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Not too long ago, I was a bit of a skeptic about self-care. It felt a bit indulgent, selfish, and – for lack of a better word – a bit ‘woo-woo’. I had a picture in my mind of pampered women wearing fluffy robes, in clay face masks, drinking cups of tea from tiny china cups. Nice … but not really necessary (and definitely not something I pictured incorporating into my daily routine).
But that all changed a few years ago. As part of my journey towards intentional living, I started journaling daily, and in my scribbles I noticed a pattern: whenever I had a bad day (a fight with my husband, a stressful day at work, or just a general bad mood), I could almost always trace it back to not taking care of myself.
Or to be more specific – when I was tired and worn down, I stopped caring about my values.
- Instead of going for an evening walk, or watching the sunset, I’d sit in bed and scroll on Facebook.
- Instead of cooking a healthy dinner, I’d give in to fast food and takeaways.
- Instead of talking with friends about my worries and stress, I’d mindlessly wander the aisles of a big box store.
- And instead of being grateful and compassionate in my relationship, I’d be snappy and impatient.
On the other hand – I noticed when I was well rested and cared for, I could handle difficult situations with ease.
With this in mind, I decided to try making self-care an active part of my life – but I was surprised to discover it was much easier said than done. Finding organic ways to incorporate self-care into my life, without it feeling like a chore or just something else on my to-do list, took a lot of time and practice.
After several years of experimenting, I feel like I’ve finally found my feet, so I wanted to share the self-care tips and ideas that work for me. Keep in mind that self-care is personal but I hope my practice will inspire you to incorporate more self-care into your own life. Enjoy – and don’t forget to leave your own tips and ideas in the comments!
SELF-CARE STARTS WITH SELF-AWARENESS
A quick Google search up will bring up hundreds of articles and blog posts about self-care, full of ideas – but before you dive in, spend some time asking yourself these questions:
- How do you know when you need self-care? What are your warning signs? (Are you snappy? Easily frustrated? Distracted?)
- What type of care do you need? For example, sometimes what I need most is physical care (a nap, exercise, a healthy meal) and other times I need more emotional support (I have a tendency to feel anxious and overwhelmed when I have too much on my plate).
- What activities give you the support you need? For example, if you’re anxious, do you crave time alone or time spent with friends? The answer isn’t always obvious, so one tip is to be observant when you’re feeling your best – take note of what makes you happy – so you can replicate the feeling when you need it most!
You might not have all the answers right away, but being mindful of these questions will guide you as you experiment with your own self-care routine. Keep these questions in mind as you consider the other tips and ideas in this post.
CREATE A ‘RESTART’ ROUTINE
This is one of the most powerful tools in my self-care toolkit; I have a simple routine that helps me ‘restart’ when I feel myself going down the wrong path (like indulging in negative thoughts or starting to get overwhelmed). It’s the mental equivalent of starting a new year or turning to a fresh page in your journal; once I’ve completed this routine, I feel like I can let go of the day and begin again in a better state of mind.
My personal routine involves: drinking a glass of water, doing a short yoga video*, and then taking a hot shower. While in the shower I take a few deep breaths, indulge in some nice shower oil, and then I get out and put on a fresh outfit.
*I love the yoga videos on Gaia.com! There are a ton to choose from, for all skill levels, and my favourite bit is there are great short options for when you don’t have much time. I highly recommend it! (And yes, this is an affiliate link but I’m only recommending it because I absolutely love it.) If you try out the app, my current favourites are the Rodney Yee morning and evening routines.
Experiment and find your own ‘restart’ routine – read a set of favourite quotes or mantras, go for a walk around the block, meditate, or make a hot beverage – but whatever you choose, approach your routine with the intention of letting go and starting fresh.
This is a go-to trick when I’m feeling anxious but can’t really define why: I go somewhere that makes me feel small. I prefer to get out into nature – among the big trees, blue skies, and mountains if I’m lucky – but I can also invoke the same feeling getting lost in the city.
This might not work for everyone, but when I’m reminded how big and beautiful the world is, it makes me feel small – and my stress and worries feel smaller too.
INVOLVE YOUR SENSES
Please note I received a complimentary Vellabox in exchange for my honest review, but please rest assured my thoughts and opinions are my own.
Studies have shown a link between sounds, smells and memories – so why not use this to our advantage? Try creating playlists that remind you of happy times, like a relaxing holiday or a special day with loved ones – or try using special scents to signal to your brain that it’s time to relax!
Personally, I love incense or scented candles and, as part of my self-care routine, I’m often burning both! This is why I was so excited when Vellabox got in touch with me.
Vellabox is an artisan candle subscription box – each month you receive a curated, high quality artisan candle (non-toxic, lead free, and hand poured from the best companies). In my box, I received a lovely lemongrass candle (my absolute favourite scent – it reminds of Bali) and a lavender rosemary candle, plus a bonus gift of bath salts!
As a minimalist, I generally don’t like subscription boxes, but I love this idea because it actually encourages you to use your beautiful things. (I used to be so guilty of buying lovely candles and then not burning them!)
Vellabox starts at a reasonable $10 a month, so check them out if you think an artisan candle would fit well into your self-care routine!
WRITE A LOVE NOTE
I don’t know about you, but I love everything about love – so one guaranteed way to put a smile on my face when I’m feeling down is to write a love note. Sometimes I write to myself, sometimes to my husband, sometimes to the little one in my tummy or to another friend or family member.
No matter who it is, the physical act of writing a love note helps me turn my attention away from my problems and towards the joy in my life. It leaves me feeling grateful – and almost always puts a smile on my face.
