, doing the dishes, cleaning, going for a walk – these are all opportunities to be mindful.
Mindfulness is one of the best self care ideas for stress relief because when you remain present, you are unencumbered by thoughts about the past or the future.
And anxiety is usually caused by rumination (obsessing over past behavior) or catastrophization (obsessing over what could go wrong in the future).
Studies show that mindfulness reduces stress, physical pain, and depressive symptoms.
So, find little pockets of time to be mindful throughout your day and watch all areas of your life improve.
8. Take breaks
It’s really important to take breaks during your work day, no matter what kind of work you are doing.
(But if you work from home, this especially applies to you!)
During your break, you can incorporate some other self care ideas like drinking water and stretching.
How many breaks should you take during the work day? More than you might think!
One study found that the ratio of 52 minutes of work to 17 minutes of break time is ideal for productivity and efficiency.
Sometimes, we experience stress because we’re not living in alignment with our core values.
We know deep down that something is not right but for some reason, we continue old habits that do not lead to fulfillment.
So, take some time to get to know yourself -the real you, not the one society or your mom or your husband or your friends tell you that you should be.
Here is a list of 71 insightful questions to ask yourself. (This is also available as a PDF download in the Freebie Library, as well as a list of 100 core values).
10. Learn a new skill/research
Fear often stems from the unknown.
If we don’t understand something, we’re likely to be scared of it. And that fear can really hold us back.
When all we really need to do is educate ourselves.
Especially nowadays with the internet, we can learn about/ how to do anything.
So, if there’s something you’ve been wanting to do but you need a certain skill in order to be able to do it – research it and learn as much as you can.
Or if there is something you want but you can’t afford it, see how you can make it for yourself. I can’t tell you how many times I wound up doing this!
I always wind up saving money and having a better product than I could have gotten had I bought it.
33 Self Care Ideas for Stress Relief
Physical Self Care
Yoga changed my life.
Since I started practicing yoga regularly, I am less stressed, less reactive, more in tune with my body, and more spiritually attuned.
It’s one of the best self care ideas for stress relief. Some of the top yoga poses for stress relief include: child’s pose, cobra, cat/cow, legs up the wall, and downward facing dog.
Stretching is another excellent self care idea for stress relief as well as an important exercise for our bodies.
During your breaks throughout the day, stretch your body and take deep breaths.
Another stress relief technique you can try is progressive muscle relaxation (PMR).
Start by sitting comfortably or lying down somewhere quiet. Inhale as you tense up one muscle group for 5-10 seconds. Exhale while releasing the tension.
Continue until you have targeted all muscle groups, including your face.
Instructions on how to do this relaxation technique -and 4 others- are available in the Freebie Library.
Share this & help someone else!
13. Drink water (&tea)
Your body needs water to function properly.
Many of us are dehydrated and we don’t even realize it. If you feel irritable, fatigued, or you suffer from headaches, you may not be drinking enough water.
We need to drink around eight 8 oz. glasses of water per day, but that amount varies depending on weight, lifestyle, and other factors.
So, make sure you’re drinking enough water throughout the day, especially if you work outside.
Another self care idea for stress relief is drinking tea. I’ve found that Yogi Kava Tea (paid link) is effective in calming me down and putting me in a more peaceful state of mind.
As I mentioned earlier, you can combine this ritual with reading or other self-care ideas in this article.
14. Eat healthy foods
Eating well is a healthy habit that’s important for every single aspect of life and one of the best self care habits to have.
Your body and mind work off of the nutrients that you provide. If you’re not getting the nutrients you need, you will not function optimally.
So, one of the best things you can do for yourself is make sure that you are eating enough fruits and vegetables, simple as that.
A master list of the best and worst foods for anxiety is available in the Freebie Library to help you.
Exercising goes with eating healthy foods like peanut butter and jelly.
If you’re exercising and eating healthy, you’ll be less stressed, more energized and motivated, and healthier overall.
There are many types of exercise so see what works best for you. Maybe you like weight lifting or bike riding or interval workouts or HIIT workouts or hiking or dancing or pilates.
As long as you’re active, it’s all good for you.
