The weekend is a great time to incorporate self-care practices—even if your Saturday and Sunday are jam-packed with kids’ activities, additional work, or chores. Because self-care comes in all different shapes, sizes, and stripes—from moving our bodies for an hour to acknowledging how we feel in a single moment.
I recently read Courtney E. Ackerman’s new book, My Pocket Meditations for Self-Compassion, which is filled with wonderful ideas for taking compassionate care of ourselves. Here are five different practices to try this weekend (and really any time throughout the week), regardless of what’s on your agenda:
Stretch your body. Begin by sitting comfortably and closing your eyes. Lift your arms over your head, lengthening your spine and keeping your shoulders away from your ears. Next, push your hands in front of you, interlacing your fingers as your palms face out. Hold this stretch for several moments, noticing how your body feels. Then do the same with your arms behind you, pressing your arms away from your body and noticing the tightness between your shoulder blades.
Take a nature walk in your mind. Close your eyes, and visualize yourself walking in the woods, passing by beautiful trees and other surroundings. Notice what else you see, such as sunlight peeking through the trees, a bright blue sky, and colorful flowers and plants. Engage your other senses, as well, such as hearing birds chirping and trees rustling, and smelling the fresh, sweet scent of summer in the forest.
Practice feeling. For many of us, identifying and sitting with our emotions is really hard, in part because we’re not used to doing so. This exercise helps you practice feeling your feelings, because, of course, the more you practice, the easier it’ll become. To start, think about an intensely emotional plot or story, from a book, movie, or show. Consider which character you most easily identify with, and imagine how it would feel to be in their shoes. Spend a few minutes sinking into their story and experiencing those emotions. Jot down the feelings you’re feeling. After several minutes, let these feelings go, watching them drift away like a leaf on a slowly moving river.
Find three pleasant things. This exercise prompts both presence and positivity. Looking at your surroundings, pick one pleasant thing, such as your cat snoozing on the couch or a souvenir from a fun trip. Focus fully on it for one minute. Next do this for two more pleasant things. Then list all three things in your journal, and thank yourself for being present enough to notice them.
Visualize giving yourself a hug. Visualize yourself in a safe, comfortable space. Then visualize a second version of you. This second version walks up to the original you and reaches out for an embrace. Feel the warmth of this hug, and listen as your second self tells you that you’re OK exactly as you are and deserve to feel well and happy. When you’re done, visualize your two selves pulling apart and smiling at each other.
If this visualization feels silly or strange, imagine yourself as a child instead. Maybe both versions of you are toddlers or elementary-school age, or the original you is a child and the replica is your adult self or vice versa. Personally, I find it easier to cultivate self-compassion when I picture myself as a young child.
No matter how busy your weekend might be, take a few moments to honor yourself. Maybe you choose the above practices, or maybe they inspire you to try a different meditation, take a short walk, or re-read your favorite poem. Either way, whatever your days entail, try to make sure they include you, too.