PS: Bonus points if you decide to share your letter – it will put the smile on someone else’s face too!
FOCUS ON YOUR BREATHING
One of the simplest things you can do for yourself is to take a few minutes and focus on your breathing.
In fact, try it right now! Close your eyes, take a deep breath, and really notice the way it feels passing through your body. Do you feel better?
DO SELF-CARE FIRST
When I first started experimenting with self-care, I would use it to reward myself for doing something I didn’t really feel like doing (ie: I’ll take a nap or write in my journal once I finish vacuuming or editing a blog post!).
While this tactic might work for some, for me it was a total failure. Instead of incentivising myself to get things done, I’d end up negotiating with myself and giving up self-care in exchange for putting off chores. As a result, I’d end up getting nothing done AND I’d skip self-care …
You might have more self-discipline than me, but if not, what I found worked much better was doing self-care first.
The logic behind this is simple; self-care makes me feel good and when I feel good, it’s easier to get tough jobs done.
CREATE A SELF-CARE SWIPE FILE
There are a few variations on this idea – a self-care plan, or a self-care box – but whatever format you decide on, the idea is simple: plan and prepare for when you’re feeling [insert difficult emotion here].
For example, you might have a collection of favourite quotes, a list of favourite blog posts, and a playlist you turn to when you’re not feeling confident.
Or you might have a go-to meditation, a favourite candle, and an inspiring poem you turn to when you’re feeling overwhelmed.
There are a million different combinations/formats that might work for you; you could create a folder on your laptop, write a list in your journal, or stash a keepsake box in your dresser. Find what works for you when you need it most!
DO SOMETHING TOUGH
We’re used to thinking of self-care in a soft, gentle light – meditation, candles, journals, etc. – but keep in mind this isn’t the only way to practice self-care. Sometimes one of the best ways to take care of yourself is to check something tough off your to-do list.
It doesn’t have to be an epic project; sometimes something as simple as responding to an annoying email or making a doctor’s appointment is enough. The key is taking something tough off the table, so you get that “ahhhh” feeling of relief when you know it’s done and dusted.
Alternative idea: if it’s not something that really needs to be done, see if you can give yourself permission to simply cross it off your to-do list. Sometimes our ‘must do’s’ aren’t really as important as we think.
RELATED POST: 15 Things to Declutter (That Aren’t Things)
TRY A LOVING KINDNESS MEDITATION
Late last year, I discovered Jack Kornfield, an author and meditation teacher. Over the past few months, I’ve been reading two of his books simultaneously – A Path with Heart: A Guide Through the Perils and Promises of Spiritual Life and Bringing Home the Dharma: Awakening Right Where You Are.
(I’m reading the second book through Audible, Amazon’s audiobook service, and I absolutely love it. I still love old fashioned ‘real’ books but I use Audible on my commute and I’ve been reading more than ever.)
In both books, Kornfield talks about something called a “Loving Kindness Meditation”:
This meditation uses words, images, and feelings to evoke a lovingkindness and friendliness toward oneself and others. With each recitation of the phrases, we are expressing an intention, planting the seeds of loving wishes over and over in our heart.
He instructs the student to repeat the following mantra, over and over, throughout the day:
May I be filled with loving kindness.
May I be well.
May I be peaceful and at ease.
May I be happy.
I decided to give it a try and must confess – at first I felt incredibly silly! But I kept at it and after one afternoon of consistent repetition, I truly started to feel differently. I won’t blame you if you’re feeling a bit skeptical, but I really did start to feel full of loving kindness – so much so that I now try and incorporate this meditation into my daily life. I don’t have a set routine, but I repeat it whenever it crosses my mind – especially if I catch myself getting anxious or annoyed.
GIVE YOURSELF PERMISSION TO PRACTICE SELF-CARE
This might sound really simple, but sometimes one of the biggest hurdles to practising self-care is simply giving yourself the permission to do so.
Even if our logical brains know self-care is important, deep down it can be really hard to do devote time to taking care of ourselves without feeling guilty. Practice telling yourself that self-care is just as important as anything else on your to-do list, if not more so!
RELATED POST: Finding the Balance Between Rest + Hustle
WRITE IN YOUR JOURNAL
Okay … regular readers won’t be surprised to find this on the list. I made a serious commitment to writing in my journal (I’m obsessed with this one) at the start of last year and it has been, hands down, one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself. After my ‘Restart Routine’, journaling is probably my number one form of self-care.
If you’re new to journaling, my best advice is to simply open up and write without expectation. Don’t worry about saying anything important – just write whatever’s on your mind and let it go from there. You might write 2 lines, or doodle in the margins, or scribble an epic rant about your day; it doesn’t really matter, do what feels natural and don’t make it a chore by setting expectations.
(Hint, hint: that last bit applies to almost all self-care activities!)
If you’re already a regular journal writer and you’re looking for more structure or new ideas, check out these resources:
- Five Ways to Use Your Journal for Self-Care – a few specific ways I use my journal when I need extra care.
- 4 Creative Exercises to Inspire Intentional Living – these are a few creative ideas to help you take a time out and reset your compass.
- Thrive: Clear the Clutter and Create a Life You Love – this is my e-course; a 30 day guided exploration designed to kickstart your simple and intentional living journey. You’ll receive daily lessons filled with journal prompts, creative exercises, mini-challenges and more.
I hope this post has inspired you to think about self-care in your life! Is this something you need to work on? Or do you have some tips or ideas of your own to share? Let me know in the comments! And as always – thank you for reading and supporting this blog! xo
Photo credit: Pixabay.com / Used with permission