Self-care is no longer an elusive topic. In fact, it’s becoming more and more widely known as a non-negotiable for healthy living.
After all, who can make healthy decisions day after day when they’re worn thin and run dry by day-to-day life without any breaks?
Some people – busy bees, workaholics and hard-working mums, students and everything in between – are so accustomed to putting forth all the effort all the time that self-care feels flat-out indulgent.
Let me assure you that it’s not; it’s healthy, necessary and doesn’t even need to be time-consuming!
Self-care is not selfish, so as soon as we can move past that together and feel good about designating some time for JUST us each day (yes – every single day!), we’ve mastered the first step.
Self-care is a means of conservation, preservation and protection. Just like the environment, our cars and our houses, we need some upkeep to be fully functional and healthy over time.
Believe me, I know this is a tough one, but I hope that resonates with you!
Another important thing to remember is that self-care is important for every individual. Just because your job isn’t high-stress or you don’t experience anxiety regularly doesn’t mean you don’t deserve some pampering.
People with more taxing daily lives will benefit greatly from a daily self-care routine, but there are few people who won’t see positive changes in having some time to sit back and relax.
The basics of establishing a routine
Before we get into how you can customize your routine with ten of my favorite ways to show myself a little love daily, I want to talk about how to establish a routine.
Like any healthy habit, it can be difficult to start up and stay motivated. Self-care should generally set a positive tone for the day, or centre you when you need it the most. Being diligent does pay off.
While self-care is generally comprised of things we look forward to, we love to make excuses! In this case, “too busy” comes to mind, so how do we fight back and prioritize self-care?
Here are a few tips that I’ve used:
- Make it the first thing you do. I can’t tell you how tough this one is because as soon as I get out of bed, I want to do nothing and everything at the same time. That’s why doing my self-care routine works. It helps me to wake up gently, slowly and happily instead of groggily, and it also helps me avoid that panic that ensues when I start thinking about everything I need to do for the day. Instead, I come out of my routine with a nice clear head, naturally energised for the day ahead.
- Make yourself accountable. I use my bullet journal to keep accountable. I create a habit tracker each week or month – some get their own page! – to check off days I implement certain self-care practices. Two of my habits that always make it into my weekly spread are meditation and light therapy, as I aim for seven days per week no matter what.
- Make it easy. Self-care shouldn’t feel like a chore. In fact, it should feel like quite the opposite. Make parts of your self-care routine feel effortless to you. I make sure my desk is set up for meditation in the morning simply by making sure my computer doesn’t get left open overnight, as it tempts me to first check my email when I sit down! Prepare your space, gather your favourite self-care products and make sure you have room to breathe… literally!
- Don’t cut corners. Give yourself enough time to complete your routine so that it truly benefits you, and so that it feels restorative. Rushing your routine is incredibly counterproductive. I highly recommend at least beginning with 20 designated minutes of self-care per day, but I encourage more than that if you can swing it, 30-60 minutes being ideal.
I know, it’s probably one of the most obvious self-care mechanisms. Beyond that, it’s one of those things people always ask if you’ve tried if you’re feeling stressed, overwhelmed or dealing with anxiety or depression.
I’m just going to point out that there are plenty of good reasons why there’s so much emphasis on meditation. The benefits of doing meditation consistently – even if just for ten minutes per day – are profound in stress levels and literally changing our brain chemistry to become more relaxed, resilient and mindful.
It increases our capacity to problem solve and focus. A strong practice can even reduce symptoms in people with chronic pain. If that’s not powerful, I don’t know what is!
I found it easiest to get started and continue to feel motivated each morning with the app called Headspace. It helps you keep track of your streak, and you want to see it keep rising!
You’ll begin with 10-minute meditations (tell me you don’t have time for that!), which help you to understand it’s not about not thinking, but more about mastering your thoughts and accepting them.
There are many styles of meditation that address different needs, and Headspace has a huge variety of which to choose once you complete your ten introduction meditations.
Extensions of meditation: Deep and intentional breaths throughout the day, practising truly mindful meals, loving-kindness meditation (my personal favourite).
