Most of us take for granted the importance of self-care and the role it plays in helping us get through painful times. What exactly is self-care? Self-care is any intentional action(s) you take to care for your physical, mental, and emotional health. In times of stress, trauma, or crisis, practicing self-care can help manage your health. It can also help you feel more in control during a time when you may be feeling that things are out of your control. Here are some examples of how you can begin to cultivate self-care into your life.

1. Exercise — even a little bit.
Your form of exercise can be as light or as intense as you want it to be. The idea is to get your body moving. Take a walk around the block, do some yoga, climb the bleachers at your local high school track, go window-shopping at the mall, or clean your home. When we get our bodies moving, we breathe a little harder, our blood is pumping and our brain releases endorphins (the feel good chemicals) which has a positive impact on your mood.

2. Give yourself permission to focus on someone outside yourself.
Making someone else feel good is a great way to lift your own spirits. Try volunteering or call up an old friend or family member you haven’t talked to in a while and brighten their day. Or participate in a random act of kindness.

3. Give and get physical touch:
A hug can do wonders. So go ahead and ask for a hug from someone you feel safe with.

4. Give yourself permission to feel bad:
Schedule it in your day. Remind yourself that your reactions are normal. Sometimes the worst thing you can do when you’re feeling down is to beat yourself up. So try and practice self compassion and talk to yourself they way you would talk to someone you love.

5. Give yourself permission to feel good.
Sometimes when we’re going through something difficult, we keep ourselves from experiencing joy because we don’t think it’s appropriate or we think we don’t deserve it. Remember that it’s OK to laugh and feel good during times of sadness, even if it’s only for a moment. Treat yourself to some ice cream, watch your favorite movie, or laugh at a fart joke! Make sure that whatever you choose to partake in that you are choosing consciously and it is not an attempt to numb yourself. But more of an attempt at comfort. With that in mind, make sure to choose healthy activities that won’t cause harm to yourself or anyone else.

6. Structure your time and develop a routine.
Finding time for friends, family, work, play, and everything in between can be difficult, especially when we are in pain. But keeping or developing a routine can help your brain. Creating structure and routine is another way to make you think and feel more in control and can help to give you a sense of stability and safety during difficult times.

7. Engage in practices that are meaningful to you:
Prayer or meditation, walking in the woods, sitting quietly, reading inspirational material, taking a bath, or writing in a journal are all examples of what some people find meaningful.

8. Take breaks from periods of isolation.
For many of us the last thing we want when we are struggling is to reach our and connect. But it is one of the most powerful things you can do in practicing self care and feeling better. Everyone needs alone time now and then, but try setting a timer or alarm on your phone to remind you to get some fresh air and connect with others.

9. Talk it out:
It’s ok to share your struggle with a friend. If you don’t feel comfortable or you don’t have anyone you feel will understand or support you then talk with a professional. A professional can help you through your struggle and can be an anchor in your storm.

10. Get plenty of rest so that you feel refreshed and relaxed.
Getting enough rest is important to our overall health and wellness. When we are in pain and struggling sometimes sleeping is difficult. Try things like regular exercise, stretching, calming music, meditation, powering down your electronics and television or reading to help prepare your mind and body for sleep.

It’s important to make self-care part of your daily life. It’s an important tool for times of crisis, but when you’re feeling down, exercising or going to see a doctor is usually the last thing on your mind. It’s much easier to implement if you’re taking care of yourself during the good times, too. So, how are you cultivating self-care into your life?