Asian woman in athletic gear meditating

Self-care may be an overused term, but it’s also one of the most underrated. More than just a spa day or physical pampering, it means attending to your emotional needs and well-being. Emotional self-care is often neglected in the thick of things, but the new year presents an opportunity to get into the habit.

According to the , self-care is “the ability of individuals, families, and communities to promote health, prevent disease, maintain health, and cope with illness and disability with or without the support of a health worker.” It’s neither frivolous nor selfish; it’s essential to help center and empower you.

Here are some simple and creative ways to practice emotional self-care to start the year with clarity, courage, and positivity.

Listen to Your Needs

Are you a people-pleaser? Are you too busy taking care of everyone else that you end up neglecting yourself? And worse, do you feel guilty for taking time off or fulfilling your needs? Please stop undermining yourself. You are important, too. In fact, you must “fill your cup” before you pour into anyone else’s because it’s only with a full inner reservoir that you can give genuinely and generously.

The holiday season can be particularly stressful, so let this be your friendly self-care reminder to take responsibility for your own physical and emotional health.

Set Healthy Boundaries

Again, if you are a people pleaser, you might not know how to say no, to the point that you are exhausted, burned out, or angry – and the other party might not even know why. So, it’s an act of common respect to set boundaries – whether it’s about working hours, accessibility, or taboo topics.

“For Filipinos, growing up in a very religious and , we were conditioned to always put others first. It is considered exemplary to give away your time, money, and energy – as long as it is for the common good. Suffering is ‘admirable.’ Right?” says Michelle Calasanz, a Theta Healing, Reiki, and Sacred Activations Practitioner, Biohacker, and all-around wellness advocate.

“We were never taught to set boundaries because it is not in our culture. We had to put on a brave face and smile through gritted teeth, as we let our resentments fester and accumulate in our bodies. Our accumulated DIS-ease will eventually manifest into a much-dreaded disease.”

Michelle stresses that setting boundaries is essential to mental, emotional, and physiological health. “Learn the power of saying yes or no when you mean it. One of the most important lessons I learned as a healer is this: ‘It’s okay to be the bad guy.’ When you start setting boundaries, people can react harshly. And that’s okay. Sometimes, to heal yourself, you must let go of others.”

Just say no to taking on someone else’s workload, that , that friend request you don’t want to accept. Set yourself free of the fear of other people’s opinions and expectations. The more you speak your truth, the more your self-worth grows, and the more you can connect with others authentically.

Find pockets in your day to devote time to yourself, even if it’s just to read a few pages of a book, indulge in a favorite hobby, or steal away for a coffee break with a friend.

To do that, you must first carve out a daily structure that works for you. Plot out all the things you need to do in a day and the time it takes you to do them; it might help if you compartmentalize tasks into chunks of the day. Then you can gauge when you can afford to take breaks or if it’s possible to move things around.

Tip: Try to take on only what you can manage each day so you can do each task mindfully, and you can catch a breather when needed. #TeamNoSleep is overrated!

Meditate When You Can

Set a regular time to meditate until it becomes a calming habit. Even just ten minutes is powerful enough to ground and revitalize you. How about practicing early in the morning to start your day on a calm and collected note? Or perhaps before bedtime to soothe your mind before sleep? If you’re constantly in transit, grab the opportunity to meditate instead of cursing the traffic.

Plenty of helpful meditation apps or YouTube videos provide guided contemplation. Some highly recommended apps include Calm, Insight Timer, and Headspace.

Another form of meditation may be via a quiet walk around the village or even if you’re lucky enough to be in nature. Daily meditation can calm the mind, steady the heart and connect with your true self.

Practice Mindfulness

is essential when you constantly get email notifications, social media updates, news items, and all the latest must-have trends. The practice of bringing your attention to the present moment, mindfulness is all about fully appreciating your current experience and encouraging you to do one thing at a time, thoughtfully and intentionally.

Zen master Thích Nhat Hanh once said, “Each minute we spend worrying about the future and regretting the past is a minute we miss in our appointment in life – a missed opportunity to engage in life and to see that each moment gives us that chance to change for the better, to experience peace and joy.”

So, the next time you catch yourself composing future IG captions in your head instead of living in the actual moment, remind yourself to be fully, joyfully present.

Cleanse Your Space

Purge your space of things – and people – that no longer serve you. Yes, that includes cleaning up your social media accounts. As callous as it sounds, think of it as efficient use of your energy – by keeping your attachments and your circle close, you can take better care of what’s important to you.

Moreover, did you know that keeping your physical space clean releases feel-good hormones? In this article on , Dr. Stacey Bedwell shares that cleansing and organizing can have a positive effect on our well-being because it gives us a sense of control which can help relieve anxiety. “In addition to control, taking charge of one’s home environment and tackling a project such as a spring clean or a DIY project can bring with it a sense of satisfaction and pleasure, involving neurotransmitters including dopamine and serotonin – the ‘happy hormone’ (Dfarhud et al., 2014),” says Dr. Bedwell.

Complement all this energy clearing and spring cleaning with body cleansing rituals to rejuvenate the spirit. Dove Go Fresh Cucumber & Green Tea Body Wash is a refreshing body cleanser that effectively replenishes moisture for fresh and hydrated skin. Nourishing and invigorating, it’s perfect for a fresh start.

Practice Gratitude

It may sound trite, but an is the key to equanimity. It’s not just about accepting how things are but being grateful for every circumstance and situation, knowing there’s a divine reason for everything.

“Gratitude is essential to living a fulfilled life," shares Michelle. "We are grateful for the little things (Grab, Food Panda), the big things (education, a roof over our heads, a salary), and even the blessings in disguise, such as a chronic pain that leads you to seek a better lifestyle."

She adds, “When you are grateful, The Universe listens. When you complain, The Universe also listens. Be wise.”

Listening to your needs, setting boundaries, and practicing mindfulness are just some of the many emotional self-care practices you can adopt to start the new year on a positive, empowered note. But remember, the very first step is believing you deserve it.