African-American woman sitting on bed
Photo courtesy of @simplycyn

Self care has become a buzz-word in recent years, but many still put it on the back-burner despite the clear need to make it a priority. This becomes especially clear as we leave the enveloping warmth and good feelings that summer brings and move into fall. Fall is a beautiful and transformative time of year, the perfect time to slow down and brace yourself for the winter ahead. The air is crisp but not unbearable. Leaves change from rich greens to shades of mahogany, burnt orange, and golden yellow as they fall and decorate the ground around us. With all of the physical transformations, we see in our environment can often bring questions about our personal well-being, growth and how to end the year strong.

2017 has been especially challenging with the toxic political climate, widespread loss of life and livelihood brought on through numerous natural disasters and yet another mass shooting. In my personal life, I have battled with stress-induced physical ailments, depression, and anxiety and been forced to take a step back and re-evaluate the importance of a strong self-care routine. Like many women juggling family life, work, and side hustles, I have allowed this to become non-existent and was forced to pour from an empty cup. But I have finally found some things to put some pep back in my step and end the year as my best self. Here are 10 creative and practical ways to infuse self-care into your life and finish the year strong!

1) Evaluate What Works, Make it a Routine

For me, planning is therapeutic and having a routine helps to ease the anxiety that I often carry around with me. Latham Thomas, celebrity doula and "Glow Maven" shares the following gem: "Self-care is about assessing what supports you at the deepest level and honoring those feelings and responding with rituals and making space for yourself to rest and recharge. A strong self-care practice sharpens our discernment and we learn what supports us and what depletes us." So in order to honor that need, I've made it a point to evaluate my routine each week, to buy out that time and ensure that I am getting what I need to recharge. I'll explain more in the next tips.

2) Embrace Your Tribe!

One of my favorite ways to recharge is by spending time with my girl-tribe. I've neglected this over the past few years, but in recent months I've made a point to take the time to embrace my tribe! Whether this was going to Sip-n-Paint with a girlfriend or just spending an hour on the phone pouring my heart out to my big sister, my tribe came through to pull me out of those low moments.

3) Reflect on Your Accomplishments

Take out some time to make a list of your accomplishments for the past year. Focus on every win you've achieved no matter how big or small. Some of my major wins were becoming a contributor for one of my favorite platforms (wink, wink) and potty-training my son; and one of the smaller ones was cutting back on eating out. Writing down your wins makes them real and can prove to be an effective self-care practice to pull you out of those dark moments that come with the cold weather.

4) Indulge Yourself Once a Week

This can mean something different to everyone, but it's all about doing something extraordinary just for you. Go get your nails done, take a long candle-lit bath, or just enjoy that delicious dessert your diet doesn't allow for. Indulge yourself girl, you deserve it!

5) Practice Gratitude Daily

CurlyNikki recently shared that she makes a habit of saying thank you out loud to herself throughout the day. She shares that saying thank you when something good happens, something bad or in between, she just practices gratitude for every experience and that helps her maintain an overall more positive outlook.

6) Revamp Your Wash Day Routine

Recently I changed up my wash day routine to ensure that I take the time to enjoy it. I've incorporated a new deep conditioner, Shea Moisture Jamaican Black Castor Oil Masque and make it a point to take my time, gently finger detangle, cleanse and braid my hair in the shower. This simple routine is just what I need at the start of the week to relax me and take the stress out of maintaining my hair for the next days to come.

7) Rock a Bold Lippie

There are few things that compare to feelings of boldness and fierceness that come with rocking a bright, red lipstick. Bawse Lady by The Lip Bar is my favorite and when I wake up feeling less than my best, I apply this lipstick and instantly feel a mood boost and feel ready to face the day!

8) Move Your Body

To enhance my self-care routine and also get my project fit mama back on track, I go to Zumba step once a week. However, one of my personal goals is to squeeze in at least 10 minutes of physical activity daily! According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, even five minutes of aerobic exercise can elevate and stabilize moods and decrease overall levels of tension and stress.

9) Write it Out

Journaling is a tried and true way to release any feelings of anxiety but it's also a great way to create plans, write affirmations or just dump all of the thoughts out of your mind and on paper. I've challenged myself to start writing more and it's been a major key to my self-care routine.

10) Communicate Your Feelings

In preparing for the end of this year, making my plans to rock out my business and personal goals and overcome the stress and anxiety that almost put me out of commission this past year, I've made it a point to talk openly and honestly with my husband and tribe on a regular basis. Sharing my fears and just having an open dialogue with people who love me helped me see things from a new perspective, but also helped me see that I was not alone or wrong for the feelings I have. It's also helped me create a solid plan for ending the year strong and keeping the momentum going.

I learned personally that I can no longer just repost cute quotes about self-care and not take it seriously in my own life. My sanity and well-being were dependent on it. So my challenge to you readers is to visit this list and the resources below, find what works for you and prioritize self-care, get creative with it and finish the year strong.

How do you practice self-care? Which one of these listed above is a necessity for you?