2. Take a soak
Here’s another quintessential self-care technique, but I swear by it. If you have a bathtub, you’ve gotta utilize it! Beyond the act of soaking in a hot bath is the ritual that begins with simply drawing the bath.
Taking time to watch the tub fill up and bringing out some of my favorite aromas to toss into my water really helps me to begin winding down and take advantage of the process.
I don’t like to begin my day with a bath as it can be too relaxing, but it is often a part of my bedtime routine.
Taking a bath 1-2 hours prior to bed with Epsom salts to boost my magnesium, calm down my brain and body and just focus on a book or a podcast shifts my mind into zen mode and snap out of work mode.
Even if I bring technology into the bath tub for listening purposes, it’s strictly a no-work, no-stress zone.
Bathtime bonuses: A glass of wine in the tub, a hot cup of herbal tea in the tub (I love warming blends like Bengal Spice), using lavender oil post-soak, sprucing it up with a pretty bath bomb.
3. Tech-free times
This one is amongst the most difficult to do, but it’s also one of the most effective. Doing a full-on digital detox is a huge act of self-care, and going for a tech-free day or weekend can work wonders.
I know that’s not the most feasible thing for most people, and I want these practices to feel accessible above all, so I’m just asking you to consider a block of time in which going tech-free is feasible for you.
You could even just double up on meditation and consider that your tech-free time.
I highly recommend this time first thing in the morning and right before bed. Our phones have no place in our beds, and waking up to our surroundings is far healthier for our brains than immediately wiring into our social media, text messages and breaking news – it adds a huge sense of urgency to our lives that give our brains way too much stimulation at once when we need less.
It’s good to avoid blue light for quality of sleep anyways, so opt for books and amber lighting before you snooze.
Optimize your unplug: Journal, meditate or even take a nap instead. Workout, walk or hike without your phone or headphones. Sleep with your phone in a separate room.
Set a time when the day goes “tech-free,” i.e. “No electronics after 8 p.m.”
4. At-home spa treatment
There are loads of ways to get your DIY beauty on at home with cheap, daily “spa” treatment. Just locking in a solid beauty routine is a big effort of self-care that I can start with first thing in the morning.
I love just washing my face as soon as I get out of bed, and bringing in some essential oils to my skin as I moisturize. It’s a dose of nourishment for my skin from natural ingredients plus some aromatherapy to wake up my senses.
Here are some of my favourite DIY ideas and product suggestions for you to get started. Pick and choose, mix and match or just stick to something simple that makes you feel truly pampered.
- My favorite DIY at-home face peel recipes
- Activated charcoal for face masks, teeth brushing and more. This is my ‘must-have’ DIY beauty product!
- Essential oils for diffusing or using in product recipes/on skin
Step up your spa game: Schedule an actual day at the spa for a splurge.
5. Fresh air and sunshine
That’s the equation. Add some movement into the mix, and you’ve got the ultimate act of self-love and self-care, at least if you ask me!
I love the outdoors, and I love to take advantage of the therapeutic benefits of getting enough time outside. This one can be tough depending on the climate you live in, the season and your time constraints.
I aim to spend time outside each day, but I organize 2-3 days per week in which I’m able to spend extended periods of time (2-6 hours) outside at a time.
It doesn’t take much to see benefits, though. I recently discovered the Japanese concept of forest bathing which is meant to be brief!
Quality air, greenery, the sunshine and subsequent vitamin D absorption, and the bonus effort of running, walking, biking, hiking or getting physical in the outdoors can be incredibly therapeutic. It’s great for stress relief, fitness, endorphin release and energy levels.
Nothing helps me reset more when I’m feeling frazzled or confused than stepping outside, whether it’s for five minutes or a whole weekend.
Up your outdoors cred: Meditate, stretch or do yoga outdoors. Try grounding by simply going outdoors barefoot. Plan a camping or backpacking trip to increase your outdoor exposure when you have time for some extended self-care.
6. Write it out
True story: my bullet journal is my lifeline. Here is where I write out my to-do lists, my goals, my thoughts and feelings, my gratitudes and track my habits.
