Anything from lighting a candle to taking a trip to the beach can qualify as self-care. After all, nobody else knows what and when you need the things you do to keep yourself feeling happy and healthy.
In fact, self-care is sometimes asking others to wait a minute or finding the inner strength to say no. A lot of us put others’ needs first. However, when it comes at our own expense, it may be interfering with our self-care.
The good news is, you’re the expert in determining your own self-care routine. Start simple and see what works for you over time. And if you need help getting started, keep reading to learn how to build your own self-care routine.
Understand the pillars of self-care
Once you identify your needs, it will be easier to create a plan to fulfill them or to ask for them to be respected by others.
From there, it may be helpful to break self-care into four different pillars to determine what to add to your new routine. Therapists Linda Larkin, MA, LPC, and Lawrence A. Martin, MA, LPC, helped us break down these pillars:
- Physical self-care: At its core, self-care involves making time for the basic things you already do every day — sleeping, eating, and staying active. Self-care means you prioritize these things in ways that make you healthier.
- Emotional self-care: Allowing yourself time and space to inspect your emotions (even the distressing ones) can be instructive and healing.
- Spiritual self-care: Connect with what is deepest and best in you. Caring for your spirit looks different for everyone and may be practiced through prayer, a religious setting, meditation, yoga, a mindfulness practice, nature, music, or activism.
- Self-care in relationships: Sometimes this means spending quality time with friends or family, and other times this means saying no and spending time with yourself. Relational self-care is about finding the social outlets where you feel best supported.
Make a list of self-care ideas
Try brainstorming a list of ideas that you can pull from when you make time for your self-care. You can even create a running list on your phone while you’re on the go.
A few things you can consider to practice physical self-care:
- Go outside in nature
- Do something active like taking a hike or going on a bike ride
- Drink plenty of water
A few things you can consider to practice emotional self-care:
- Light a candle
- Listen to or play music
- Talk to a therapist
A few things you can consider to practice spiritual self-care:
- Do something calming like yoga or meditation
- Take a hot shower or bath
- Spend time contemplating your goals and values
A few things you can consider to practice self-care in your relationships:
- Say no when you need time and space for yourself
- Take time from work when you need it (for example, to celebrate your birthday, when you are sick, or when you need a mental health day)
- Take a vacation — it doesn’t have to be a big one, even a short getaway can help you recharge
Check in with yourself frequently
Knowing when you need self-care is just as important as knowing what you need to do to care for yourself. Creating your routine will require a little dedicated time in the beginning. However, like anything, the more often you do it, the more intuitive it will become.
A deeper level of self-care is regularly becoming attuned to your own needs, especially in settings you may not be able to control. This involves checking in with yourself often.
“Checking in with yourself” is another way of saying that you can identify and share times when your needs are not being met. Being aware of these moments, even when you can’t yet do anything to fix them, is a great and important step in developing a self-care routine.
Reap the benefits of self-care
When you start a self-care routine, one of the most important benefits is connecting with yourself and others in more intentional ways. Once you begin to practice self-care regularly, you might discover new insights, a sense of self-respect, and the ability to decompress, recharge, and stay calm in the face of trouble.
Self-care also allows you to function at a higher level and be more present in your interactions and relationships. When you care for yourself, you create space to better care for others in your life.
Starting on your journey toward quality self-care can be daunting, but the rewards are worth it. Take a deep breath. If you begin with one small step that you can easily introduce into your daily routine, it will become easier to make self-care a valued part of your everyday life in the long run.