Self care is critical to your overall well-being, and your well-being is important. Our lives are full of chronic stress. Stress leads to inflammation, and inflammation is at the root of many illnesses.
Self care is about sticking up for yourself. It’s about prioritizing your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health. As parents, we priortize our children, our spouses, and our work over ourselves. And we struggle mightily – feeling selfish and guilty – when we don’t.
Here’s a critically important concept: taking care of ourselves IS taking care of our families, our relationships, our careers, our obligations. It’s an investment in our longevity – in our future ability to continue to be productive in the many roles we all play. If we don’t care for ourselves, we’ll eventually, and inevitably, be unable to care for others.
Because these kinds of lists can so easily make a person feel overwhelmed, the ideas on this list were chosen with these things in mind:
Is the idea actually helpful?
Are the ideas reasonably simple?
Are the ideas – or some version of the ideas –generally accessible?
With that in mind, here are 43 simple ways you can practice taking care of yourself today:
Ask for what you need.
Maybe it’s a raise. Maybe it’s time off. Maybe it’s that when you walk in the door, you need your family to say hello before bombarding you with questions and complaints.
No, you can’t sleep on my couch when you’re in town. No, I can’t take on that project right now. No, I’m not able to stay late. No, I don’t want any more freaking cheese ON MY DAMN PASTA. NO NO NO. Practice it: NO.
Yes, I would love some help with the groceries. Yes, I would love it if you took the kids to school. Yes, I want to meet up for a beer. Yes, I WANT MORE CAKE. Practice it: YES.
Plan a vacation.
A vacation can be whatever you need it to be, whatever you can afford it to be. If it’s a week on the beach, awesome. If it’s playing tourist in a neighboring town for a day, that’s great too.
Turn on some tunes and dance it out. Follow these simple instructions: Jump around. Jump around. Jump up. Jump up. And, get down.
Take 10 deep breaths.
This is an easy way to calm your mind that actually works and costs nothing. Try it. If you get to the third breath and you still hate me, well, keep going.
Eat a piece of fruit.
No, it’s not a miracle cure-all, but it’s a start. Fiber? Check. Vitamins? Check. Delicious? Check. Refreshing? Check.
Read a book.
Some of us are already voracious readers. And some perpetually start books that are never finished. It doesn’t matter. Either way, reading is both engaging and relaxing.
Take a power nap.
The National Sleep Foundation recommends 20-30 minutes and cites all kinds of benefits.
This doesn’t have to involve sitting on a precipice overlooking the Grand Canyon surrounded by thousands of lit candles. This isn’t the freaking finale of The Bachelor, it’s actual real life. It’s not about how well you do it, it’s just about practicing the skill of quieting your mind. Check this list for some insight on meditation apps.
Any sort of exercise is great. Running requires little more than a pair of sneaks. It’s a quick way to get the endorphins flowing for immediate benefit, and the long term benefits are many.
Here’s the thing about yoga: it’s like pizza, it’s all good, it just depends on what you like. Pick a class and try it. Many studios have a weekly donation-only class as a more affordable option. Lots of science behind this one. Yoga is definitely good for you.
Knowing when it’s time to see a therapist is an important life skill. Yes. Our childhoods, our traumas, our losses, our conflicts have an impact on our daily lives. Yes they do. Therapy helps us see how, and shows us what we can do about it.
Schedule a massage.
Some massage therapists have sliding scales. Some massages are covered by insurance if prescribed by a doctor or a PT. The massage chair at the mall is less that $5 and you can just close your eyes and pretend no one can see you.
Take a break from the news.
Unless you’re reading my son’s 2nd grade classroom newspaper where the worst headline you’ll ever see is about that one time Sam hogged the chess board, the news is generally terrible and upsetting. It’s too much. Take a break.
Milk a spa day.