16. Mindful shower
Hydrotherapy is an often-overlooked self care idea for stress relief.
The use of water for the treatment of disease dates back to the ancient Greeks and remains a part of many holistic therapy systems to this day.
Taking a shower or bath has the following benefits:
-decreases the stress hormone cortisol
-helps balance serotonin
-calms the fight or flight response
-stimulates the immune system
-improves circulation, digestion and blood flow
-assists in detoxification, and
-relaxes the muscles and organs
Try being mindful while taking your shower or bath. Imagine that you are washing away all your worries as you watch the water go down the drain.
17. Bath salts
Consider adding a bath bomb, bath salts, or a shower melt to your bath/shower for the added benefit of aromatherapy.
Just make sure they are made with stress-relieving essential oils like lavender, lemongrass and peppermint, which provide a wealth of health benefits. Many commercial bath & beauty products contain toxic ingredients that you don't want to be putting on your skin.
Ingredients like Epsom salt, dead sea salt, and pink Himalayan salt also help to get rid of toxins, improve blood circulation, ease muscle pain, aid in proper metabolism functioning, and balance pH levels.
Getting enough sleep is absolutely vital for every other bodily function.
As with water intake, if you’re not getting enough sleep it can lead to irritability, poor decision making, fatigue, and other undesirable side effects.
It’s recommended that adults get between 7-9 hours of sleep each night so make sure you are getting enough rest.
Keeping your teeth healthy isn’t the only benefit of regular brushing and flossing.
Studies also link periodontal disease to an increased risk of heart disease.
This habit prevents cavities and gum disease, which can help you to avoid the stress associated with expensive dental bills and office visits.
20. Personal hygiene
In addition to brushing and flossing, it is important to have good hygiene.
Some healthy hygiene habits include taking regular showers, making sure your skin is moisturized, and taking care of your hair and nails.
21. Comfortable clothes
Wearing comfortable clothes is probably not what comes to mind when you think of self care, but it’s actually one of the self care ideas I embrace the most!
I think we underestimate how important it is to be comfortable. Pinching, digging, or otherwise uncomfortable clothes/shoes can take a toll on your mental well-being, especially if you are an HSP or empath.
If it’s not possible for you to dress as comfortably as you’d like during the workday, make sure to do so when you get home.
Wear things that aren’t restrictive and choose fabrics that feel good on your body.
Did you know that gardeners live longer than non-gardeners by up to 14 years?
According to National Geographic author, Dan Buettner, life expectancy is longer in certain places called “blue zones” due to certain lifestyle factors.
Gardening helps us to get vitamin D, exposes us to helpful bacteria, minerals and microorganisms in the dirt, and provides an opportunity for earthing (touching the earth with bare skin). Not to mention the benefits that come from the physical activity itself.
And if you’re gardening your own fruits and vegetables, you also get to enjoy Non-GMO food that you grew yourself.
33 Self Care Ideas for Stress Relief
Spiritual Self Care
23. Burn a beeswax candle
Burning a candle is one of the best self care ideas for stress relief.
But not just any candle … a beeswax candle.
There are so many benefits of beeswax candles. First, they produce negative ions which help to cleanse the air and eliminate dust, dander and mold.
And unlike soy or paraffin candles, beeswax candles do not produce toxic smoke or soot.
Which makes them an excellent choice for people with asthma or allergies.
Another reason why I love beeswax candles is that the yellow wax produces a soothing golden glow when it burns.
Additionally, beeswax candles have a natural light honey scent unlike soy or paraffin candles which often include overpowering, chemical-containing fragrances.
24. Experience awe
Experiencing awe has been linked to better health, happiness and overall well-being.
By helping you to focus your attention outward, experiencing awe helps to alleviate anxiety associated with being self-critical, particularly in social situations.
It puts things in perspective – all of a sudden, that faux pax you made doesn’t seem so monumental when compared to the Northern Lights!
When we experience awe, we are humbled, and therefore more grateful. And when we are more grateful, we live happier, more fulfilled lives.
25. Time in nature
Spending time in nature is one of the most therapeutic things you can do.
