Self-care is the “in” word lately. We’ve all heard how we need to be practicing self-care daily to keep us healthy physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. No one denies the benefits of a great self-care routine, but how do we get started?
First, let’s knock out some misconceptions about self-care by talking about what self-care is NOT.
I think you get the idea.
Now, let’s talk about what self-care IS.
Self-care, or caring for oneself, is the practice of making yourself and your needs of equal importance and value to those around you. If your child deserves a warm bath every night before bed, so do you. If your husband deserves two hours alone at the gym three times a week, so do you. If your coworker deserves that week-long vacation, so do you.
Sometimes, what we need most is not a step-by-step plan on “How to do self-care”. What we need most is that shift in thinking that allows us to realize we deserve it!
Now for the sake of time, let’s assume you DO realize you deserve great self-care and you’re ready to take action. Where do you begin?
5 Easy Steps to Get You Started with a Great Self-Care Routine
1. Get enough sleep.
Arguably, this is the most important step by far. Studies have shown that 7-8 hours of sleep is ideal. Those who consistently get fewer than 5-7 hours of sleep per night are 12% more likely to suffer from premature death. Those getting over 8-9 hours of sleep per night are 30% more likely to suffer from premature death!
7-8 hours of sleep is ideal for helping to:
How do you get more sleep? Try going to bed earlier by 5-10 minutes each night until you reach the desired sleep time. If you have small children, try to nap when they nap.
If you are having trouble sleeping, try the following:
Staying active, even moderately, has been shown to increase energy levels, boost health and immunity, and improve mood. Now, we’re not talking about spending endless hours in the gym every day. If that’s what you like to do, more power to you! But even a 30 minute walk every day, or most days, will garner you the same results in overall wellbeing.
The Mayo Clinic states that regular exercise can help you:
3. Nourish yourself.
Nourishing your body with healthy foods is an important component to any self-care routine. Eating a variety of fresh, healthy foods (along with the occasional treat!) will keep you feeling good emotionally and physically.
Medical News Today gives the most important reasons to make sure we are nourishing ourselves with healthy food each day:
This doesn’t mean you have to become a vegan or vegetarian, or start up Paleo or Keto or any other fad diet out there. It could be as simple as adding in more veggies and fruit and decreasing your daily soda and candy intake. And by golly, keep eating that dish of ice cream every now and then! A little indulgence here and there is not the end of the world for your scale reading, and does wonders to make you feel less deprived and freer.
Taking some time for yourself every day is critical to your mental health. This means doing something that you WANT to do just because you want to do it.
Different activities will appeal to different types of people. For instance, if you are an introvert, your daily breaks may look a lot different than if you are an extravert.
Recharging ideas for introverts:
Recharging ideas for extraverts:
If you don’t know if you are an introvert or an extravert, consider what kinds of activities energize you. If the introvert list above looks horribly boring and pointless, you are probably an extravert, meaning you like to recharge around other people. If the extravert list above looks daunting and like a lot of work, you are probably an introvert and prefer to recharge by yourself with no one else around.
Knowing this one thing about yourself can be a life changer!
5. Be grateful.
Being grateful means that we recognize good things in our lives and are thankful for them. If we keep an attitude of gratitude, and focus on good things in our lives instead of the problems in our lives, we will be much happier every day.
Gratitude is defined by Robert Emmons in two parts. The first part is about goodness. We recognize that there are good things in the world that we have received. The second part is the recognition that the source of those good things is outside ourselves through other people or through a higher power.
I’ve heard it said that the things we focus on get bigger. If we’re focused on our problems, they’ll get bigger. If we focus on the good in our lives, the good will get bigger. Practicing gratitude regularly keeps us focused on the good in our lives.
3 steps of gratitude:
After practicing these five steps of self-care, you will be amazed at how your life transforms! Sleep, exercise, healthy eating, taking mental breaks, and practicing gratitude all contribute to a healthy YOU – physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.
It’s never too late to start a new routine. If it looks overwhelming, start small. Add an apple to your lunch every day. Go for a short walk around your neighborhood after dinner this week. Pull out a scrap paper, and list all the things you’re thankful for.
This isn’t rocket science, but it does take some effort. The best part is that for a small investment in yourself each day, the payoff is HUGE! You, and those closest to you, will start seeing changes in your overall mood within days. And you may even start influencing those around you to take better care of themselves as well.
All the best!