Doing Self-care Anywhere and Anytime

Self-care is not just for when we are alone or in a place set aside for these practices. There are activities you can do to take good care of yourself almost anywhere or anytime without attracting unwanted attention or opinions.  

Modern life is very busy so we need to take advantage of every opportunity for self-care. Using these opportunities will make us calmer, healthier, more balanced, better able to cope, and feeling better about ourselves and our lives. When we don’t take good care of ourselves, we send a message to our subconscious that we don’t matter or deserve good self-care, which has devastating consequences for our physical, mental, and emotional health and quality of life.

Nearly every type of self-care can be done away from home, out in public, and/or while doing other essential activities (except for soaky baths J!). Let’s figure out which self-care types mesh with other activities and how to build more such efforts into daily life.

Types of essential or important self-care:

While there are many other types of self-care, these basics are sufficient to make an enormous improvement in life.
When doing exercise or any other form of self-care in public or while doing other activities, pay close attention to safety, your surroundings and the people nearby, and be more cautious than when alone or only doing one thing. Don’t strain any muscle or joint – better to go slowly and make gradual progress than to rush and create an injury that could take months to heal, if at all. Avoid doing too many repetitions or holding any position for too long. Pay attention to balance – a broken hip would be a serious problem and breaking other bones is no fun either. Although many of these activities should not or cannot be done while driving, some can be and these are double-starred (**).

Purely internal and invisible exercise can be done anywhere. Isometrics, that is, using one body part to push or pull against another to strengthen both is a great use of time while standing on line anywhere. These websites show good approaches to doing isometrics: or
You can even do isometrics while talking with people but this requires being able to concentrate on both activities.

* While standing, keep your posture straight to strengthen core and back muscles, burn calories, and look and feel better.

* Mini squats and lunges strengthen knees without attracting attention. These exercises may be small but their cumulative effect is large.

* When seated, tighten your knees while pushing your feet against the floor to strengthen the muscles around the knees to reduce or prevent pain and deterioration from aging. Doing this in a wheeled chair will cause the chair to move backwards; dig in with your heels to bring the chair forward again, exercising another set of knee muscles (if this is hard to do, that just shows how much you need it).

** Kegel exercises (tightening the muscles that control the flow of urine) can be done anywhere, anytime, and in any position. This exercise becomes increasingly important for both men and women as we age. Although it is easiest to do Kegels while seated, they can also be done while standing.

Stretches are not as invisible as isometrics but are less likely than other types of exercises to trigger reactions from others.

** Gentle neck rolls while waiting for a bus or for a traffic light to change are effective and beneficial.

** Just pulling your shoulders up and holding them there for a moment is often enough to get them to relax down.

** Discrete shoulder stretches can be done in many places. If possible, safe, and reasonably comfortable, place your left hand under your right elbow and gently move your right hand up and over your left shoulder, then reverse. This is another good one to do while waiting for a traffic light to change.

Relaxation is urgently needed in our hyper-busy, crisis-ridden world. Clutter and hoarding produce stress, anxiety, and depression, creating great need for frequent deep relaxation. Good physical, mental, and emotional health requires counter-acting the toxins produced by stress and negative states by relaxing our minds and bodies and calming our emotions. My website gives a short article on how to do deep relaxation that you can use anywhere (Learning Deep Relaxation).

** While waiting at a traffic light or anywhere else, do a quick body scan to find and release tight areas. If you find greater tension than can be released during a single light, remember where it is and use the next stop to work on that area more.  

** When you do not have time to scan your whole body, just scan your face and/or shoulders. These two areas are usually where the most tension accumulates.

* Sometimes the best way to release tension is to do a little exercise in that area, such as doing a tight frown to relax the upper face or shoulder rolls to combat upper back and shoulder tension. Physical therapists say that one should only do shoulder rolls going backwards, but slow, gentle, careful, forward shoulder rolls beneficial also work for me. Experiment to see what works for you.