I always feel like my mind is clearer and my soul is uplifted when I come back from a long walk outside.
People who regularly spend time outdoors have lower heart rates, lower levels of cortisol, and are less likely to suffer from depression.
And just 20 minutes is enough to reduce your stress levels.
Similar to mindfulness, meditation helps ground you in the present.
It’s a self care practice that not only reduces stress but also makes you more resilient to stress.
For just a few minutes a day, sit comfortably, focus on your breathing and gently push away any thoughts that come into your mind.
The goal is to acknowledge but not pass judgment on your thoughts.
Observe them, let them go and just be.
27. Gratitude exercises
… Which brings me to the next self care idea for stress relief – gratitude exercises.
There are so many things to be grateful for, but sadly we can lose sight of those simple things in our modern, fast-paced, technology-driven lives.
But given the multitude of benefits to be gained from gratitude, it pays to put some focused effort into expressing gratitude regularly.
Some exercises that help me are gratitude journal prompts, gratitude walks, the gratitude jar activity, and the gratitude rock activity (available in the Freebie Library).
Gratitude Journal Prompts
Journaling is not only for expressing gratitude.
It can also be a way to express your innermost feelings and thoughts, which is particularly helpful when it comes to stress reduction.
I don’t know about you, but I used to have a journal when I was younger (complete with a lock and key!)
I used to share my thoughts, hopes, triumphs, struggles and failures with that diary.
But somehow, as I got older, the entries grew farther and farther apart until I no longer confided in my diary.
If you have a similar story, consider making journaling a habit again.
There are numerous benefits to journaling, including stress reduction, increased self-awareness, and a more positive outlook on life.
29. Inspirational content
Sometimes, stress comes from knowing that you have to do something but not doing it.
Procrastination and putting things off only wears on your subconscious – your brain knows you have left something unfinished and you will not have peace until you complete it.
Of course, it’s not possible to remain motivated 100% of the time. Motivation naturally waxes and wanes depending on your situation, mood, health, etc.
Research shows that aromatherapy provides many benefits, including relief from anxiety and depression, improved sleep and overall quality of life, and reduced pain.
They have been shown to have positive effects on the immune system, central nervous system, and limbic system.
Essential oils like lavender, lemongrass and peppermint reduce stress by stimulating smell receptors in the nose which then send messages to the parts of the brain that control emotions.
Essential oils can be used in room spray, candles, bath bombs, bath salts, or even applied to the skin if properly diluted with carrier oil.
Be aware that the effectiveness of aromatherapy depends largely upon the quality of essential oil you choose. I stick to USDA-certified organic, therapeutic grade essential oils for all my self care products.
In many cases, listening to music changes brain function “to the same extent as medication”, according to a Stanford Department of Music scholar.
Few things parallel music’s powerful ability to evoke emotion.
Certain frequencies – 432 Hz and 528 Hz – produce healing energy which helps to repair DNA, release emotional blockages and promote relaxation.
Listening to music can also be combined with other self care ideas like taking a bath or doing yoga for added benefits.
32. Acts of kindness
According to an assistant professor of psychiatry at Yale University School of Medicine, performing random acts of kindness helps reduce stress.
In a study published in the Clinical Psychological Science journal, she and other researchers found that helping behaviors blunts the negative effects of stress on a person’s well-being.
Those who performed more than one or two acts of kindness per day saw the most benefit. Whereas those who had lower amounts helping behaviors had lower positive emotion and higher negative emotion in response to high daily stress.
So, while performing acts of kindness helps others, it’s also an effective stress reliever – win-win!
When’s the last time you simply did nothing?
I used to think doing nothing meant I was being lazy but now I realize that doing nothing is essential to well-being.
We can become so consumed with being productive and “hustling” that we forget to let our minds rest.
People are constantly vying for your attention – and they all have their own agenda.
One of the basic principles of self care is that you have to set boundaries and be able to say no.
If you find yourself heading towards burnout, remember that you cannot pour from an empty cup.
You must take care of yourself before you can take care of anybody else.
So, ask yourself which things are truly most important to you and which things you can let go of to make room for doing nothing – a vital component of self care.
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