Inside: self-care – what it is, why it’s important, and how to start a self-care routine as part of your intentional life journey, with examples
Have you seen the term self-care pop up a lot lately and wondered what in the world it’s all about? Well, wonder no more because, in this primer, I’ll explain what it is and why it’s beneficial, and show you a few ways to add it to your daily routine, with examples to help you get started.
What is self-care?
The self-care concept goes well beyond merely caring for yourself, beyond say, taking a shower in the morning. It’s about nurturing your mind, body, and soul in a sustainable, long-term way.
Think about how you treat someone you love. Self-care is all about extending that to yourself. It’s about being kind to yourself, giving yourself grace and compassion, and recharging your batteries to keep them from ending up depleted.
It’s also about recognizing when you need help and asking for it, so you’re not spinning your wheels without any results. Asking for help can feel like you’re vulnerable, and in that moment, you sure are. This is a good thing because it helps people relate to you.
A brief note on what self-care is NOT
Anything that makes you feel good in the short-term but is destructive in the long-term doesn’t count as self-care. Drugs and alcohol are pretty obvious. But retail therapy is their less obvious cousin. Over time, it can leave us with lots of clutter and overwhelm, and much less money.
What are the benefits of self-care?
For people who care for others, the nurses and moms among us, it’s often difficult to embrace the idea of self-care. It’s too easy to write it off with “I don’t have time.”
But starting a self-care practice benefits you in many ways. Here are a few of them:
- You feel refreshed and energized
- Your self-esteem improves as you understand your worth
- You have a more positive outlook on life
- You learn about yourself and what you need to be the best you
- You can cope better with stress
- You can prioritize what is important to you
When you take the time to make sure your own needs are met, it will be so much easier for you to take care of others. Your people need you to take care of yourself. So, reframe it like this:
When caring for others is a priority, it’s not that you don’t have time for self-care, it’s that you can’t afford not to do it.
How to practice self-care: examples and ideas
There are eleventy million ways to practice self-care. Think about what you enjoy the most and do that. Here is a bunch of examples to inspire you and get you started.
If you’re an outdoors person, take a walk along the beach or in the woods. If you’d rather stay closer to home, you can take a walk around your neighborhood -whether with your spouse, with your friend next door, or alone – and appreciate the grass or sky or whatever pretty sights you see, enjoy the sounds of neighborhood kids playing, wave to your neighbors…
Another option is targeted exercise – you could go to the gym to work out (not my first choice but more power to you if you do this, hehe). Or you could go for a run in the neighborhood or do yoga or Pilates in the comfort of your own home.
Taking a bath and getting a massage or a pedicure – all of these are good ways to slow down a little and take care of yourself.
Start a gratitude journal. At its simplest, a gratitude journal is where you list your three little victories each night. It doesn’t matter how tiny they are, they count. No need for many words, just think of three small (or big) wins from the day and write them down.
Another active way to practice emotional self-care is to go into your creative space, pull out your favorite craft, and start creating. Before you know it, you’re in the flow and have shut out the rest of the world.
You could also catch up with your favorite friends, the ones who always lift you up and make you feel life is good. So go ahead, call one of them or meet her for lunch, and get your dose of laughter and good advice.
When you’re feeling tired, allow yourself to decline invitations and other social commitments. Block off a half-hour or so for meditation. It’s perfectly ok to take time to recharge. And speaking of taking time…
How to create a self-care routine that fits your life
Are you thinking, “OMG, when am I supposed to do all this, and how will I remember it all?” I get it. Adding yet another thing to your already busy life probably seems near impossible.
But as with any new habit, it’s a matter of starting small and keying it to something you already do. BJ Fogg does an excellent job of explaining how to do this in his book Tiny Habits. And I’ll give you a few more pointers for making self-care a regular part of your life.
Choose your activities
First and foremost, you want to select activities that are meaningful to you. That way, you’ll enjoy the new additions to your routine. It’s your life, and it should totally be personalized for you.
What helps you feel relaxed or happy? What sounds like a fun thing to do? From the examples above, pick a few you like the most and add to them whatever you think I left out. Ideally, you want to start with something that doesn’t require any extra gear. Think simple.
Choose your moments
Think about which part of your day could accommodate your new self-care practice. Maybe you take the last 15 minutes of the day to write in your gratitude journal.
Another option is that you wake up an hour early and go for a run (go you!) or do yoga, or work on your creative project before the rest of the house wakes up.
On your lunch break, instead of scrolling through social media, take a short walk around the block. Or talk to a friend. And not about work, either. Fun stuff only.
Quick tip about flexibility
Ideally, you want to create a simple self-care routine and stick to it to ensure it becomes a part of your daily pattern. You need to take care of yourself, this isn’t an optional thing, so might as well make it a strong habit that’s like second nature.
But, and this is a big but… life happens. Remember to give yourself grace and if you skip something today, make sure you get right back to it tomorrow.
In the beginning, it will take conscious thought. But the more you practice your new self-care routine, the easier it will be to stick with it or get back to it after a missed day.
Let’s recap what we learned here. Self-care is a long-term, sustainable way to nurture your mind, body, and soul. It will benefit you in many ways, including higher energy and a more positive outlook on life.
There are many ways to practice self-care, from walking and exercising to catching up with friends and working on your creative projects. To start your new self-care routine, choose a few self-care activities that appeal to you, pick your own schedule, and cut yourself slack when life happens. Just make sure you get right back to it the next day.
If you enjoyed this article, please share it with your friends on Facebook or Pinterest.