In a world where burnout is nearly synonymous to success, and lack of a personal life is equated with dedication to one’s career, it is not surprising that “self-care” has become more of a buzzword and focus in American culture as more and more individuals find themselves exhausted and not caring for themselves as they want to. Some of the self-care methods promoted by celebrities, influencers, and even our friends center around indulging ourselves, which is not necessarily a bad thing. However, balanced self-care is more than the treating ourselves to a bubble bath or a pint of ice cream now and again; it is looking at what we need as whole persons—body, mind, and soul—to refresh and recharge on a consistent basis. It is aimed more at what is sustainable than what is ideal, and it sees that the sustainable self-care practices are catered to every individual, such that the self-care practices that work for us may look different from those of our families and friends. And that’s okay. So how do we develop healthy habits to care for all aspects of our person?
Identify your needs
Everyone is different. Self-care for introverts might look like finding time everyday to be alone; whereas, extroverts might try to arrange a weekly coffee date with one of their closest friends. Try writing out a list of what you wish you had more time for in your life, healthy habits you would like to develop, or what you feel might give you a greater sense of order and peace throughout your days. Maybe that includes time for creativity, certain hobbies, adjusting your skincare routine, or cooking more meals at home. Don’t be afraid to include ideas that don’t seem like ‘typical’ self-care ideas. It’s okay to include things like having a consistent day and time to pay your bills or changing your sheets more regularly on your list. Add anything that will help bring a greater sense of calm to your life. If you struggle coming up with ideas for self-care, try picturing yourself as if you were a close friend of yours. Given the same circumstances, how would you want to make her feel loved? How would you hope she would take care of herself?
Care for your whole person
After making a list of what is ideal, try grouping the ideas on your list into categories. You could group yours into body, mind, and soul, or physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. Once you have separated your ideas into smaller group, take stock of what is before you. Try to choose one idea from each category to incorporate into your life. If you are struggling to come up with ideas, here are some to get you started.
Body/physical: taking a weekly workout class, walking every night after dinner, eating three meals a day, planning meals/packing lunch for work or school the night before, drinking more water, taking longer warm baths/showers each weekend, sleeping for 7-8 hours a night.
Mind/mental: reading a book for fun, setting limits on how much of the news you watch/read each day, signing up for a class to learn a new language, setting screen time limits, getting blue light glasses if you spend a lot of time for work or school in front of a screen, listen to more podcasts.
Soul/emotional/spiritual: daily meditation or prayer, journaling each night, spending time with friends more regularly, going to therapy or a support group, carving out time to be creative or practice a hobby, listening to soothing or uplifting music while commuting or doing household chores, advocating for yourself in a difficult relationship.
Make it realistic
Without realistic expectations, ideas and plans for self-care do not materialize. Be honest about your life circumstances and really ask yourself what is attainable for you in your current state of life. Maybe if incorporating self-care ideas from each category is too daunting, try choosing just one thing to do consistently. When it comes to self-care, quality is better than quantity. If working out everyday isn’t realistic, try just once a week for twenty minutes. Once you are faithfully committing to that twenty minutes a week, try incorporating a workout during another day of the week. Add these habits gradually so as not to overwhelm or discourage yourself.
Schedule it in
Having ideas for self-care is great, but without committing to it like you would an essential task or other appointment, it will surely fall through the cracks. Put your self-care commitments into a planner or calendar and stick to them. If you have little ones, try to place your self-care time into a part the day when they will be asleep or at school, or ask a partner, relative, or friend if they would be available to watch your kids for one hour a week so that can have uninterrupted time for your self-care. If you are having a difficult time sticking to your self-care habits, try asking a partner, family member, or friend to check in on you once a week to make sure you are prioritizing time for yourself.
Find your why
Sadly, we often neglect self-care because we do not believe it is as important as caring for others, our work, our studies, or any other number of commitments or things that pull at our attention and time. However, caring for ourselves is vital and brings much peace and calm into our days. If you struggle believing that caring for yourself is truly time well-spent, consider writing out a few affirmations to yourself and putting them in a place where you can see them frequently, such as on your bathroom mirror. These affirmations could be as simple as “I am worthy of being cared for” or “Taking care of myself is important and essential to my growth as a person.” Or, you could consider talking to a trusted family member, friend, or therapist and expressing why it might be difficult for you to implement self-care. Hearing from someone else that we are worthy of love, care, and rest is often what we need to hear to be able to believe it for ourselves.