Ways To Build In Self-Care

Woman smiling

When I meet with a new client, I often ask about ways that they take care of themselves. The most typical response I hear is something akin to, “I should be exercising more…” or “I used to do yoga, but that was a few years ago…” The tone in the answers is often about what one isn’t doing or what they think they should be doing.

Self-care is important for maintaining your number one resource—you—but it can often feel like another item on the to-do list or can fall behind other areas that might seem more productive or essential for getting by. If you are feeling really anxious or low, it can be hard to come back to a self-care practice or think of ways to take care of yourself. I want to encourage self-care that feels both radical and accessible. One of the biggest barriers to starting self-care is not having ideas on hand, so I have listed some below:

Types of Self Care:

Sometimes too much choice can be overwhelming, so I have listed different categories of self-care below and started a list of examples for each. Of course, feel free to add on your own and then have the list handy for when you need it.

--Sensation-Based: Looking at a beautiful image, listening to music, closing your eyes and counting all of the sounds you can hear, focusing on your breathing, touching an object and noticing the texture, feeling the temperature on your skin, smelling a mint, taking a bite of food and noticing the taste

--Physical Activity: Running, swimming, biking, yoga, cleaning, gardening, walking during a work break, turning on music and dancing in your home or office

--Relaxing and Doing Less: Savasana pose, sitting by a body of water, a guided meditation, sitting on a patio with a beverage, observing your breath

--Creative: Painting, drawing, coloring, singing as part of a group or with the radio, sculpting clay, baking or cooking, writing a story

--Intellectually Interesting: Sign up for a new class on a topic that interests you, join a listserv about a topic that is exciting to your mind, participate in a book club, start a podcast on a topic that you can nerd out about

--Social: See a friend, throw a party, volunteer, take a break with a co-worker, start a new group text chain with close friends, check in on someone who has been having a hard time, organize a happy hour

--Self-Compassion: Practice narrating your day as you would for a friend, cheerlead for yourself as you take care of work and home tasks, write down the things you have accomplished and reflect on them at the end of the day (as opposed to replaying what you have not done.

You can incorporate these ideas, and others, to begin to make self-care a routine. For instance, you can set an alarm each day to remind you to pick something out to do as self-care. It is also helpful to have activities that you can accomplish based on the amount of time you have. For instance, you can make big changes by adding in activities that take 1-5 minutes like some of the sensation-based activities listed above. Your day or week also benefits from things that take a bit more time or planning, such as going out with a friend or attending a yoga class. And some self-care would involve longer-term preparation, such as planning a vacation to a beach, setting boundaries with people in your life, or renovating your kitchen so that you can use your baking skills on better equipment.

If any of that last sentence seemed overwhelming, take a breath and start small. Take just a few minutes a day to listen to your needs, practice a self-care activity, and take care of your most important resource: you.