Slowing down and taking time for yourself can seem counterproductive in a fast-paced world. Yet, taking a moment to care for yourself not only decreases stress and anxiety, but increases your ability to function so you can reach your goals and help others reach theirs too. If you want to be your best self this year, give yourself the gift of self-care.
Self-Care Starts with Better Sleep
Sleep is crucial for both your physical and mental health, but is often overlooked when it comes to self-care. In the short term, poor sleep supresses cognitive ability, making you less energized and alert and more prone to accidents. In fact, your ability to function start to suffer after losing just 1 or 2 hours of sleep. In the long term, poor sleep can increase your chances of developing many chronic illnesses, such as heart disease, depression and obesity. Developing better sleep habits is where self-care starts.
Boost Your Sleep Quality with Sleep Tech
When it comes to improving your sleep quality, not only do you need to get enough sleep, but you also need to sleep at the right times. If you sleep at irregular times or take a nap to “make up” for lost sleep, it disrupts your internal clock and reduces your sleep quality. The key to better sleep is consistency. Sleep tech gadgets can help you monitor your sleep quality and get better sleep without sleeping more hours.
Essential tips for better sleep include using the right mattress and abstaining from stimulants like caffeine and nicotine, but digital age strategies such as avoiding bright lights and electronic screens before bed are just as important. Setting up smart lights to regulate your circadian rhythms or internal clock can help. Certain lightbulbs are specifically designed to adjust to the time of day to help your sleep, but you don’t have to go smart to get the sleep benefits. Some non-smart lights do the same job, and others can even help you wake up in the morning.
Meditation bands and apps
If you still experience difficulties to go to bed and fall asleep at the same time every day, consider practicing mindfulness in the evening. It has now been recommended time and time again to reduce stress levels, and therefore improve your sleep quality. Don’t know where to start? Meditation headbands, smart watches and fitness trackers can guide you through the meditation (with some models, you might have to download a 3rd party app). Make yourself extra comfortable with these rectangular, round or crescent mediation cushions.
White Noise Machines
White noise machines have existed for a long time, and the concept is simple: a device that produces white noise to help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep. But how do they work?
White noise is sound that carries many frequencies at once, at equal volumes. For this reason, white noise easily drowns out other sounds. Common examples of white noise are TV static and the hum of an electric fan. If you play white noise while you’re sleeping, it reduces the gap between background noises and peak noises (such as a door closing) that can disrupt your sleep. Some people also find white noise has a calming effect or helps them concentrate better when awake.
Lots of things can create white noise, but the benefit of a white noise machine is customization. Most of them have a variety of sounds and control volume options, so you can find the perfect combo for you to get the best sleep possible. Many also include timers with automatic shut-off, so they’ll stay on long enough to fall asleep, but not run all night. Some, like the Lectrofan Evo Sleep Machine, include sounds in other frequencies, such as pink noise, which have more calming effects than pure white noise. Others are battery-operated for travel. There are so many options, including portable battery-operated machines, you’re sure to find some combo or variation that helps your sleep.
Sleep Audio Headbands
But a white noise machine isn’t for everyone—maybe you share a bedroom or just prefer to fall asleep to music. In that case, you might want to try a sleep audio headband. They’re sort of like headphones built into a fabric band that can wrap around your head. A lot of them, like this one from AcousticSheep, have Bluetooth capabilities, so you can drift off to music or a white noise app without any earbuds to fall out or get tangled. Sleep headbands often also double as a sleep mask to block out light. If you’re a person who needs to completely block out the world to get a good night’s sleep, this might be exactly what you need.
Sleep Monitors and Trackers
If you really want to maximize your sleep quality, consider using a sleep monitor to track your sleep. Sleep monitors are devices that wear or place in your bed as you sleep that can track your sleep cycle and habits. Most of them come with a companion app that can and provide insights on your sleep rhythms and how you might be able improve your sleep.
There are lots of different kinds of sleep monitors. The Withings Sleep Tracking Pad slips under your mattress to monitor and analyse your sleep. In the morning, it will provide you with a sleep quality score for the night and recommendations for how to improve it for tomorrow. It also tracks snoring and other breathing disruptions. Snoring is not only annoying for those around you, but also comes with a lot of health risks. When you’re snoring, you’re not breathing properly, and sleep apnea (severe snoring) is associated with a number of health risks. This device can detect if sleep apnea is disturbing your sleep so you know when to see a doctor.
This Hupnos Anti-Snoring Mask is also perfect for a snorer. It’s companion app monitors your snoring habits and The mask applies expiratory positive airway pressure (EPAP) to your nasal area to promote better breathing and reduce snoring. And when it detects snoring, it uses gentle vibrations to coax you into a better breathing position without waking you up.
Treat Yourself to a Spa Day at Home
Self-care all about making improving health while feeling good, and the perfect way to do that is to treat yourself to a spa day. Common spa treatments like aromatherapy and massage have numerous health benefits like reduced stress, anxiety, tension, and body pain and promote faster healing. But most of us average joes don’t have the time or money to head to a fancy spa whenever we want to decompress. Luckily, with the help of a few affordable products, you can create your own spa space at home that you can use as often as you need.
Aromatherapy at Home
Aromatherapy involves the use of aromatic oils or other sources of scent to improve both mental and physical health, and it’s an easy and affective way to recreate the spa treatment at home. Aromatherapy has said to have numerous health benefits, including reduced stress, improved sleep quality, and treating headaches and body soreness. Common aromatherapy methods include using scented candles, fragrant skin care products, and bath products like bath bombs and salts. But one of the most effective methods is using essential oils with an aromatherapy diffuser.
