For the past couple of years, self care has been all over the Internet. But what is it exactly and how can you practice it? Well, my therapist told me once that I’m good a practicing self care, so I’m basically an expert (that’s sarcasm, FYI). Today I’m sharing what self care really is and 10 simple ways that you can practice it. I hope it helps you and that you can start practicing self care in the way best suited to you and your needs!
Before we get into this, let me be clear about something: I am not a mental health professional, or a medical professional of any kind. If you need help, see a professional if you can.
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What Is Self Care?
PsychCentral says, “Self-care is any activity that we do deliberately in order to take care of our mental, emotional, and physical health. Although it’s a simple concept in theory, it’s something we very often overlook. Good self-care is key to improved mood and reduced anxiety. It’s also key to a good relationship with oneself and others” (x). Since it can impact various forms of our health, it’s so important to do. The Internet’s view of self care tends to be painting your nails, doing a face mask, and lighting a candle. While that can be a form of it depending on the person, it’s a very one-dimensional format. After all, if you don’t like painting your nails, doing so isn’t going to improve your mental health. You need to find what methods will work best for you.
In my case, sometimes self care does look like painting my nails, doing a face mask, and lighting a candle. But that’s because I like all of those things and I’m an introvert, so I recharge by spending time by myself. For me, it can also include meditating, reading, going to bed early, and taking my medications on time. Basically, there are so many ways to practice self care! So let’s get into 10 of them.
10 Simple Self Care Methods That Will Improve Your Life
1. Get more sleep – Sleep is so, so necessary to life. If you don’t sleep at least 7 hours at night, you can develop long-term health problems (x). And you can have short-term ones, too, including lack of alertness, impaired memory, relationship stress, and quality of life (x). I don’t know if this is legitimate or not, but I know that if I don’t sleep at least 7 hours, my pain is worse the next day. Because of all of this, you should make sure that you get more sleep. And figure out what works for you! (If you haven’t figured out yet, this is a huge theme in this entire post.) You might want to start going to sleep earlier and waking up at later, or even going to sleep earlier and getting up earlier so you can ease into your day. I personally like to get up 1+ hours before I have to leave the house so I can get ready leisurely and watch the news while drinking coffee. Getting more sleep will at the very least prepare you more for your day ahead!
2. Commit to less – Do you feel overrun, constantly exhausted, or like you don’t have enough time to recharge? Try committing to less! This could mean leaving one day of your weekend free of any activities, not doing things after work, etc. Figure out what “less” means for you. If you’re an extrovert, you might need to recharge by spending time with friends or family, so maybe commit to less active things (like going out to dinner) and instead spend more time just hanging out at home with them. At the very least, though, make sure you have enough time to do things that affect the rest of your life and/or your stress levels, like laundry and cooking.
3. Establish boundaries – Okay, so this might be a bit harder, but it’s still something you should do. This could mean a variety of things. It might mean that you don’t put your work email on your phone, so you don’t respond to work emails when you leave work. It might mean that you don’t spend as much time with people who aren’t good for you or who don’t care about you as much as you care about them. Basically, think about what in your life is overreaching and you can control it. The second part of that sentence is important, unfortunate. For example, you may have to have your work email on your phone because of your job. How do you establish boundaries if you’re in this situation, then? If you can – going with this example – don’t turn on notifications. Check your email at certain times, but otherwise keep notifications off. Another way is find something in your life that you can put up boundaries and do that instead.
4. Go to therapy – I’m a huge proponent of therapy and think it’s one of the best things you can do for yourself. I personally have generalized anxiety disorder and have had so many things affecting it in recent years. And you don’t need to have a mental illness to go to therapy! It can be so helpful in your life to have someone unbiased to talk through things. For example, if you’re frustrated with your sibling, taking to your parent(s) might not be the most helpful because they’re biased. (Dear family: this is not about my sister.) A therapist can also give you suggestions for how to deal with or process things. Can’t afford a therapist? Check out Talkspace, an online service that matches you to a therapist who you communicate with online, which is apparently 80% cheaper than a face-to-face therapist. You can also check out Betterhelp, another service that has online and phone counseling that costs $35-$80.
