“No one will take care of you if you don’t take care of yourself.” –Alicia Keys

This quote has stuck with me for a long time – and there’s a reason I keep coming back to it. I find that many women (myself included!) often look outside themselves for care. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, we all seek comfort and connection from others. However, only seeking care from others diminishes both the power you have to care for yourself and the ability to really slow down and listen to your inner voice.

Believe me, I’m familiar with that place – where everything feels really hard, and I get whiny and find myself ignoring what I know will help me. I know I’m back in that place when I find myself saying (or thinking) “I’ll relax when vacation starts (or the weekend comes, or after this project is done)” or “I don’t have time for exercise, or yoga, or slowing down”. Do any of these sound familiar to you?

The reality is, we need to care for ourselves – right now. Self-care doesn’t have to be big or dramatic – while I would love to drop everything and take off for a secluded beach right now, that’s not my current reality. What’s real is that I took a walk around my beautiful, leafy-green neighborhood this morning and spent 10 minutes stretching and meditating afterwards.

How we care for ourselves reflects outward – not only into how we care for others, but into how we allow them to care (or not care) for us.

Here are some ideas to get you started with gentle self-care right now:

1. Exhale. Many people hold their breath without realizing it. Let yourself take a long exhale – imagine you’re letting go of any stress or tension that’s in your body or mind right now.

2. Listen to music. Lean into whatever music works for you right now – any genre, any style. It might be R&B or cello concertos or Adele or something totally unexpected.

3. Put your phone on airplane mode – even for 5 minutes. This is a great way to interrupt the sometimes unconscious habit of refreshing your Facebook feed or inbox. It’s okay to go off the grid for a bit.

4. Let yourself cry. When was the last time you let yourself have a good cry? Honor your true emotions – not how you “should” feel or what you think people expect from you.

5. Say no if that feels right. Take a moment and check in with yourself – do you really want to attend that party or networking event, or do you feel you “should”? It’s okay to say no.

6. Go to bed early. As I move through my 30s, I notice how much more sleep matters to me – not enough sleep leaves me cranky and anxious. A good night’s sleep is a great thing.

7. Give yourself a hand massage. Use some lotions or essential oils, and let yourself breathe. This is a great thing to do on the subway or while waiting in line.

8. Take a shower. Practice mindfulness and notice the feeling of the warm water, the smell of your soap or shower gel.

9. Eat something tasty and/or nourishing. A smoothie, a bowl of yogurt and fruit, or some dark chocolate (my vote is usually for the chocolate!)

10. Look at pictures that make you smile. Do memories of your vacation or last weekend’s hike feel really far away? Give yourself a moment to remember.

If you’re looking to bring more gentle self-care into your life, click here to get my free guided relaxation audio track. This free 8 minute track will help you slow down meaningfully and release physical and mental tension.