What Self-Care ISN'T - and what it is, plus 10 tips

Photo by Mutzii

Photo by Mutzii

If all the pretty pink pins on Pinterest can be believed, you should feel totally restored and adequately self-cared for after a bubble bath and a glass of wine.

But self-care goes so far beyond that.

Let me tell you what self-care ISN’T.

It isn’t forcing yourself to go home and take a bath if you’d feel more rejuvenated by going for a hike with a group of friends.

It isn’t making yourself go home to drink wine if you don’t ever drink wine, or don’t drink at all.

It isn’t reading a romance novel if you’d rather be playing video games.

It isn’t lighting up some incense and doing yoga if you’d rather be running.

It isn’t making yourself do ANYTHING you’d rather not be doing or that doesn’t feel good to you, just because some pretty pin told you to.

Here’s the thing.

Self-care is the time you put into yourself, the time and attention you give to your body, mind, and spirit that refresh and rejuvenate you.

It is both downtime and uptime, depending on what you need. It is moments alone, and moments together.

It can be whatever damn thing you need.

But the most important thing about self-care is that you do it. That you make a ritual and habit of it. That you practice loving and caring for yourself, everyday. That you think of yourself first, your own health and wellbeing, at least some of the time.

Here are 10 simple self-care options that I recommend -

  1. Friends Night (out or in)

    Yep, that’s what I said. Self-Care can be social. Sometimes you just need time with your people, and this counts as watering your soul when it’s dry just as much as sitting alone with your journal. Friends Night can look like many things - Game Night, Dinner Party, Girls Night Out, Spa Day, Grown Up Sleep Over, Book Club, Poetry Slam, themed Holiday Party… the limit is your imagination.

  2. Sleep

    Glorious sleep. If you’re just really fucking tired, don’t force yourself to stay up and do other self-care shit. The best thing you can do in moments like those are go to sleep. Seriously. Go to sleep. You’ll feel so much better.

  3. Journal

    Writing out your thoughts, emotions, goals, trials, frustrations, grief, etc. can help you process and heal and grow. Don’t know what to write? Try a bullet journey or a journal with daily prompts, like this one.

  4. Breathe

    Close your eyes and take 5 deep breaths. Relax your forehead, your jaw, your neck, your shoulders. If you can, sit for a meditation session. Meditation can be life-changing. There are a ton of apps that can help guide you - the Calm app is super popular, but I actually love the Insight Timer app (it’s a timer, and has an astonishing amount of free guided meditations, music, and courses!) If you are a reader, I highly recommend the book 10% Happier by Dan Harris. Don’t like books? There’s a Podcast, too.

  5. Exercise

    “Runner’s High” is a real thing, backed by science. There’s also “Yoga High”. Whichever way you exercise, it’s good for both your body and your brain.

  6. Cook For Yourself

    Nourishment for both the soul AND body. Choose a recipe you love or will love, like your grandmother’s oatmeal cookies or a veggie-packed curry. Engage in the process of food coming into your home either through garden or grocery, the sensory delight of preparing, cooking, serving, and the joy of eating. Make it extra special by clearing and setting your table in a beautiful way. Add flowers or decoration, use the pretty plates and glasses - you are worth all the fuss.

  7. Take a Hike

    I mean that literally. Hiking not really your thing? You can still get yourself to the woods and reap the benefits of the rejuvenating effects of nature on our psyche. Ever heard of forest bathing? If not, you should read this.

  8. Get in the Garden

    You don’t have to go anywhere to experience the calming effects of nature, though - you can just go to the earth right outside your door. If you live in an apartment complex or in a city, see if there’s a local gardening group you can join, or a neighborhood garden that you can volunteer to help in. Gardening helps us feel better in a few ways - the connection to nature, and also the microbes in the soil act like anti-depressants that get you all perky on dirt. It’s a dose of science and self-care that’s sure to brighten your day.

  9. Dance

    Yes. Dance. The old alchemy of music and movement. Dance alone, with a partner, with a group. Dance slow or fast. It doesn’t matter… choose the mood, and move to the rhythm.

  10. Swim or Bathe

    There is this thing called “Blue Mind”, which is a scientific way of describing the calming affect that water has on our brains. Try going for a swim or taking a long bath. If you’re lucky enough to live by a lake or ocean, try a picnic on the shore. Dip your toes in. Let the curative effect of Blue Mind wash over you.

The truth is, self-care can look like almost anything, as long as you find it restorative. It can be bubble baths and wine… but it can also be numerous other things.

How can you incorporate more self-care into your week?