5. Exercise – Ugh, I know what you’re thinking because I’m thinking it, too. But, sadly, exercise can be good for your mental health in that it can release endorphins. Do your best to find out what format you like best, which could be going to the gym, spin classes, barre classes, yoga, walking around your city, or something else entirely. A lot of places will have special prices for people new to their studio, so look for that before you fork over cash for a membership. Can’t afford a membership to somewhere? There are all sorts of amazing free videos on YouTube!
6. Meditate – Meditation is good for you and it is also good for your mental health. It is a means of obtaining “a state of ‘thoughtless awareness’ in which the excessive stress producing activity of the mind is neutralized without reducing alertness and effectiveness” (x). Additionally, “By engaging with a particular meditation practice you learn the patterns and habits of your mind, and the practice offers a means to cultivate new, more positive ways of being” (x). Another way to think about it is, “You’re not trying to turn off your thoughts or feelings. You’re learning to observe them without judgment. And eventually, you may start to better understand them as well” (x). When you meditate, you focus on one thing – breathing, a word, a sensation, etc. – for a certain period of time. Read my post on why you should try meditation, which also includes different ways to meditation and apps and websites that can help you do it.
7. Establish a nighttime routine – This might seem too simple to be an actual item on this list, but for me this has been a huge thing because now my body recognizes it and starts preparing to go to bed. I’m trying to stop using my computer at least 30 minutes before I go to bed, so once I put it away, I get ready for bed. If I haven’t done so yet, I take my bedtime medications and wash my face. After washing my face, I do my nighttime skin care routine (check out my entire skin care routine here), brush my teeth, floss, and use mouth wash. Then I read my bible reading for the day and, if I’m not too tired, read for fun. Finally, I do my bedtime yoga and meditate at least for a few minutes before going to bed. I’ve been doing this for a couple of years now, and like I mentioned, now my body starts getting ready to sleep once I start this routine. Not only does it help me get ready to sleep, but because I’m putting away my computer at least 30 minutes before bed, I sleep better.
8. Drink lots of water – I saw something on the Internet once that basically said, “You’re basically a plant with emotions.” You need to water yourself! In fact, the Mayo Clinic points out, “Every cell, tissue and organ in your body needs water to work properly” (x). Give your body a great chance for success by drinking enough! And there’s a good chance that you’re not drinking enough water because the Mayo Clinic says that you actually need to drink more than 8 cups of water a day: 15.5 cups for men and 11.5 cups for women (x). (I have no idea what you should do if you’re trans or no-binary, as I’m sure those qualifications are based on cis people. I guess aim for 13 cups of water, since that’s between those suggestions.) So how do you drink enough water? Use a reusable water bottle, ideally a large-ish one so you don’t have to fill it up 12 times a day. I really like Swell and Camelbak. You can also set goals for yourself, like requiring yourself to drink 3 bottles of water before lunch or not allowing yourself to drink soda until you’ve hit your hydration goals.
9. Make a self-care space – That isn’t the best wording for it, but basically set up a space of some kind that you can use for your favorite methods of self-care. In my room, I have twinkly lights and candles, and when I definitely need self care, I turn them on and watch a favorite show or movie or I read a book. I do this when I’ve had a bad day, when I’m in a bad mood, when I can feel my anxiety rising, when I just want to boost my moods, etc. If you can’t do this in your bedroom, see if you can somewhere else in your house or apartment. Get what makes you happy, whether that be flowers or video games, nice pens or books.
10. Spend less time on social media – It is so, so easy to fall into a social media hole. You might spend hours on it doing nothing productive. You might find yourself comparing yourself to other people, even without realizing it. I know that everyone has already said this, but I’ll say it again: social media is a highlight reel. You might be comparing your worst to someone else’s best (again, even if you don’t realize it). Maybe give yourself a designated time of night when you have to get off of social media. Maybe make sure you’re spending time doing hobbies that aren’t on your phone. You can also get apps that will help you use any apps or your phone less, and some will even kick you off of them! Check out these 6 apps to stop your smartphone addiction, which will help with social media apps.10 ways to practice self care and improve your life. Click To Tweet
How do you practice self care?
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