February is pretty damn gloomy.
I find I need a pick-me-up rather frequently during the darker winter months, and so I end up doing a lot of online shopping. This isn’t always the best choice for my budget, and I tend to buy a lot of useless stuff I later regret! Enter: self care.
I love everything about self care. It’s nothing new, and it’s been around since the dawn of time, but suddenly it’s popping up everywhere – which is great! I think as our lives get busier in the modern world, we find we need more time to ourselves. It’s easy to get caught up in the feeling that doing things for ourselves is selfish, but it’s just not – it’s necessary, and healthy.
What IS self care?
Self care is any type of habit that helps you relax, de-stress, and feel happy and healthy. Honestly, it’s anything you want it to be. Tailor it to your needs. It can be writing in a journal, and recording the things you’re proud of or that you love about yourself. It can be reading a favorite book or watching a favorite movie. You can give yourself a manicure, or an at-home spa day. Visit your favorite store and buy yourself the thing you’ve had your eye on. See? Literally anything. The point is, it’s something that helps restore you, physically or emotionally, and helps reduce stress. It’s important to note, however, that self care shouldn’t be a “once a week”, or occasional, ordeal. Make this a priority, and establish a self care routine daily to incorporate into your habits. (Add it to your health & fitness habit tracker!)
Self care can fall into many categories – physical, emotional, mental, intellectual – and each are important. Take some time to think about what you really need or want out of a self care routine. What stresses you out? What do you normally like to do to destress? What little things do you partake in occasionally, that you love and want to do more often? Can you make that a more frequent part of your lifestyle?
Below are some ideas to get you started!
Emotional & mental self care
- Start a gratitude journal, and begin recording things you’re thankful for every day. Little reflections daily really add up in helping you perceive your life more positively and thoughtfully.
- Get lost in a favorite album or book, especially if it has nostalgic ties to friends or family. Savor those memories.
- Keep a running list on your phone or in a journal, of things you love about yourself. Don’t force it – jot them down as they come naturally. Sometimes I’m out and about and a thought pops into my head like “I love the way people ask me for advice on nutrition” or “I just love my eye color”. It’s not being arrogant – it’s appreciating yourself! It’s nice to have them written down somewhere on days where you’re not feeling that appreciative vibe.
- Call a family member or friend you haven’t spoken to in a while. If I ever need an emotional pick-me-up, I call my grandma. She makes me feel like I am perfect just the way I am, no matter what, even if we just talk about my most recent trip to the grocery store. I always leave those phone calls feeling restored and happy.
- Light a favorite candle and let the scent relax you. I like lighting a candle while I’m cleaning (or doing anything else that isn’t that fun). It adds a little element of enjoyment. Andrew got me this one for Christmas (inspired by national parks!) and it changed my life.
- Buy yourself flowers. You deserve them, and why wait for someone else to?
- Play or snuggle with a pet, if you have one. Pets have magical properties that help calm you down and make you incredibly happy (or it really seems that way, doesn’t it?!)
- Make time to hang out with your best friend or your favorite group. Understand they love you and enjoy spending time with you.
- Declutter. Get rid of old stuff you may be hanging on to for the wrong reasons (clothes that don’t fit are a good place to start). You’ll feel lighter. Organize your closet, make-up, or kitchen – it will make your coming days easier, too!
- Tackle a task that’s been lingering over you. I know, this one’s not that fun – but you don’t realize how something small like an unpaid bill or unfinished dishes can weigh down on you subconsciously.
Physical self care
- Stretch! Put on comfy clothes and find a good guided video to stretch along to, or just work on your favorite stretches along with whatever your body needs. You’ll feel great afterwards.
- Give yourself a manicure! I recently purchased gel manicure equipment (it’s paid for itself in two sessions already) and I’m loving getting to do this at home. It’s nice “me time” that I get to enjoy the results of for weeks, and much cheaper!
- Work out. I know you expected me to say this, right? What’s better for your body than busting through stress and getting stronger, all at the same time?
- Put lotion on! Your skin will thank you. This is a good one for adding into your daily routine.
- Make yourself a really healthy meal. You will feel better physically, and that can help lift your mood, as well.
- Take a nap, or sleep in as long as you want on the weekend. You aren’t being lazy – you’re catching up on needed sleep!
- Get a massage. This one’s pretty obvious.
- Draw a hot bath and pour in some epsom salts. This is one of my favorite things to do during the winter, when nothing else seems to keep me warm. If you haven’t tried a Lush bath bomb, I highly recommend you do it ASAP! Plus, pretty colors.
Intellectual self care
- Do a puzzle or numerical game! I particularly love ken ken puzzles – they’re challenging and rewarding. You can find tons of different puzzles online!
- Learn a new skill. Always wanted to know how to knit? How about a new language, or recipe? Look up videos to help teach you visually, or grab a book and go to town (I personally LOVE taking notes or pretending I’m still in school learning a new subject). My current favorite skill to work on is hand lettering!
- Read a book. I have a list 20 books long that I’ve yet to break into, so this one is at the top of my priorities of things I need to focus on.
- Listen to a TED Talk or educational podcast. I love Radio Lab – the episodes are often the perfect length for a drive to work. It gives me fun topics to talk about later when I’m out!
Making a self care routine that’s right for you
Self care isn’t just about adding things to your day – it’s keeping up with the normal, necessary activities as well. Brushing your teeth, showering, putting on clean clothes, eating real meals, staying hydrated – these are all self care, too. Figure out what it is you already are doing each day or every few days, and see where you can improve. In a sense, self care just puts a name to the things you are already doing, and categorizes with it the things you want to do for yourself but may not be prioritizing for various reasons. Realize ALL these things are important!
Of course, it isn’t realistic to do EVERYTHING in a day. Start a habit tracker, and figure out which items you want to be part of your daily routine, and which can be weekly or monthly. You probably don’t need a weekly massage (though it would be nice), so monthly or quarterly might make more sense. Spending time with friends is great weekly, and depending on your activity level, stretching could be a daily part of your evening before bed, for example. Cater this to you. Only you know what you need, and what your schedule allows (or needs to be allowed for).
The important thing to remember is that you deserve ALL of this! Self care is never selfish – you are taking care of you, for you. Make time for this, and you will be happy you did.
What has self care done for you? Do you have particular habits you incorporate into your self care routine? What’s your favorite way to unwind? Share!