When I'm Feeling Stressed, I Ask Myself This One Question, and It Instantly Helps Me Unwind

Self-care always seems to fall to the bottom of my ever-evolving list of priorities. Between managing my responsibilities at work and still finding time to be present with friends and family, even washing my hair can sometimes feel like a victory. And let's not even talk about the mounds of laundry I've been meaning to do. It feels endless and overwhelming.

Yet Instagram influencers would have you believe that self-care is not only essential but attainable. Which made me think, shouldn't it be? We may not all have the luxury of not working a 9-to-5, but why does taking a little time for some personal inventory and TLC have to feel so impossible?

The thing is, for a long time I thought of self-care as a spa day or a weekend trip to a wellness retreat up in Ojai or Joshua Tree. But what I failed to recognize is that self-care isn't about grand gestures. It's about checking in with yourself and listening to what your body, heart, and mind are asking for in any given moment. Sometimes the requests are more like loud screams because I've been neglecting them for so long, but they're always there, waiting to be heard.

When I'm feeling frazzled or burnt out, that's usually when I need to tune in. Tuning in is the most therapeutic form of self-care I practice, and it doesn't require loads of time or money. In my most stressful moments, I like to stop, take a deep breath, and ask myself, What do I need right now? The answers vary. Sometimes it's as simple as a glass of water because I'm dehydrated or maybe had a little too much coffee. Other times I need some fresh air. Ultimately, though, the answers all have one thing in common: they're simple and effective, if only I have the courage to ask.

No matter the demands I'm facing on any given day, the question is always the same. What do I need right now?

This is a significant shift from what I once did, which was looking to others for solutions, instead of seeking out the forms of self-care that were most beneficial to me. If it works for them, then it must work for me, too, I thought. But while soaking in the tub with a CBD bath bomb sounds nice, sitting still for an hour won't do anything to help me unwind when every fiber of my body is feeling anxious. If anything, I need to move to release that pent-up energy — so I'll put on my headphones, set my phone to airplane mode, and go for a 15-minute walk. No hour-long yoga classes, no deep tissue massage; just a small break to decompress and recharge my battery.

No matter the demands I'm facing on any given day, the question is always the same. What do I need right now? The next time you're feeling overwhelmed, try asking that question for yourself, then listen to your body. You might be surprised at how simple the answer is and happy to learn that it's always within your reach.