Find out how many treatments you have to purchase in order to sit in the hot tub or next to the pool all day. Sometimes purchasing a 30-min facial, or a pedicure, buys you a whole day of plush-robe-wearing, lemon-water-drinking, steamy-sauna-sitting restoration.
Clean your feed.
Our social media feeds are full of Debbie Downers — people who take to Facebook and whine about how life is so much harder for them than it’s ever been for anyone else in the world. Here’s an update: no, it’s not. Hit unfollow, unfriend, whatever. If a person doesn’t make you laugh or share useful info, they’re not helping you feel better. Buh bye.
Schedule a dawn date.
It’s hard to wake up extra early to hit the gym, right? But maybe you’d be more motivated if you were getting up to meet a friend for breakfast? Maybe you could get up a little earlier if it was to enjoy a cup of coffee in a quiet house before tiny monsters crawl out of bed and start making unreasonable demands.
Drink a glass of water.
Just get up right now and do it.
Keep a journal. Express yourself. Check out this site for 365 days of writing prompts.
Ask for help.
Can you do all the things yourself? No. You can’t. Ask for help.
Have coffee/tea with a friend.
Connect with a friend. You know what contributes to depression and anxiety? Isolation.
Literally just go outside. Why not go right now?
Floss your teeth.
Did you know there’s a strong link between poor dental health and heart disease? Read about it here. Or just floss your teeth.
Go to the movies.
Sometimes you need an escape. Go see a movie.
Chew your food.
Focusing on actually chewing your food zooms you right back to the present moment.
Doodle or color.
You know what topped Amazon’s 2015 bestseller list? Coloring books for adults. They’re fun, relaxing, and mindless. You know what else is cool? Recolor — a coloring app with free pictures, beautiful pallets, and special effects.
Laughing is good for your health. It relieves stress, stimulates your organs, and improves your immune system. Take it from the Mayo Clinic, they’re smart there.
Go see a live performance.
A concert, a play, whatever helps you feel some good vibes.
Do some karaoke.
You know what’s awesome about karaoke? It combines music, friends, and laughing. Because you’re terrible at it, but it doesn’t matter.
Snuggle with a pet.
Having pets improves your health. WebMD says so.
Schedule your annual physical.
Hate going to the doctor? Go anyway. Better to have regularly scheduled check-ups than be surprised by advanced melanoma. Harsh, yes. And true.
Acknowledge your feelings.
Say it out loud to yourself, say it to a pal. I feel sad. I feel angry. I feel irritated. Say it.
Swap childcare with a friend.
Agree to spend a little QT with some kids, get some free childcare in return. Win – win.
You know that thing that’s been bugging you? That thing you can’t control and yet continue to obsess over? Visualize picking it up, putting it a box, and setting the box on fire. Never look back.
Be a good friend to yourself.
Do you have any friends that follow you around saying mean things to you? No. You don’t. Because that person would be an asshole. So, why do you do it to yourself? If that concept doesn’t resonate, try this: if you wouldn’t say it to a friend, don’t say it to yourself.
Buy yourself flowers.
Or a house plant, unless you tend to kill house plants in which case stick to flowers. The point is, no need to wait for someone else to do this for you.
Life is about balance, not restriction. Enjoy yourself.
Try something new.
So many benefits! Check out this list of places to learn something new online.
Get enough sleep.
Sleep is really, really important. Hard to come by. Just keep trying. Goto bed 15 minutes earlier each night for four nights and you’ve gained an hour.
Get rid of the word should.
If you can think of one single time the word “should” was used for something other than relaying a guilt trip or conveying shame and disappointment, then you can keep using it. Otherwise, kick it to the curb.
Wake up and say something.
Instead of immediately reaching for your phone, take a minute and say something. Like: Man, this day is packed full, but I’m going to handle it by being decisive. Or: Today will be better than average. Be as realistically optimistic as you can be.
Make a decision.
Then make another. And another. Overthinking is holding you hostage. Pick something and do it.
Do you have any ideas or thoughts to add? Please share in the comments!