The Free Self-Care Tool We've All Been Overlooking
When you’re feeling stressed, your instinct might be to reach for something to help—maybe a soothing face mask, a warm epsom salt bath, or a calming cup of chamomile tea.
Our quest for self-care has spawned so many products and services that we often associate self-soothing with things—and spending money on said things, even if it’s just a few bucks for a green juice.
If it works for you and your budget, keep at it. But if it doesn’t, it’s time to take advantage of the self-care tool you can access 24/7 for free: your body.
Your physical body can be a powerful soothing source, both in a moment of stress and over time.
It’s time to take advantage of the self-care tool you can access 24/7 for free: your body.
“While the mind can jump to the past and the future, your body is always in the present moment,” says tapping practitioner Deborah Flanagan, a hypnotist, reflexologist, Reiki practitioner, and founder of NYC’s Center for True Health. “Getting in touch with your body helps you feel grounded and centered.”
Research backs this up: A 2017 study linked deep breathing to lower cortisol levels, aka the body’s stress hormone. Other research shows that stretching, as practiced in yoga classes, may help regulate stress and improve a person’s response to pain. And tapping (also called Emotional Freedom Technique or EFT) is a newcomer in the world of equipment-free self-care with potentially similar benefits.
“EFT involves tapping on powerful acupuncture points while repeating a phrase about whatever you want to change or clear,” Flanagan says. “It’s based on the premise that every emotional upset causes an imbalance in the body.”
There has been less research done on tapping, but proponents, including Flanagan, say that the practice can help regulate your emotions and reduce stress.
Ready for your new equipment-free self-care routine? Here, a few ways you can start today.
To Shake Off Stress:
●︎ Put one hand on your stomach, where your diaphragm is located, and another on your chest—you should feel the hand on your diaphragm rising, while the one on your chest stays relatively still.
●︎ Breath in slowly, until your diaphragm is as full as possible. Hold for a beat. Then, breathe out slowly until you’re empty of air.
●︎ Pause, then repeat for a few more rounds. Don’t focus on how long each breath is, but rather how your body feels in the moment.
For a Confidence Boost:
If you find yourself dwelling on negative self-talk or a particular shortcoming, Flanagan suggests trying the below tapping routine.
●︎ Start by tuning into the problem (try naming the specific emotion, pain, or craving) and assessing the intensity level on a scale of 0 to 10.
●︎ Use your right pointer finger to tap on the soft, fleshy outside of your left hand (between your left thumb and left pointer finger). While you tap, state this phrase, filling in the blank with your problem: “Even though I have this ____, I completely accept myself and I’m willing to let it go.”
●︎ Continue repeating the phrase, replacing the end with, “I choose to let it go,” spending a few seconds tapping on:
●︎ Top of head
●︎ Inside of eyebrow
●︎ Side of eye
●︎ Under the eye
●︎ Under the nose
●︎ Collar bone
●︎ Under the arm on the bottom of the shoulder blade
●︎ Top of the hand between the pinky and ring finger
●︎ Inside of wrist
●︎ Once you’ve gone through both sides of the body, tune into the issue and reassess the intensity level.
●︎ If it’s not at a zero, do another round stating “Even though I still have some of this ___, I completely accept myself and choose to let go of the rest."
To Calm Nerves:
Feel nervous energy coursing through your body? Take a few minutes to breathe. “Bringing your awareness to the breath helps connect your mind to your body, helping you feel less overwhelmed,” Flanagan says. “This Balancing Breath comes from Kundalini yoga, and I often teach it to clients to use when you’re over-thinking or feeling anxious. It balances the left and right sides of the brain, [and] it’s great for reducing mental clutter.”
●︎ Slowly inhale and exhale through the nose.
●︎ Inhale and exhale through the mouth.
●︎ Inhale through the nose, exhale through the mouth.
●︎ Inhale through the mouth, exhale through the nose
●︎ Repeat for 3-7 minutes.
To Start the Day Energized:
For an energized morning, start your morning with a round of cat/cow poses—you can even do it while still in bed. The key here is breathing steadily throughout the flow. If you’ve taken a yoga class before, you’re likely familiar with this routine.
●︎ Start on your hands and knees in a tabletop position, with your shoulders above wrists and hips above knees. Make sure your hands and knees press firmly into the ground.
●︎ Inhale through your nose, dropping your belly toward the ground and letting your shoulders roll back. Gaze slightly up, toward where the wall meets the ceiling. This is cow pose.
●︎ Exhale through your nose as you lift your back, rolling shoulders forward and gazing toward the ground. This is cat.
●︎ Repeat for one or two minutes, moving into cat with each inhale and back to cow with each exhale. To build energy, move quickly between the two postures.
These are just a few of the many ways you can use breathing, tapping, and stretching as self-care tools. Next time you need a little self-soothing, try these exercises out and see what you think. Who knows: You might find it works better—and is easier on your wallet—then all the self-care products. Or, you might pair that face mask with some tapping, too.
Find what works for you—then get to self-carin', dear reader.