Amidst all the disruption and uncertainty we continue to experience, we’ve come to realize that carving out time to recharge our batteries is not a luxury, but a necessity — especially when it comes to our mental well-being. Luckily, many of us have discovered unexpected habits and rituals that have brought us a sense of calm and groundedness.

We asked our Thrive community to share with us one unexpected self-care ritual that has been helping them recharge during the pandemic. Which of these will you try?

Healthy home cooking

“One surprising thing that’s helped me recharge during the pandemic has been cooking healthy foods for myself from scratch. I’ve always enjoyed making vegetarian or vegan dishes, but with the extra time that I have now that I don’t have my work commute, I’ve been able to make hummus from scratch, healthy banana oat bran muffins for breakfast, and other vegetable-packed meals for dinner. The cooking and baking has been so therapeutic and the effect on my health and mood is tremendous.”

—Peggy Schipper, business director, Philadelphia, PA 

Early morning runs

“About five weeks ago, I started waking up early and going for a morning run. I’ve never been an early riser, but starting the day with 30 quiet minutes to myself has been a needed change for both my mental and physical health. As a mom of two who is trying to balance virtual schooling with my full-time workload, this unexpected new ‘me time’ ritual has made all the difference. I begin the day feeling more accomplished and ready to tackle my busy schedule.”

—Danielle McWilliams, PR and marketing executive vice president, New York, N.Y.

Tidying up

“Making my bed every single morning has helped me become more productive in the past couple of weeks, and it’s become a self-care ritual for me. I did it before the pandemic, but didn’t start the ritual regularly until I watched a video where former Navy Seal and best-selling author Admiral William H. McRaven talked about this little hack in a 2014 graduation speech. He said, ‘If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.’ I tried it and it works like magic. Accomplishing this basic task in the morning really gives me a small sense of pride to start the day on an accomplished note.”

—Ma. Angela Nacpil, copywriter, Central Luzon, Philippines

Giving back to the community

“My unexpected self-care ritual is community engagement. I create floral hearts as an act of sympathy and solidarity with those suffering during this moment. This community art has helped me connect with a wide variety of people while allowing me to engage in an art form that I love. It’s a win-win: I’ve found something I love to do that helps other people. Never, have I felt more connected or more humbled to be part of such a huge community.”

—Kristina Libby, artist and chief science officer, New York, NY

Daily stretching

“When the pandemic began, I became quite sedentary — only moving from one room to the next, depending on whether I was sleeping, working, or relaxing. The lack of movement was starting to make me lethargic and apathetic, so I began incorporating stretching into my day. Now, my energy levels have increased, my mood has lifted, and I am more likely to exercise since I am already up and moving. I even stretch between activities, which gives my mind and body a much-needed break from my day’s stress. A few minutes of stretching each day has been the best self-care ritual.”

—Farrah Smith, life coach, Los Angeles, CA

Decluttering the house

“There have been a few decluttering organizing habits that I have started doing since working from home every day.  Every morning, I make my bed and organize my living space. Since I’m home more, the dirt, clutter, and disorganization seem to be more noticable. I make sure to clean any dirty dishes and tidy up my work space to begin the day. At the end of the day, the same type of cleaning and organizing habits commence. It seems to be a way to transition the space from home to work and back to home again.”

—Sarah Rudman, healthcare manager, Boston, MA

Painting sessions in the morning

“I wake up early each morning to paint for an hour before work. I tried this in the fall for a week and fell in love with the routine, but it quickly faded. During the pandemic, I have reprioritized my creative pursuit and have found the time I need to be still. It feels invigorating to have something small to look forward to each morning, and the daily rhythm has definitely been grounding.”

—Courtney Werner, co-founder of KOYA, Austin, TX

Taking cold showers

“Before the pandemic, I never thought I would actually enjoy taking cold showers — but here I am taking them daily! Full disclosure: I do an alternate hot-and-cold mix for about five minutes. I find that being in the cold forces me to literally shake off some anxiety and stress.” 

—Michelle G., writer, Toronto, ON, Canada

“Stay days”

“As pandemic restrictions started to ease and local hotels started to open, my husband and I discussed the possibility of going away, but opted instead for outings near our home that don’t involve accommodation. I call them our ‘stay days,’ which provide an opportunity to show our cities or towns some love. The idea is to don the guise of a tourist, download a map of trails and self-guided tours, and delve into your local area. To structure my staydays, I devised a bucket list sorted by themes: nature, culture and history, and public art. In seeking the serenity to accept the things I cannot change and the capacity to live composedly and safely in these troubling times, I found working through my bucket list of staydays helps. 

—Pam McPhail, retired development director, Vancouver B.C., Canada

Daily outdoor time

“I have adopted a new ritual to experience something outdoors once a day. Sometimes I move my work location to the porch.  Sometimes I take a walk. Sometimes I snip some fresh herbs from the neighbor who gives me permission to do so. Sometimes I have the morning coffee with the window open to hear the birds waking up. Being stuck at home has made me yearn to be outside with the sounds and scents of nature, and it’s been such a great self-care ritual.”

—Donna Peters, podcast host, career coach, Atlanta GA

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  • Marina Khidekel

    Chief Content Officer at Thrive

    Marina leads strategy, ideation and execution of Thrive's content company-wide, including cross-platform brand partnership and content marketing campaigns, curricula, and the voice of the Thrive platform. She's the author of Thrive's first book, Your Time to Thrive. In her role, Marina brings Thrive's audience actionable, science-backed tips for reducing stress and improving their physical and mental well-being, and shares those insights on panels and in national outlets like NBC's TODAY. Previously, Marina held senior editorial roles at Women's Health, Cosmopolitan, and Glamour, where she edited award-winning health and mental health features and spearheaded the campaigns and partnerships around them.