Good posture doesn’t mean standing stiff but is flexible, allowing the body to move in any direction in which it easily goes, but always returning to being straight up and down and balanced left and right. The alignment needed for good posture starts from the head and is centered on the middle of the foot, without leaning either forwards or backwards. This page has some good demonstrations of good posture:

* Align your posture with any reasonably clean wall or even street sign while out.

** When you sit down, lean forward and push your bottom tight against the back of the chair, then arch up, keeping the arch in your back. Holding this position not only looks good, it strengthens your core muscles, which are essential to prevent back pain.

Smiling is part of self-care because there really is no separation between our body, mind, and emotions. When we smile, our subconscious registers that physical state, assumes that life must be good now, and releases endorphins, the brain hormone that makes us feel good. When endorphins do their work, toxic hormone levels drop, as does blood pressure, heart rate, respiration, and overall tension. As a result, we not only feel better, we actually are healthier by many measures.

** Although when interacting with others you might want to keep your smile small or variable, when alone you can practice a big smile and letting it slowly decrease to a small smile you keep most of the time.

Massage can be done discreetly nearly anywhere, relieving pain and tension more immediately than any other method. Nearly everyone needs some form of massage most days, so unless you have a built-in willing masseuse, that means self-massage. DIY massage is easy to learn, as beneficial as massage done by someone else (sometimes more), aids in the body awareness needed for maintaining a smile and other self-care activities, and is available anytime. As with stretches, the areas that most need attention are usually the face and shoulders. 

* Begin a facial massage by doing small, delicate, careful circles with your thumbs around your eyes. Do not press hard – that can create many problems – but gentle circles encourage better circulation while relieving tension and pain. Use this same careful approach your thumbs and fingers to massage the rest of the face and head. For me, areas that especially appreciate such attention are on and around the nose, above and below the jaw and the hinge, over and under the cheek bones, the sides and back of the neck, and right above where the head connects to the neck. You may have completely different spots that like a good massage. Pay attention to your body’s reactions to different types of touches and see where it wants more or less or a different type or intensity. Try out massage tools – some are portable.

* Most areas of the body benefit from regular, gentle massage. Although many folks believe in aggressive, intense massage,  but frequent, gentle massage accomplishes as much without the trauma.

Humor and play also cause generation of feel-good hormones and good health, and often improve social interactions.

* Spend time with supportive friends who make you feel good about yourself but will also pull you up short if you go off track. Find fun activities you can do together.

* Humor and play can often be combined with other beneficial activities such as exercise or socializing.

Managing thoughts and emotions may not sound like self-care, but they are. Negative thoughts and emotions cause toxic hormones to accumulate in the body, leading to decreased health and increased pain and stress.

** Mantras are beneficial for shifting negative thoughts and emotions.

** Use every potential tool to boost mood; in addition to smiling, play and humor, there are tools such as music, laughter and/or talk therapy, gratitude lists (do not do these while driving unless you have a voice recorder), and perhaps hundreds of other approaches that can help you feel good about your life.

* Taking the time to sort through the negative thoughts and emotions that all people have may seem like something that just takes too much time, but that is all the more reason to take advantage of odd moments and unusual opportunities.


The social acceptability of any self-care activity depends upon your sensitivity to the opinions of strangers. There is no benefit to worrying about the opinions of strangers or anyone who would put you down for taking care of yourself. Other people are not living your life or in your body and cannot experience your pain or needs. Others have a right to manage their bodies without your interference, just as you have that right for yours.

Remember: you are setting a great example. Others need encouragement to exercise, smile, play, and give themselves massages more too, so by showing how easy self-care anywhere is, you are helping them feel more comfortable with these practices. I do full aerobics routines while waiting for buses because I would never have time to manage my self-care needs otherwise, and just sometimes, others start exercising on the street too, which is great.


Previous | Next

© Gloria Valoris, 2015

Articles Index

Home | Newsletters and Articles | Services | Workshops | Resources | Contact

Office Organization | Time Management | File Systems | Hoarding