One great way of working with stress is to make sure to take time for yourself. We all live such busy lives that it’s difficult sometimes to stop and do something just for you. This lowers stress levels in a couple of ways: we do something novel that breaks up our routine, and we do something we enjoy, which fills us with good hormones which make us feel more relaxed.

When people tell me they are stressed out, I ask what they have done lately that is just pleasurable. Not an obligation or something one feels one must do, or something that saves time and energy later, but something one does for the sheer pleasure if it. It’s possible this is a Saturday morning bike ride with no particular destination or going to a movie you’ve been wanting to see or even cooking and eating a great meal with a friend. There aren’t any rules for self-care other than that you do it.

I have found, also, that if you have plans to do these things that you enjoy and that take care of you, you are more likely to do them. I write my self-care plans into my calendar because that makes them just as important as any other appointment I may have. These are appointments with myself and my chosen activity. I hold myself to my appointments when they are written down, and I find that I make the time to do them. There will never be a time when I am not busy or don’t have something I can put in that open time slot. Why not make it something I enjoy?

I have noticed that sometimes I’m more successful at making these plans work when I do them with others. I will set up a walk with a friend or a lunch date in a particularly busy week so that I don’t forget to do things that I enjoy even when it doesn’t feel like I have the time to spend. Setting up an activity with another person almost always ensures that I will do it because someone else is depending on me to be there, and I try to be true to my word.

I have a group of friends who get together every so often for brunch and crafting. We all bring food and eat a good meal together and then spend a couple of hours working on our own individual hobbies together. We talk and laugh and show off the projects we are working on. We get support and camaraderie from each other, and we get to do the things we enjoy. It’s a break from my ordinary routine, and I always leave feeling renewed.

I also attend a knitting group every couple of weeks to sit with other people who are knitting and learn from them, teach them new skills, and brag about the fun things I am working on. It’s a great way to get encouragement when I’m in the middle of a particularly boring project or just feeling like my motivation is waning.

I recommend that you do something just for you, today and tomorrow and the next day. Set aside time to do what you truly enjoy doing. Find like-minded people and make plans together so that you will follow through. And have fun!