It has made a massive difference in my stress levels, productivity levels, organization, mindfulness, discipline and quality of life overall.
I know it’s simple, but just writing in it once or twice a day to keep up with my objectives and take note of what’s important to me is powerful stuff. There are plenty of proven benefits of journaling, and you don’t have to put any pressure on how much you write or what you write.
If you just get started, you’ll figure out your individual style. I love my Moleskine journal and my Color Luxe pens. These are what got me started, and they are also what keep me going!
Journal ideas to get you started:
- 3-10 things I am grateful for today
- 10 things I like about me (or someone else) to build on loving-kindness meditation
- Weekly or monthly calendars/to-do lists
- Book reading or travel bucket lists
- Budget sheets to track spending
- Food, sleep and/or exercise logs
- Habit tracker (mine includes meditation, light therapy, running, etc.)
7. Make time for your passion project
Our to-do lists end up dominated by our need to-do tasks, work-related stuff and a bunch of unpleasant errands that we don’t exactly look forward to.
Instead of settling for it, put some stuff on your planner that sparks your passion! It doesn’t need to be a project or a big career change. You don’t need to sink money into an obscure hobby.
Just think of what you’ve always wanted to do, or a hobby you haven’t carved out time for lately and pencil it on in. Go on – don’t be shy!
Photography, language-learning, musical instruments, athletic training, outdoor activities, knitting or blogging… what’s calling you?
Setting aside even an hour a day can a) get you far and b) won’t break the time bank. It is SO difficult for me to think that my hobby could come before what I actually NEED to be doing, but it’s great when I realize how important that is to my overall wellbeing, and I know carving out time for my hobbies makes me more productive in all of my other tasks!
8. Splurge some
There’s a quote from an old show called Twin Peaks that I come back to when I need a reminder of why I’m practizing self-care or trying to find a reason to splurge or indulge in some way.
It reads, “I’m going to let you in on a little secret. Every day, once a day, give yourself a present. Don’t plan it. Don’t wait for it. Just let it happen.
It could be a new shirt at the men’s store, a catnap in your office chair, or two cups of good, hot black coffee.”
Your splurge doesn’t even need to cost money. Your splurge could be implementing your self-care routine in the first place.
I love those little afternoon pick-me-ups that feel simple but indulgent at the same time, like a cup of hot tea with cream or a piece of dark chocolate, or perhaps a walk to the secondhand shop to find a new decoration or piece of clothing to admire.
It doesn’t have to be costly or time-consuming. It’s best to truly just let it happen. I tend to gift myself during the afternoon when I’m prone to feeling stressed or fatigued.
9. Connect with people
I see this one get brushed aside sometimes for the sake of time, but if you’re going to make anything a priority, this is it. I know, I know – I’ve said that about a lot on this list, but consider this amongst the most important.
Besides, it’s generally simple enough to do, especially if you live with people. Simply deepening the connection with your partner, children or housemates with intention by talking about more complex topics, organizing outings, meals or games with one another or designating undivided time with them each day can bring a lot of positive stress relief, laughs and an opportunity to be involved in someone else’s world for a moment.
Plus, it gives you a moment to vent or talk about your problems which is inherently therapeutic.
Even just chatting up people while out – like your barista or butcher – can feel really luxurious. If you’re so accustomed to going through the day without much meaningful connection, aim to change that little by little.
This is one of those daily efforts that’s become very commonplace to me, but it’s probably the one I look forward to the most. Much like my “splurges,” I like to let these just happen! Prioritizing good conversation feels like eating chocolate cake in a social way… it’s rich!
10. Do nothing at all
Need I say more? This stuff works. Lay in bed, take a nap, sit outside and lounge for awhile. The trick? Set a timer. Don’t let your snooze turn into a three-hour affair, and don’t get couch locked for too long.
I aim for 20 minutes but sometimes allow for up to an hour, depending on how much restoration I’m seeking.
What does your self-care routine look like? How many of these are on your to-do list each day? Did I miss any? Share some insight into how you unwind and relax every day! I hope you enjoyed the tips here and found some valuable ideas to show yourself a little love.
Music, mountains, dogs, travel, food and friends.