14 Self-Care Practices for Your Emotional Medicine Cabinet


poster on self care practicesWhy do we wake up every morning and brush our teeth, brush our hair, shower? Silly question – to be clean, smell good, feel refreshed, and groom ourselves. It’s just a normal part of standard hygiene practice. But what about emotional hygiene?

EMOTIONAL HYGIENE?? You may be wondering what I mean by that, so let me explain.

What Is “Emotional Hygiene”?

Not only does our body require daily care and grooming to stay clean and well, but so do our emotions.

Let me ask a rhetorical question: GOT STRESS? Most of us have stress in our lives in some form or another. Whether it be work stress, household stress, family stress, relationship stress, the stress of chronic worry, or running negative dialogue, or maybe body image stress.

Regardless, most Americans suffer from chronic stress – actually in the APA’s 2014 report on Stress in America 75% of Americans report experiencing at least one symptom of stress per month.

So what are we doing about that? If we fall and scrape our knee, we care for that hurt by cleaning it, and putting a band aid on it. If we get a headache, we might lay in a quiet dim lit area with an ice pack, or maybe take a pain reliever to alleviate it.

The Practice of Self-Care for Emotional Hygiene

So how are we caring for the day-to-day emotional pains we may be experiencing? The snippy comment from a loved one, the negative feedback at work, or the argument with a friend? Each one leads to sort of an emotional scrape. So how are we cleaning and bandaging that?

Related Article: Take 5, Breathe and Be Happy: Easy Meditation

I often ask women who come to Green Mountain at Fox Run: “What are you putting into your psychological tank.” The reality is that we have one – a psychological tank, that is. And it needs nourishment. Much like our ‘biological tank’ needs nourishment in the form of food as fuel for our bodies, our ‘psychological tank’ needs nourishment in the form of self-care and stress management.

We have medicine cabinets at home to care for common physical injuries, so how about a tool-kit for common emotional injuries, like guilt, loss, failure, rejection?

So consider this: if you ‘front-load’ pleasure, self-care, stress-management, you may be gradually filling a depleted psychological tank. As you do that, those emotional injuries and stressors may not have quite as strong of an impact if you use the nourishment you’ve stocked up on.

14 Self-Care Practices to Consider For Your Psychological Tank:

  1. Knitting
  2. A cup of tea
  3. A warm bubble bath with candles
  4. Coloring
  5. Journaling
  6. Pedicure/Manicure
  7. Yoga
  8. A nature hike or other outdoor activity
  9. A walk outside
  10. Massage
  11. Drawing
  12. Talking to a friend
  13. Listening to or playing music
  14. Deep breathing (Try this breathing exercise for quick relaxation)

The point here is that these things aren’t going to “fix it”, but that they do, in fact, help with stress reduction.

These activities, and other peaceful activities that may be on your list, do light up the parts of the brain that activate the parasympathetic nervous system, also known as the relaxation response. We are sent right into some level of relaxation. Often we can notice immediate physical changes like breathing slows, heart rate slows, muscles loosen, etc.

So why not put a few in your ‘psychological tank’? As often as you’re able – whether you put in a few a day or a few a week – and notice if it makes an impact on your stress levels.


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About the Author

Shiri Macri, MA, LCMHC

Since 2004, Shiri’s approach as a therapist for treating binge and emotional eating is holistic, focusing not only on the presented issue at hand but also considering overall health. Working in this way often includes mindfulness-based approaches. Now as a trained MBSR (Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction) teacher, Shiri’s love of mindfulness and meditation practices are at the forefront of her blog writings and recordings. Shiri is the Clinical Director at the Women's Center for Binge & Emotional Eating, affiliated with Green Mountain at Fox Run.

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