Let me start by saying a couple of things self-care is not. Self-care isn’t:
- An excuse to continually be unhealthy: A cheat day every once and a while is fine (encouraged even, because balance), but you can’t use “self-care” to justify poor habits
- Spending excess money on yourself that you don’t have: Debt has never done a body good #TreatYoSelfResponsibly
Maybe we should repeat that last one because I want it to sink in for everyone. Self-care is not selfish. Nor is it a waste of time. The world spins deceivingly fast; if you don’t step aside and check in with yourself every now and again, you might wake up to find you’re standing in a very different place than where you intended. (Cue those drives home when you look up and realize you don’t remember passing through the last three stoplights.)
Related: 8 Reasons Self-Care Isn’t Selfish
Worthwhile self-care requires a bit of a two-pronged approach: both assessing your mental, emotional and physical health (on a scale of 1 – 10, how am I doing?) and selecting an activity that will inch you closer to a 10. Despite what some argue, there are such things as bad days, so don’t shoot yourself in the foot if some days you’re stuck at a 6.5. (Also, note shooting your own foot would likely slide you down to a -3, so it is unadvised nonetheless.)
Self-care isn’t about perfection or tricking yourself. It’s an honest internal dialog, which is where the challenge lies as most of us aren’t accustomed to giving a truthful answer to the “how are you?” questions at the water cooler. The other hurdle to self-care is that to be effective, it’s going to be a little different for everyone. While I like to go on sunset runs to clear my mind, for others the thought of running causes stress.
To help gather self-care activities real people do regularly, I turned to the Interwebs with a simple question: “What is something you do for self-care that most people wouldn’t think of?” And the answers were fascinating! Here are some ideas ranging across different hobbies and interests to add to your self-care routines:
1. Don’t check your email or social media channels within one hour of waking.
2. Meditation or yoga, even just 10 minutes each morning or night.
3. Sign up for boxing classes. – Matt Linder and Amanda ReCupido
4. Take a 10-15 minute walk during the workday. – Charlotte Moore
5. Get more sleep—there are several studies that also support this one!
6. Set yourself a reminder on your phone (or Alexa device) saying, “You’re amazing!” – Pamela Sommers
7. Take a long ride on your bike or motorcycle. – Erik Huckleberry
8. Say no to events or gatherings that stretch you too thin.
9. Clean and declutter your desk—a polished desk is a polished mind. – Kalina Halatcheva
10. Take a bath. – Adabela Seuss
11. Listen to an audiobook. – Courtney Rose
12. Cuddle with your dog/cat—or play with your friends’ pets. – Rachel De Jesus
13. Light a candle in your favorite scent. Extra points if you do this while at your desk to make your workspace more inviting.
14. Cook yourself a nice meal. Eating = self-care. – Tamara Van Horne
15. Watch a nature documentary.
16. Create a safe space at home that’s meant only for pure relaxation. – Shaina V. Destine
17. Wake up without using an alarm clock one day this week.
18. Write yourself a “well-done” list at the end of the day to celebrate your achievements, however big or small they may be. – Natalie Costa
19. Schedule self-care time like you would block out dinner plans with friends. – Carly Boatwright
All of these suggestions made me smile because it reminded me there are almost endless ways to extend compassion to ourselves. Oftentimes we put this immense pressure on our own shoulders to be great that we forget to leave time to just be with ourselves. Self-care doesn’t have to be lavish. Instead, look at self-care as a way to help you be present in the moment and not however many miles away your mind carries you. Recognizing the present has a sneaky way of recharging you so you’re fulfilled for whatever life sends you next.
Someone said to me once that they envied the those who “go with the flow.” Who don’t look for red flags and instead swerve without pause. It struck me because I used to feel that way, too, and it forced me to ask myself, What changed? I used to love making plans. I was an architect. I’d write out pros and cons and close my eyes to envision how each step could unfold (I like to be prepared). Yet somewhere along the way, I think I got tired of writing in pencil, too nervous to make a mistake I couldn’t take back. I still love to plan, but now I use college-ruled paper and leave space for a change in course. I try to leave room for the really good things that land in your path unexpectedly, and also the acceptance to sit during life’s not-so-good moments to catch my breath. Flexibility is the cornerstone to my self-care. Which brings me to the final suggestion for your self-care: