May is mental health awareness month, so now seems like the perfect time to talk about self-care. I know what you’re thinking – I’ve heard the phrase “self-care” so many times, it’s starting to lose its meaning. Bear with me. I promise I’m not going to try to convince you that a bubble bath and a cup of green tea will fix all of your life’s problems. What I will do is give you a practical self-care checklist you can use whenever you need some love.
Why is Self-Care Important?
As I write this, we’re in the middle of a pandemic. No matter when you’re reading this, I can assume that this crisis affected you too. This time is teaching me a lot, but one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is the importance of taking care of ourselves – inside and out.
You have to put your oxygen mask on first before helping others.
I’m sure we’ve all heard that a zillion times, but it really is true. Just like putting your oxygen mask on during a plane crash – you need to make sure your needs are met to show up as your best self for others.
That’s often easier said than done. Many of us are taught (even if it is only in subtle ways and societal norms) that we should put our needs aside to help others. We’re “good” if we put others first.
But where does that leave off? And how long can we keep that up before we crack?
If you’ve ever felt that your own needs should take a backseat, ask yourself,
“Am I able to show up as my best self?”
“Am I feeling drained? Resentful?”
“Does my life leave room for me to take care of my wellbeing?”
If no one has told you this recently, then I want to make sure that I do – self-care isn’t selfish. Read that again. You are worth it.
What is Self-Care?
Self-care isn’t all manicures and face masks (although those things definitely count). Think of self-care as any way you can show yourself compassion. It means treating yourself like a friend (aka being nice to yourself) and sometimes it means parenting yourself (aka doing those boring but necessary things that are good for you).
Types of Self-Care
Wellbeing is about more than just physical health. Your whole self needs and deserves care. I like to think of it like this – self-care should include activities for your body, mind, and soul. Those parts of you are interconnected. Here are some ideas for each area! Think of it as a little self-care checklist.
Caring for your physical self can involve traditional wellness activities like nutritious food and exercise, but it can also involve hygiene and showing your body love in less conventional ways.
- Brush and/or style your hair
- Do your makeup
- Paint your nails (extra points for a little manicure!)
- Go for a long walk outside
- Prepare a meal (with leftovers so you don’t have to cook tomorrow)
- Drink a glass of water
- Enjoy a cup of tea
- Follow along with a yoga video (Yoga with Adriene is my go-to.)
- Get a massage (You don’t have to pay to go to a salon for this one! Give yourself a little shoulder or foot rub or have your SO help you out.)
- Be “extra” with your skincare routine (Take your time pampering yourself during your normal skincare routine. Scrubs, face masks, and jade rollers can also be soothing.)
- Take a shower or bath
- Put on an outfit that makes you feel confident
- Do an exercise video (POPSUGAR Fitness and FitnessBlender have some of my favorites)
- Aim to eat a fruit or vegetable with each meal (It may sound simple, but I promise it’ll make you feel a lot better.)
Your mental health is just as important as your physical health. Behaviors that help you feel mentally stimulated and manage your stress can help you maintain a healthier mind.
- Make your bed
- Sit outside (Just sit. Tune in with your surroundings.)
- Unplug (Put your phone in another room for a while! The world will still be there when you come back.)
- Play a game (Games on your phone, gaming system, computer, or irl all count!)
- Try a guided meditation (Simple Habit is a great app for this.)
- Set up a therapy appointment (If you don’t already have a therapist or if it doesn’t seem feasible for you, see if your insurance covers therapy appointments or try a virtual therapy service.)
- Check one annoying item off of your to-do list (I see you, laundry pile that’s been sitting in my corner for a week…)
- Make a to-do list (The Things app has been a lifesaver for me. You can make daily to-do lists and schedule to-dos for a later date. Because you can’t do it all today.)
- Do a puzzle
- Go for a drive
- Clean out your email
- Unfollow people on social media who don’t make you feel informed, joyful, or inspired
- Put your phone on ‘do not disturb’ for an hour
- Listen to a podcast
Think of the soul as the emotional and social part of yourself. It’s the part of us that craves connection and inspiration and it deserves your love, too.
- Call a family member or friend
- Create something (Doodle, work on a project around your home, follow along with a painting tutorial, write, or do a craft project.)
- Mindfully enjoy food that makes you happy (Sit down and enjoy it with no distractions. Talk about it with your family, SO, or yourself like a food critic. What flavors and textures are you experiencing? What memories do you associate with this food?)
- Listen to music
- Look at motivational quotes on Pinterest
- Set up a game night with friends
- List 3 things you’re grateful for
- Order takeout from a restaurant you love
- Watch cat videos (or dogs, baby animals, sloths, whatever floats your boat)
- Make an inexpensive “fancy” coffee
- Light candles
- Spend time in nature
You don’t have to do all of these things to take care of yourself every day. (That would be downright impossible and I would be impressed.) Try picking one activity from each category of this self-care checklist each day. (Pin this for later!)