Finding ways to engage in self-care on a day-to-day basis is essential to your physical, mental, and emotional well-being. “Self-care” is a fairly broad, generic term, referring to all sorts of deliberate, enjoyable steps you can take to help yourself manage stress and achieve better health, and just generally promote your own well-being.
Note the word “enjoyable” above; it’s important to point out that self-care doesn’t involve activities that cause you more stress, or that are unpleasant for you. For example, while eating healthy foods is an example of self-care, if you despise kale, forcing yourself to eat a salad made with kale for lunch isn’t self-care.
Benefiting from some of the many ways to engage in self-care takes some planning, especially when you’re newly trying to incorporate them into your routine. We all tend to be busy, and have lots of distractions in our lives, and often have kids or other loved ones whom we prioritize over ourselves, and this commonly prevents us from taking good care of ourselves.
So, you need to build self-care into your schedule. Remind yourself repeatedly that it’s important, staying mindful of why you’re doing it. Not only will it improve your own well-being, but it will also improve your performance, your patience, your mood, and other aspects of yourself that have direct effects on the many relationships in your life. In other words, it’s good for everyone around you, too.
Below are some simple ways to engage in self-care. Anyone can find appropriate options that they enjoy, and that work on a practical level within their life.
How to Fulfill Self-Care Needs
- Get some exercise every day. Try to achieve a mix of cardiovascular exercise, strength-training, and stretching throughout the week.
- Sleep for 7 to 8 hours per night. Some people do just fine with a little less, and some need a little more, but this is the generally recommended amount of sleep. Pay attention to your sleep hygiene if you have trouble falling or staying asleep.
- Eat a healthy diet made up mostly of whole foods (natural foods close to their natural state) rather than processed foods. Whole grains, fruit, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, lean proteins, seafood, and/or some dairy should make up the bulk of what you eat. Limit added sugar and sodium.
- Keep your home and work environment clean and tidy. Dirt and clutter have negative effects on our ability to focus, mood, and even how good we feel about ourselves and our lives.
- Take care of your personal hygiene. When we’re feeling down or dealing with a lot of stress, we sometimes skip the shower, sit around in the same clothes a little too long, miss that nightly teeth brushing, etc. But you’ll feel better when you stay on top of your hygiene.
- Spend some time outside each day, preferably around some nature if you can. Let the sun hit you for 15 minutes.
- Find some time every day for a hobby or other activity you enjoy, such as reading, writing in a journal, doing a crossword or sudoku puzzle, listening to music, knitting, painting, playing a sport, etc.
- Take advantage of natural ways of managing stress and anxiety.
- Practice one or more relaxation methods on a regular basis. These might include meditating, deep breathing, a movement-based activity like yoga or tai chi, aromatherapy, soaking in a hot bath, and so on.
- Spend time with family and/or friends on a daily basis.
- Laugh! Hang out with a funny friend, watch some stand-up comedy or a funny TV show or movie, read a humor book, or do something else that makes you laugh every day.
- Learn to say “no” when others make excessive, unreasonable, or unmanageable demands on your time and energy. It’s easy to burn yourself out while doing for others, especially if you’re neglecting yourself because of it.
- Review your daily life and identify aspects that have negative effects that you can change. For example, maybe you get caught up in work emails at night; resolve to stop checking it, and do what it takes to make it happen (turn off notifications, keep your phone in another room, etc.).
- Provide yourself with a change of scenery occasionally. A vacation is great, but not usually practical. Go on a weekend getaway, take a day trip, or even just drive to the next town over for a few hours when you can.
- See doctors! Get regular checkups with your primary care physician. Talk to a mental health professional if you’re having trouble with stress, anxiety, depression, another mental health condition, or the state of your life.