How to practice self care

photo of journal and coffee cup on a blanket with the text: "how to practice self care"

Since it’s Valentines Day week, it feels appropriate to talk about showing ourselves some love through self care. For lots of people, it can be hard to figure out how to practice self care or even to figure what it means and why it’s important. So I figured I’d share my thoughts on the subject. 

What is self care?

There’s a quote from a song I love by the band Cheekface that goes, “Nothing says self loathing like the words ‘self care.'”

If we consider self care to mean the regular actions we take to feel like healthy and whole human beings, it is a little depressing that we need a word for it, no?

Why do we need a reminder to take care and treat ourselves with love—actions that should be automatic, natural?

In my opinion, society has worked to strip us of this natural tendency to care for ourselves. We’re overworked, underpaid, burdened with debt, and constantly bumping up against racism, sexism, ableism, etc.

Under these conditions, yeah, taking time to show yourself some kindness does take a reminder.

Self care isn’t a substitute for systemic change

I want to be clear that self care is not a replacement for fixing personal and societal systemic problems. If we’re tired and stressed because we’re depressed, overworked, or interfacing with racism, a face mask and a bath aren’t much more than a flimsy bandaid.

While we absolutely need tools to get through our daily lives as intact humans, we cannot forget about the larger fights for justice that will create a more well-cared for society.

The goal is to live in a society that doesn’t work so hard to deplete us. Where self care is less of a reaction to our difficult lives and, instead, unconscious, ingrained, and accessible.

In the meantime though, self care is still something that’s hard for a lot of us to figure out. So here are some ideas for incorporating self care into your life:

photo of self care in action with journal, coffee cup and other items on a blanket

Figure out what self care looks like to you

There’s so much advice about how to practice self care, but it’s important to remember that self care is incredibly personal. Not everyone will benefit from the same practices. For some people, a face mask will do the trick. For others, cleaning the kitchen is the best act of self care.

If you’re not sure what your form of self care looks like, take out a sheet of paper and answer these questions:

  • When do you feel your best?
  • What helps you relax?
  • When do you feel energized?
  • What uplifts you?

Now, take all those answers and turn them into actions that you can incorporate into your daily life.

For me, this looks like:

  • Spending time outside
  • Taking naps
  • Eating well
  • Spending quality time with my partner

Make sure you have variety

Hopefully you wrote down a handful of ideas because you’ll want some variety in your self care. You need different options depending on how much money or time you have available. Because, if your self care ideas aren’t accessible to you, surprise! You’re not going to do them.

Using the list of activities you already generated, figure out some different variations on them based on the following scenarios:

  • Big budget or little budget or no budget
  • Lots of time or short on time
  • With people or solo
  • High energy or low energy

For example, spending time outside could look like:

  • Taking a walk around the block
  • Going for a hike with my partner
  • Hitting the road for a camping trip
  • Sitting outside on my porch

Make sure it’s sustainable

Self care is something we should strive to practice daily, not just on the weekends or when we feel like we have time. We can’t run ourselves into the ground on a daily basis and expect an hour of yoga to fix all the damage we’ve done.

Self care should be built into our regular routines as much as eating, sleeping, and working. It shouldn’t be something we drop our “normal” lives to do. That’s because it’s a lot easier to maintain a healthy, happy self than to pick up the pieces once we already feel like crap.

Once you’ve got your list of self care ideas—with variations for different circumstances—try turning some of them into habits. See if you can add a few low-lift activities into your daily, weekly, and monthly routines.

Here’s what it looks like for me:

  • Daily: read
  • Weekly: one day of meal prep 
  • Monthly: go for a hike

Need a place to write all this down and keep track of your new habits? Shop the printables in my Etsy store. 

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