Essential oils are liquid compounds that are extracted from certain plants to capture their scent or “essence”. They are most commonly used in aromatherapy, either by inhaling the scent or applying the oils to your skin. The most popular oils come from plants known for their fragrance, such as peppermint, lavender, and many more.
Essential oils have become so popular in aromatherapy largely due to the many health benefits associated with them. For many people, essential oils have been shown to relieve the symptoms of anxiety, insomnia, and headaches. And even if you don’t experience any of these issues, aromatherapy with essential oils makes it easy to get into the self-care space and relax.
Many essential oils, like this cinnamon oil from Ellia, are designed to be vaporized in an aromatherapy diffuser for best results.
Essential oil diffusers are devices that disperses your oils into the air to be inhaled, but they can do so in a few different ways. Using a diffuser is an affective and efficient way of dispersing an aroma throughout the room. However, there are a few different kinds that provide different benefits to your aroma therapy.
A heat diffuser heats your oil causing it to evaporate into the air. These diffusers are cost effective and produce strong scents, but the heat can alter the oil’s chemical makeup and reduce its therapeutic benefits. An evaporative diffuser disperses oil in the air through evaporation, but without using heat. They don’t distribute scent as well as a heat diffuser but are great for small spaces. Ultrasonic diffusers, like this Stadler Form Jasmine Diffuser uses ultrasonic vibrations and water to distribute oil molecules into the air through a fine mist. These diffusers tend to be powerful, so proceed with caution if you are sensitive to strong scents. Finally, a nebulizer diffuser uses pressurized air to atomize essential oils into micro-particles that are then released into the air in high concentration. Nebulizers tend to run on the pricier side, but they are also widely considered to provide the most effective aromatherapy benefits.
Be Your Own Massage Therapist at Home
What spa day is complete without a relaxing massage? Massage uses pressure and touch to manipulate muscle and other tissue to relieve tension in the body. Regular massage can alleviate stress, anxiety, soreness, soft tissue injuries. Due to its relaxing and tension-relieving benefits, many people enjoy massage as a cornerstone of their self-care regiment. Most of us can’t afford a professional massage as often as we’d like, but with the right massage products in your self-care arsenal, you can enjoy the benefits of a massage as often as you need them.
As the name suggests, handheld massagers are massage devices that are small enough to hold in your hand. Hand massagers are a popular choice as they are compact, easy to use, and tend to be more affordable than other massage devices. They also have the added benefit of being able to move to almost any area on your body, so you can relieve your tension wherever it is. There are two types of massagers: percussion and vibration massagers. Both are a type of vibration therapy but while vibration massagers only apply pressure to the surface of the skin, percussion massagers’ vibrations carry deep into the muscle tissue. If you frequently train hard, you might prefer using a percussion massager to relax your muscles such as those offered by HoMedics, Theragun, and Hyperice.
Massage cushions are meant to be sat on or leaned against, generally to provide massage to specific areas, usually the neck or back. The Obsuforme Massage Car Cushion is a great example, and can be used in the car so you can take your self-care on the road. Massage cushions are great if you just want to relax and not have to move a handheld massager around, but also make it a bit tougher to target problem areas.
As feet support our bodies all day, it’s no surprise that they are often hotspots for tension and soreness. That’s why foot massagers are specifically designed for feet in need. Foot massagers are generally a small platform that sits on the floor, so you can place your feet on top for a refreshing massage. Like most massagers, they often apply vibrations, pressure, and heat to relax tissue and ease sore muscles. If your feet are a problem area, foot massagers are easy to use and store away. However, you’ll have a hard time using them for anything other than feet.
Self-Care Through Winter with Light Therapy
The new year may be a time for self-care and setting goals, but for most Canadians it’s also a time of coldness, darkness, and staying in bed for just 5 more minutes. It’s hard to stay motivated and positive when the sun won’t even stay in the sky. If this sounds familiar, you might be experiencing seasonal affective disorder (SAD). People who are affected by SAD tend to go through poor moods during specific times of the year, usually in winter. Symptoms include depression, poor sleep, and loss of energy. It’s hypothesized that SAD is caused by the reduction of sunlight during winter months.
Because of this, the most common treatment for seasonal affective disorder is light therapy. Light therapy exposes you to a powerful light source, usually a light therapy lamp, to make up for the lost sunlight during winter. Light therapy lamps like this NatureBright Therapy Lamp or this more affordable option by PureGuardian attempt to mimic natural sunlight and replicate its health benefits, such as improved mood and production of vitamin D, and reduce the symptoms of SAD. Travellers, opt for a compact model.
If you want to give light therapy a try, another great option is the iHome Zenergy Aromatherapy Bluetooth Speaker. This device has multiple light therapy modes designed to align your circadian rhythm for better sleep, and elevate your mood during the day. It also functions as an aromatherapy diffuser and a Bluetooth speaker, so you can also use it as your white noise machine. This 3-in-1 product provides you with almost every self-care function you could need.
Take the next step
In our daily lives, it’s easy to get wrapped up in high-pressure goals and forget to take care of ourselves. Getting the right sleep and creating a spa day at home are great ways to get started, but there’s so much more you can do. Self-care is all about giving yourself permission to prioritize your health, whatever that means for you. It can include anything from setting new health goals, picking up an old hobby, or setting aside a few minutes for meditation. Think of a few ways you can prioritize your self-care this year. And if you need some inspiration, browse Best Buy’s assortment of health and wellness products to give yourself the boost you need to get through the year.