This blog was originally published in June 2020 and was updated in June 2022.
A concept growing in popularity, self-care is worth your time and attention. The benefits of focusing on your physical, mental, and emotional well-being each day are numerous.
Those who practice self-care regularly often experience better overall health, improved mood, and reduced stress. Taking care of yourself is important for everyone, especially for caregivers, and it doesn’t need to be complicated or expensive.
Self-Care Isn't Selfish
Before we dive into learning more about self-care and how you can create your own routine, it is important to take a step back and address why you should. As the pace of life continues to accelerate, with increasing demands being made on your time, it feels selfish to set aside "me" time.
However, self-care is a must if you are a primary caregiver — a parent, healthcare worker, first responder, or someone who cares for a parent or loved one. Simply put, you cannot care for others without first attending to your own needs.
Developing a routine that addresses your physical, mental, and emotional health — leaving you feeling refreshed and recharged — will better prepare you to focus on the needs of others.
Start Simple. Stay Consistent.
Self-care is any activity that impacts your physical, mental, or emotional health in a positive way. Since we are all unique, the possibilities are endless — don’t be afraid to experiment until you find what works best for you.
Once you begin a self-care routine, try your best to be consistent. The benefits of self-care only happen when it is done regularly — either daily, weekly, or monthly. Here are some ideas for activities that can help improve your physical, mental, and emotional well-being.
Self-care that focuses on your physical health doesn’t have to involve kale or extended sweat sessions at the gym — unless you want it to. The key is finding an activity that you love and want to do regularly. Following are examples of simple activities that you can include in your self-care regimen:
- Better sleep. Instead of focusing on getting more sleep, which you probably already know you need to do, why not aim for better sleep habits? Sticking to a set schedule, limiting screen time before bed, and using essential oils to help you relax are great ways to focus on self-care that will likely help you sleep better.
- Exercise. Regular exercise is good for you, from boosting your immune system to improving your mood. There are plenty of exercise options to choose from — with little to no expense required, like walking, bicycling, yoga, or swimming. Find an activity that you enjoy and will look forward to.
- Massage. There are many positives associated with massage therapy, including pain management and stress reduction. Choose the style of massage — deep tissue, trigger point, Swedish, etc. — that best suits your needs.
A glance at the evening news or your smartphone’s calendar will confirm there is no shortage of stressors in today’s world. Self-care strategies that promote relaxation and a calm mind are a great way to improve your mental health. Try adding one of these activities to your self-care routine:
- Meditation. Developing a daily meditation practice can improve focus, reduce stress, and lead to better sleep. There are numerous online resources and apps, like Calm or Headspace, to help get you started.
- Reading. Spending time with your favorite characters or learning about a subject that fascinates you — reading daily is a great self-care activity. The benefits of reading are many, from an improved ability to empathize to helping prevent age-related cognitive decline.
- Puzzles. Crossword, jigsaw, Sudoku — there are plenty of puzzles to choose from. All offer positive mental health benefits ranging from improving your memory to increasing your vocabulary.
In an article for Psychology Today, psychiatrist Abigail Brenner, M.D. describes the importance of emotional self-care. “Mastering your emotions is not only your personal responsibility but also is a positive strategy for getting through life in the best possible way you can. When you have a healthy attitude about your feelings and how to express them, you are better equipped to get through events well, rather than feeling each time strong emotion hits that you are overwhelmed and incapable of handling the situation.”
Strategies for emotional self-care can include learning to set boundaries or forming a strong support network. Here are some simple ways to begin:
- Coffee or tea-time. From the smell of the freshly ground beans to savoring your first sip — your morning java (or tea) can be a wonderful therapeutic ritual that creates a sense of calm at the beginning of each new day.
- Journal. Journaling provides an outlet for you to process emotions you’ve experienced. Not into writing? No problem – you can create a visual journal with sketches or drawings, or dictate your entries on your smartphone. Experiment until you find what works best for you.
- Pets. Teaching mindfulness, relieving stress, providing comfort, and offering a sense of purpose — pets provide numerous emotional health benefits. If circumstances prevent you from owning a pet, you can volunteer at a shelter or spend time with a friend’s dog.
Finding a self-care routine that works well for you requires some work, but the long-term benefits are worth the effort. Focus on being consistent to offer the best version of yourself to your loved ones.
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