An Asian woman with a ponytail hugging her pet dog

While stress is a fact of life, experts agree that it doesn’t have to take a toll on your physical and mental well-being. Self-care can be one of the best stress relievers. Harvard Health says self-care is merely supporting these aspects of one’s well-being. However, as important and simple as it is, self-care often falls to the wayside, especially in stressful situations — exactly when you need it most.

Some people may think self-care is a luxury we can’t afford. But you know what we actually can’t afford? Getting sick or having a meltdown because of stress. Here are some self-care practices that can help you relax and manage stress better.

1. Give Your Body Some Comfort

Exercise is a well-known way to reduce stress and boost mood, but sometimes it’s just doesn’t feel right to force our bodies to perform rigorous physical activities. In these instances, you can still actively take care of your body by giving it some comfort. Choose to eat lots of greens over carbs. Choose to rest your eyes over scrolling endlessly online. Take a walk and breathe in some fresh air. Drink lots of water to hydrate your body and your skin or enjoy a cup of non-caffeinated tea to calm your nerves.

Take a long bath with a comforting body wash that makes your skin feel pampered, such as Dove Deeply Nourishing Body Wash, which leaves skin softer and smoother with every use. Benefit from calming lavender essential oils in Love Beauty and Planet Argan Oil and Lavender Smooth Shampoo and Conditioner, which cleanse hair of impurities while controlling frizz.

After bathing, massage your feet and hands with Vaseline Intensive Care Deep Restore Body Lotion, which repairs and deeply moisturizes skin from within.

2. Watch Your Favorite Movie or Read Your Favorite Book — Again

Watching the same show or movie can help you feel safe and comforted.

There’s something comforting about watching the same movie over and over again. According to Boston-based Media Psychology Research Group, “watching the same movie reaffirms there is order in the world.” Order is definitely something that may feel amiss in times of stress, and watching a film already knowing the outcome makes us feel safe and comforted on a primal level.

To paraphrase Greek philosopher Heraclitus, you never cross the same river twice because it’s not the same river, and you’re not the same you. So, go ahead and play Legally Blonde again. We totally understand.

3. Practice Self-Compassion 

Harvard psychologist Christopher Germer, PhD, author of The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion, says being kind to yourself can lower levels of anxiety and depression. According to Germer, you can bring self-compassion into your lives through physical, mental, relational, and spiritual methods.

One of the activities he recommends is mindfulness meditation to ease mental stress. However, sitting quietly without fidgeting and just focusing on one’s breathing is not something that comes naturally to most people.

If you’re practicing this stress reliever hack, it’s best to keep a journal to monitor your habit change, troubleshoot, and notice new ways you might be responding to problems in your life. According to Germer, the simple act of writing also reinforces your commitment.

4. Allot Some Time for a Calming Activity

If meditating is not the ideal stress reliever for you, experts suggest doing calming activities instead. These are the quiet activities that allow your mind to drift off, such as knitting, baking, tending to plants, walking, or swimming. You can play your therapeutic playlist while doing it. According to the American Music Therapy Association (AMTA), music therapy can have profound effects, such as helping individuals communicate, process difficult experiences, and improve motor or cognitive functioning.

5. Play with Your Pets

Give your pet a big hug to de-stress!

It’s no secret that playing with pets is a stress reliever, and it’s good to know that scientific research backs this up. According to a study conducted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, animals innately have the foundations of mindfulness, which humans have to learn. These include attention, intention, compassion, and awareness. This is why your fur babies can be such a source of comfort and support.

The study also states that interacting with pets decreases cortisol levels, lowers blood pressure, and boosts mood. Give your pet a big hug — it not only makes them happy but also releases endorphins into your brain, which have a calming effect on mood.

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Try these self-care practices the next time you find yourself in need of a stress reliever and discover how you are in control of how stress affects your life.