I'm going to go out on a limb and say that you probably know a thing or two about self-care. Maybe you've even written an article or two on the subject, like this one.
But before we dive into the details, I'd like to take a moment to get back to basics: What is self-care, anyway? There are probably as many definitions of the term as there are people who discuss it, but I like to think of it as doing something purely for you that makes you feel good. That might mean snuggling into your jammies with a glass of wine and just vegging out for a bit or enjoying some gentle exercise, such as stretching or walking around the neighborhood. You're not doing these things for anyone else, just for yourself — which is why self-care often gets confused with selfishness.
You deserve to take time for yourself — and not only because self-care feels great (though it totally does). Taking time away from work, family obligations, and other stressors has been shown to reduce stress levels, improve moods and boost health in numerous ways...
Start your morning right.
No matter how busy your days are, you can find a spare ten minutes to incorporate more self-care into your morning routine. Set your alarm ten minutes earlier and use that time to prepare a cup of coffee or tea, do some light stretching, or reflect on the day ahead of you. Avoid checking social media or email (save those for later!) and instead take the time to get your body moving.
Worried about having enough time for exercise? Think again! You don’t have to join Crossfit or run a marathon every day—even just stretching for a few minutes can work wonders for both your body and mind. If there are any fun outdoor fitness classes near you, try signing up! Taking an early morning yoga class may not sound appealing at first, but once you try it out—you’ll realize how much better you feel throughout the rest of the day after starting with something active in the morning.
Take time to check in with yourself.
One of the most important steps you can take to improve your self-care is to make an effort to check in with yourself on a regular basis. It’s easy to get caught up in the daily grind and forget that it’s okay—and even healthy—to not be okay sometimes.
Take time to reflect on how you are feeling, what you need to do for self-improvement, and how you can help others. This will bring balance into your life and encourage positive actions when things get tough.
Fill your life with people who love and support you.
When you're feeling like crap, it's usually a good idea to talk about it with the important people in your life. But if the thought of baring your soul to a room full of strangers is too much to ask of yourself, simply reach out to someone who loves and supports you.
"I have such an amazing group of people in my life," says Martins. "My family is awesome, I have friends from every single stage of my life—elementary school, middle school, high school, college and now adult friends."
Martins recommends keeping a list of your favorite people on hand and checking in with them when you're not feeling like yourself.
"Just having those conversations can be really helpful," she says. "You may feel better just by re-connecting because they care about you." But don't just reach out to anyone when you're down—life is short and we all need to cut toxic ties ASAP.
The best way to ensure that the people around us are always lifting us up? Surround yourself with supportive crew right off the bat: "Instead of going out and meeting random people at bars or clubs where it might end up being very surface level acquaintance friendships," says Martins, "I recommend joining groups based on interests so that it's more likely for you to meet like-minded individuals."
Learn to say no.
Learning to say no is a key component of self-care. This isn't something that you can master in a day, but it's definitely a skill worth developing as you get more comfortable with taking care of yourself and your mental well-being.
It's perfectly acceptable to say no when someone asks you to do something—especially if you don't want to do it! The first few times this happens, it might feel weird or uncomfortable, but remember that the other person has probably said no before too. It's important not to make up excuses for why you're unable to complete a task—this only complicates things and makes the situation worse for all parties involved.
Saying "no" may sound simple enough on paper; however, when faced with an asking party face-to-face or over the phone/text message/etc., most people have difficulty doing so without feeling guilty or making excuses for themselves (e.g., "I'm sorry I can't help right now because I'm busy working"). If this sounds familiar then try following these four steps next time someone asks something that doesn't align with your goals: Be honest about how their request makes you feel (e.g., "I appreciate being asked but I'm really looking forward to spending time alone today"); give them an alternative option instead (e.g., "Would it be okay if we do this tomorrow after work instead?"); sort out any details necessary before ending communication; end communication by thanking them for considering their feelings first (e.g., "Thanks so much!"). The key is saying “no” in advance so there isn’t negativity later on down the line like when asked last minute,"Why didn’t you tell me sooner?” or “Now I have nothing else planned!"
Mindfulness is the practice of focusing your attention on what's happening in the present moment. One way to do this is through meditation. Research has shown that mindfulness can provide a wide range of benefits, including:
Helping you live in the moment and enjoy life more
Helping you understand your emotions
Helping you improve focus and concentration
Reducing stress, anxiety, and depression
Improving your relationships
Mindfulness can be practiced in many ways. Try a guided meditation by following along with a recorded voice or video. Apps like Headspace or Calm offer daily mindfulness exercises you can stream on your phone or tablet. You might also find an audio file of a mindfulness bell at different intervals to help keep you focused while meditating silently.
You can have more self-care if you're willing to make space for it.
You know it’s important to take care of others, but did you know that self-care is just as important? We all need “me time” if we want to be our best selves. Don’t feel guilty about prioritizing yourself because you deserve it! When you take a moment for yourself, it leads to a better version of you overall. Maybe you enjoy reading, exercising or painting—whatever your hobby may be, prioritize activities like this every day so they become habitual. If your schedule is too packed as it is, find small moments in between tasks during the day where you can practice self-care. For instance, spend five minutes doing deep breathing on the way home from work or repeat positive affirmations before bed each night. In addition, don’t feel bad if once in awhile all you need is one night to binge watch your favorite show and unwind with friends! Self-care comes in many forms and they are all equally important!