Originally posted on Forbes.
Another day of grinding it out at work comes to a close and all you want to do is run home, throw on sweats and binge-watch your favorite Netflix show.
Let’s rethink this.
Although this may be tempting, there are better ways to destress and take care of yourself.
The hard truth is, self-care doesn’t always mean getting messages or eating cupcakes. Although those things are great, and definitely necessary at certain moments in life, self-care means so much more than that. It means taking a look at your life, and taking responsibility to make it better, not just for today, but for tomorrow.
Here are 5 unique ways to practice self-care outside of working hours.
Giving can feel so much more abundant than receiving sometimes, right? If you’re not facing a burnout of any sort, explore using that extra hour or two in your day to provide an act of service to others in need. Giving to a cause that is bigger than you is such a form of self-care. Plus, volunteer opportunities that allow you to be social can also curb any feelings of loneliness. Psychology Today has found that the more social interaction you have, the better your brain functions… It also lowers your risk of depression and anxiety.
This could be anything from volunteering at an animal shelter, teaching a fitness class at your community center or spending time at a senior center. The reality is, when you spend time giving back to others, your sense of self— and creativity— improves. Shift your focus from stresses at work to being of support to those in need.
2. Meet with a financial advisor.
One of the best things you can do for yourself is learn how to manage your finances and build a healthy relationship with money. The average millennial has $42,000 in debt, 16% of which is from student loans, and that isn’t going to go away unless you get intentional and create a budget plan.
Take a little advice from millennial financial advisor Robert Campbell who stresses to “create a financial vision board. Get very specific, and write down numbers and dates for what you want to accomplish, how much debt you want to pay off, and by when. Without a clear plan, you are just wandering through life with no sense of direction.”
Meet with a financial advisor, or leverage an app such as Mint to build a budget that helps you get out of debt. Not the most glamourous activity, but it will set you up for long term financial health, and that is self-care at its finest.
3. Learn something new.
In the spirit of what supports you becoming the best you can be, self-care includes keeping your mind sharp, and one of the best ways to do that is through developing a skill. A recent study found that people who learned new skills reported feeling higher self-esteem and a greater ability to cope with stress.
If you’ve always wanted to perhaps learn a new language or even how to code, take action and sign up for a class at your local community college. Perhaps you want to reconnect with your artistic self and have been dreaming about taking a painting class for months. Engaging in activities that require imagination and visual expression actually activates the brain’s reward center and helps lower cortisol levels to reduce stress. Don’t let these whispers pass you by.
If going to a class is difficult to fit into your schedule, there are countless online courses you can take or event video tutorials you can watch on YouTube. With modern technology, the sky is the limit for learning new skills!
4. Get organized and clean your space.
When your car, home, and desk are cluttered, chances are your mind is cluttered as well. Your physical environment influences your emotions, behavior and decision-making process. Order and cleanliness directly impact your ability to focus, sleep and make healthy eating decisions. Not only that, but a cluttered environment triggers coping and avoidance strategies such as junk food snacking and binge-watching television.
The truth of the matter is that our brains prefer order. In fact, a Princeton study found that having constant visual reminders of disorganization actually drain our cognitive abilities and lower our ability to stay focused. So spend a little time after work hours tidying up your desk, car, and home. Ask yourself: what organization do I wish would just magically get done? That which you avoid, holds you back! Take action and organize that closet you avoid, or go through your clothes and clean out things that no longer serve you.
5. Do something physical.
After a long day of sitting at your desk, one of the best things you can do is move your body. Exercise helps control weight, reduces heart health risks and releases endorphins that increase your mood. This isn’t just physical, working out, especially between the ages of 25-45, boosts chemicals in the brain that support and prevent degeneration of the hippocampus, the part of the brain that controls memory and learning. Don’t let these self-care benefits go to waste! Take a fitness class. Go for a run. One of the easiest ways to ensure you do so is by heading straight to the gym after work. It can be so tempting to stay home once you’re there, so instead set up your calendar in advance to schedule a class and head straight there from the office.
If a gym membership or fitness class registration bites into your budget, consider downloading a fitness app like Nike+Run Club so you can get workout ideas that can be done at home.
Self-love takes work, and although work may not be the first thing you want to do when the day comes to a close, you will often thank yourself later for it.
Looking into a self-care routine starts with evaluating what’s holding you back from being where you want to be in your life. So take a look into your deepest wishes in life, make a list of what needs to be done, and keep the promises you make to yourself on your journey there.
Ashley Stahl helps job seekers find their purpose, land more job offers and launch their dream businesses. Sign up here for her free jumpstart course on how to land a new job you love.