Today I will be sharing my self-care guide.
Self-care is the best gift we can give ourselves mentally, emotionally, and physically. It is establishing and maintaining a healthy relationship with our bodies to improve our mood, boost confidence and reduces anxiety and stress.
Practicing self-care is especially crucial during this overwhelming time.
I never used to make time for self-care. I always had more “important” things to do. For years, my emotional and physical well-being suffered. Even the most basic of self-care practices went out the window – I’d often skip multiple meals in order to get more work done, I never drank enough water, and I did nothing to take care of my emotional well-being either.
It’s taken me a lot of work to get to where I am, and even now I still slip up sometimes. But I’ve learned a lot about self-care, and if you’re wondering how to start self-care for yourself, I’d love to let you in on what I’ve learned.
Consider this a guide on self-care, I hope you find some inspiration from it!
Disclaimer: I am not in any way a certified therapist, so all the advice is given from my own experience and should not be taken as medical advice.
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What is self-care?
Because it’s important we’re all on the same page, right?
Let’s start with a self-care definition from Oxford Dictionaries:
“The practice of taking action to preserve or improve one’s own health.”
“The practice of taking an active role in protecting one’s own well-being and happiness, in particular during periods of stress.”
So basically, self-care is you and I taking responsibility for our own health, both mental and physical.
Seems pretty legit and certainly not self-indulgent.
In fact, for anyone to suggest that taking responsibly for your mental and physical health is anything but common sense, well they’re the one’s sounding ridiculous.
Please don’t let anyone shame you for self-care or listen to anyone that says anything negative about your self-care practices.
You are taking responsibility for your physical and mental health, that is nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed about at all.
I’ve got no time for people who belittle self-care!
Anyway, before we move onto to why self-care is so damn important, I just want to give you a few examples of self-care activities below, so you can see how diverse self-care can be.
- Having a few extra hours in bed
- Practicing Mindfulness
- Having a shower
- Eating healthy food
- Eating unhealthy food (too right that cookie is self-care!)
- Going for a run
- Going for a walk for fresh air
- Curling up on the sofa for an entire day when you feel down in the dumps!
- Binge watching Netflix
- Doing a no-Netflix week
- Working on your hobby
- Seeing friends for dinner
- Not seeing friends or anyone for a few days if you need just you time
This is just a tiny number of self-care activities, but you can see how diverse they are and that some directly conflict with the one above or below.
Sometimes we need to chill out and just binge watch a ton of Netflix, but other times we need to take drastic measures to reduce our Netflix-watching time.
One size does not fit all, and what you need one week will probably be different from the next. But don’t worry, I’m going to make it really easy for you to figure out what kind of self-care you need and when!
Why Is self-care so important?
This seems like a no-brainer. But so many people forget how neglecting self-care damages other areas of our life – until it actually happens.
With energised minds and bodies, we can, first of all, be more productive. You can get more done in less time, and in turn have more hours left for the things you love.
As you can see, a good kind of a self-perpetuating cycle grows out of making your wellness and emotional contentedness a priority.
Through these activities/through patterns/habits, you make sure you live as your best self, rather than just exist. Cheesiness ahead warning, but why are so many of us concerned about making ‘enjoying life’ a frequent, rather than an occasional treat?!
Focusing on wellbeing and happiness now prevents burnout from creeping up on you and throwing your health and stress levels out of control. You should never feel bad about making yourself a priority, and inspires you to take action accordingly.
Depression and routine – Why’s it so important?
Ok, now you know why self-care in general is important, what’s the significance of having a self-care routine for depression or any mental health issue?
Basically, routines tell our brain and body we’re safe.
Think about it for a second, if you are massively stressed or in danger you don’t do the same things every day because you’re dealing with stress or a dangerous situation. The disruption in routine acts as a signal that all is not well.
A signal we really don’t want to give our brains when we have depression.
Therefore, routines are really important because they do the opposite, they signal to our brains that everything is well and we don’t need to worry.
Which is exactly what we want – a nice, relaxed brain equals a happy life.
Make it a routine
One of the best ways to reach a goal or form any habit is through consistency and regular practice. The same thing applies to self-care.
In your calendar, try blocking out ‘non-negotiable’ self-care times. How frequent and how long these are depends on your lifestyle.
For example, you might pick thirty minutes before bed every night to journal and read a few chapters of a book. You might want to spend Sunday afternoons getting out into nature, or meditate for five minutes every morning.
For me, working out is a way to nourish my body and mind alike. So, after consistently dedicating 1-2 hours every morning 5-6 times a week to it, the routine feels effortless and I feel the benefits afterwards each time.
This will give you a more concrete plan of action than just wishing for some spare time to appear, and also something to look forward to as a way of recharging yourself!
