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how to create healthy self-care habits

We hear all the time about “self-care” and how it’s so important. A lot of posts on social media seem to suggest that you engage in self-care when you are on a vacation enjoying the balmy weather and sea breeze at some tropical resort in paradise. This can certainly be an act of self-care, but if you’re only doing this once in a blue moon—are you really taking care of yourself? Self-care entails your commitment to yourself by prioritizing your personal wellness as best as you can on a daily basis. I know, I know: “But I don’t have time.” If you’re pressed for time more days than not, you’re in luck. Some of the things mentioned in this blog require no time at all, only shifts in your mindset. And yes, prioritizing some time for yourself, even if it’s just 5 minutes, is also well worth it.

Self-Care and Wellness

There are many different components to wellness. Models of wellness include: intellectual, social, physical, spiritual, occupational, emotional, and environmental wellness. You can likely think of others. Remember, wellness isn’t just the absence of something negative, but is the actions you take that allow you to live a more balanced and meaningful life. It requires effort and self-care. Yes, meeting your basic needs is part of self-care, but it is so much more than just that. If you find yourself stressed, busy, and not being very kind or forgiving with yourself—you likely need to incorporate more self-care into your life by literally scheduling it into your Google Calendar.

But what is self-care?

Self-care is intentionally paying attention to and prioritizing your own needs. Again, it is NOT saying to yourself: “Oh, I’ll feel better at some far-off time in the future when I’m able to slow down and actually afford a decent vacation.” It is the things you do or don’t do every day that contribute to your energy levels, mental health, and overall wellbeing. Some specific examples are below.

Self-care habits are:
  • Saying no when you want to say no/not overcommitting yourself
  • Being honest with yourself and others about your needs
  • Keeping your own boundaries firm (e.g. if you say you’re not working past 6 pm, DON’T check your email)
  • Scheduling breaks for yourself throughout the day and taking them! Even just a 5 minute one.
  • Engaging in movement throughout your day. This can be something as simple as stretching for 5-10 minutes between Zoom meetings.
  • Committing to doing things you enjoy daily and weekly. This may be reading for pleasure daily or making yourself your favorite coffee daily or scheduling at least one lunch date with a friend per week.
  • Being stingy and strict about your sleep schedule
  • Being mindful of the nutritional value of your food.
  • Planning ahead/prioritizing your time so that you will have time to give yourself your full attention and do things you enjoy
Self-care habits are not:
  • Beating yourself up for not hitting everything on your “to do” list for the day under the guise of motivation
  • Taking a vacation once every five years and calling that good enough
  • Allowing other people to take precedence over your own needs
  • Confusing other people’s desires for you with your own desires
  • Trying to be “good enough” or proving your worth by overachieving
  • Identifying with what other people say about you

The Ultimate Self-Care Starter Pack

If you feel overworked, burnout, and stretched for time, you may feel like you don’t know where to start. Below are some basic tips that can help you get your self-care game back on track:

  • Plan for success!
  • Sleep
  • Start your day off right—drink water!
  • Eliminate perfectionism
  • Schedule enjoyable activities

Start with making a plan for the next day or week. This could even include yes, picking out what clothes you’re going to wear (even if it’s yoga pants), what you will eat (so you won’t be scrambling for what to cook and ending up just grazing all day), etc. Also, a lot of our wellbeing all goes back to sleep. If we don’t feel well-rested, we have much less bandwidth to deal with the stressors of our day. Commit to sleeping 7-8 hours and practice good sleep hygiene (don’t look at screens for 30-60 minutes before bed, no caffeine past dinner, don’t do work in bed, etc.). Also, start your day off hydrated by drinking at least 8 oz of water. Many people walk around chronically dehydrated and don’t think to drink water throughout the day, it helps everything function better in our bodies. Next, work to eliminate perfectionism. Your work and the dishes will be there for you the next day if you don’t get to everything this evening. You’re not a failure for not meeting unrealistic expectations. And finally, prioritize things that are meaningful to you, daily if you can swing it, or at least 1-2 times per week. This could look like scheduling time to hike, paint, or spend time with friends.

Ongoing Help

Taking care of yourself, even if it is simple in theory, can be a challenge in practice. We realize there is a finite level of hours in the day and you won’t be able to eat well, exercise, get enough sleep, get your social/emotional needs met while meeting all of your other responsibilities each and every day and that’s ok. It’s about balance and not allowing yourself to get so frustrated that you throw in the towel and neglect yourself. If you feel like your self-care could use a tune-up/boost, consider making an appointment with an Angelus therapist today. We recognize that during COVID-19 your regularly scheduled self-care activities may not be available to you in the same way, if at all. We can help to create a new self-care plan together and assure that you are keeping your own wellbeing a priority.