Write out what your ideal daily routine looks like
Often, we’re unhappy and stressed, but don’t quite understand why. As a starting point, write out what an ideal day in your life would look like and the answer may be right there in front of you.
If you want to, split this up into morning, afternoon and evening.
What time do you want to wake up? Where do you want to spend your lunch break? How will you spend your last 30 minutes before bed? Then, see how this differs from your current routine.
Going forward, taking the necessary steps to change will be much easier this way.
Be realistic and intentional with your time
Reading the above, you might think: ‘but I don’t have enough time to block out!’
If that’s the case, firstly remind yourself that:
- It’s much better to spend a few hours a week on self-care now than burn out and crash in the future.
- By working on your physical and mental health, you’ll likely see a huge boost to your productivity and accomplish more in less time.
Then, look at where your hours actually go. Look for time wasters and distractions. For instance, if you spend twenty minutes every morning scrolling through social media, you could use that time for yoga and light stretches.
Do you procrastinate a lot and spend much longer on tasks than necessary? In that case, look at how you can streamline your workflow.
One of the reasons I practice and advocate time blocking is to make sure I’m as intentional as possible with my time. In summary, what you do is assign tasks to ‘blocks’ in your calendar.
This clearly identifies what activities make up your day, and when they take place. It encourages you to get work done as efficiently as possible and still have plenty of room in your life for other things.
Finally, remember that self-care doesn’t have to consume countless hours! What you get out of the time you put in is much more important than the amount. Quality over quantity, always.
Get someone else to hold you accountable
Find someone you trust to check in with once in a while. This can be anyone from a friend or family member to a qualified professional.
My accountability helper is my partner: she can just tell when I’m stressed out and reminds me to include enough me-time in my day, go to sleep early, not be constantly glued to my phone, and the like.
You know how we often have a tendency to show more kindness to others than to ourselves? Well, while we work on getting those balanced, it helps to have someone give you an occasional gentle (or stern) reminder.
Let go of guilt
Completely detach guilt from self-care. Try changing the way you think about it – for example:
Stop seeing it as selfish or a waste of time. As I said, you can’t a) excel at your goals or b) be there to help others when you don’t treat yourself with kindness. This is hard, in particular when you have goals and deadlines.
The last thing you might want to do is relax, meditate and go for long walks. But try looking at these activities as an investment – in your productivity and happiness alike.
Don’t be hard on yourself if you fall off track. Sometimes, I stay up way too late to finish a project or miss a few days of journaling. Setbacks will happen, so just leave them in the past and move forward as normal.
Check in with yourself and find a way to track your progress
This links to the whole ‘self-care = goal’ principle. I think we’re all taught the SMART goals acronym at some point in our life. The ‘M’, stands for measurable.
Find a system to make sure you’re consistently doing the things you promise yourself.
A habit tracker, either handwritten or digital, works well for this. I used to do this in my bullet journal, but have switched to spreadsheets (no judgement please haha) to make my illegible handwriting less of a problem.
At the start of each month or week, create a table with a column for your habits (for example, drinking 2L water, turning off your phone thirty minutes before bed, going to the gym, reading ten pages of a book) and a row for each day.
That way, you can check whether you’ve done everything as expected. At the end of the time period, look back and identify any gaps and areas you want to work on.
Some people like making a separate tracker for those big, important ones, like getting enough sleep and eating your fruits and veggies. That way, you can record more detailed information, such as exactly how many hours you got and how many portions you ate in a given day.
Remember that self-care doesn’t have to be complicated
The easiest and quickest way to make room for self-care in your schedule is by making it less overwhelming. After all, the last thing you want self-care to be is another cause of stress!
It’s much better to implement practices you can maintain over months and years, and really focus in on what’s compatible with your personality and lifestyle.
Extensive (and expensive) routines aren’t for everyone. Anything that replenishes your energy (both physical and mental) counts as self-care. This can quite literally be getting some exercise/fresh air, writing a few gratitude reminders, or starting your day with a slow breakfast.
We’re often tempted to sacrifice self-care in favour of ‘productivity’ and over-scheduling our days. I’ve made this mistake numerous times, and drove myself to burnout. The solution? Recognising that it’s much easier to face life with a healthy and nourished mind and body.
Through a mixture of good time management, prioritisation and accountability, anyone can make self-care habits a key part of their daily routine. Be kind to yourself, and you’ll see the effects ripple throughout your life as a whole!
I would love to hear your thoughts on what you are doing to change your life in the coming days and years!
If you have any questions please reach out to me via firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love to hear from you!
I really hope you found inspiration in this article.
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Hello! My name is Adam and welcome to my space on the internet. Here you can find me writing about subjects such as self-care, self-development, mental health and spiritual growth. Connect with me on my journey and join the community!