If you’re wondering whether self-care is really all that important, stop guessing: it is. Self-care reduces stress and anxiety, strengthens our immune system, enhances our mental health, and recharges us so we’re fresh to handle the many challenges we face day in and day out. Without self-care, we’re like a flashlight with old batteries: we simply don’t work well if at all.
When you ask people if they think self-care is important, they’ll nod and say, “of course it is.”Many of those same people will then say that they find it hard to make time for self-care.
In our stress-filled, high-action, got-to-get-stuff done lives, more and more of us are sacrificing our self-care; we don’t make it a priority. What we don’t realize is, though, is that the resulting stress, anxiety, and even depression that results can not only wig you out— they can lead to major health problems.
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Studies Show Stress & Anxiety — and Their Related Health Issues — Are Soaring
While I’ve experienced serious bouts of stress, anxiety, and depression in my life, I have to admit that I’m no expert on these issues. So I did a little digging to see what the experts have to say about the consequences of inadequate self-care. What I found wasn’t pretty.
The American Psychological Association says that it’s clear that self-care isn’t a priority. “Americans are indulging in unhealthy behaviors: Almost a third of adults say they skipped a meal because of stress in the past month. Two-fifths reported overeating or eating unhealthy foods because of stress. And more than 40 percent reported that they had lain awake at night.“
According to the Anxiety and Depression Anxiety Association of America:
- 40 million adults in the U.S. age 18 and older (18.1% of the population) face anxiety disorders
- Women are twice as likely as men to experience Generalized Anxiety Disorder
- Major Depressive Disorder affects more than 16 million US adults
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, long-term stress can contribute to high blood pressure, heart disease, and even diabetes.
Researchers at Gallup studied the emotional health of several countries and found that adults in the Us. are among the most stressed in the world. Nearly half worry a lot and more than 20% feel angry a lot.
The research is clear: we are stressed and in need of serious self-care. The consequences of not taking care of ourselves are just too high!
What Keeps You From Practicing Self-Care?
Okay, we can now probably all agree that life is hard and stressful and that self-care is essential for navigating the turbulence and difficulties that we all face. So, what’s keeping so many of us from practicing self-care?
I recently participated in an online discussion about this. Hundreds of people offered their reasons why they don’t commit to self-care practices in their lives. Here were some of the things they said:
- Lack of time
- Prioritizing my job and business
- No support
- I feel unworthy
- Too much to do and too tired
- Kids need me
- Lack of self-discipline
Self-Care Means Making Yourself & Your Health a Priority
Time and/or money are the issues people most often mention when they talk about why they don’t give themselves the care they need. What most of us are reluctant to say — or possibly even don’t realize — is that another reason we ignore self-care is that we’ve developed the bad habit of never putting our needs first. We think that’s heroic, but in the end, that just leads to crushing stress and health issues.
I’m fond of the saying that you can’t serve from an empty vessel. It’s true. Ignoring your own needs leaves you less and less left over to help others. The “pressed for time” issue is real, but we know you know you must make time for the things that are most important to you.
Here’s the rock-hard truth: Your health is VERY IMPORTANT. When you don’t make it a priority, the consequences will get ugly. Maybe not today or tomorrow, but it will happen. Self-care is critical for both your physical and mental well-being. Self-care isn’t selfish; it’s essential.
Why Simple Self-Care Practices Are Best
Many of us mistakenly believe that self-care has to take a lot of time or be expensive. Neither is true. Adding small doses of self-care throughout your week can make a big difference. Ten or fifteen minutes a day can work wonders. That’s not to say a few hours here and there wouldn’t be good; every once in a while, you need bigger doses of self-care. I recommend a few full-day sessions now and again, too.
You have to do what works for you, but you must stop looking at all the reasons you can’t do proper self-care and start focusing on the reasons you must tend to your own needs.
Here are my self-care tips (notice, they’re not expensive or particularly time-consuming):
- Spend at least 5 minutes a day in nature (or even looking out your window). Notice the beauty around you.
- Meditate for 5 to 20 minutes a day. No need for anything fancy; just close your eyes, concentrate on your breath, and softly speak the word “relax.”
- Take a walk or hike
- Take an exercise class or follow along with an exercise video on YouTube
- Reduce processed sugar in your diet
- Eat more fruits and vegetables
- Do a little inspirational reading each day on self-love, self-acceptance, and happiness.
- Watch a funny movie
- Express your creativity; paint, draw, sculpt, knit, crochet, bake, sing, play an instrument, or do whatever else you love
- Start a Happiness Journal (grab ours for free)
- Get a massage
- Take a long hot bath
- Use essential oils
- Listen to music
Self-Care at Home – My Splurges
I must confess; now and again I also like to treat myself to something extra to help me with my self-care practice. When your finances allow, it doesn’t hurt to splurge a bit now and then!
Here are a few of my favorite at-home self-care indulgences:
27 More Self-Care Tips & Self-Care Activitites
1. A Super-Simple Workplace Self-Care Habit
“Getting up and stretching when you start to ache or taking five minutes away from a screen when your eyes get tired are tiny things that make a big difference. Make it a habit to start doing what your body needs and you will literally feel better for it.” Tabby Farrar, blogger at Just Can’t Settle
2. Don’t Let Anger Build — Release It!
“Anger is a strong emotion that needs an outlet. Otherwise, it seeps into our tissues and comes out in all kinds of ways that really limit us… How to release anger: Try a few rounds of trusty Lion’s breath. Yes. Quite simply, ROAR!
Inhale through your nose, into your belly. Exhale widen your mouth and eyes, stick your tongue out and….let it out. Roar from your very belly. Clear repressed feelings from your throat. Your guts. Do three or four rounds of that. Then, settle and listen from within. Maybe your cells are buzzing and you break into a burst of laughter or cry … [you’ll find] something shifted. Anger work is an ongoing adventure. Dive in. Free yourself. Use as needed.” -Ciara Jean Roberts, Wholly Aligned
3. Hang Around with People Who Make You Smile
“Make sure you’re around people that uplift you and can actually benefit your happiness.” =Charlie Koonce, Charleito.Com
4. Eat Mindfully
“It’s easy to get caught up in a fast-paced lifestyle where eating on the go is your norm. This can cause you to eat absent-mindlessly and to be out-of-tune with your hunger cues. An excellent way to practice self-care is to eat mindfully.
Mindful eating is based on mindfulness, which is a form of meditation, and mindfulness-based interventions have been shown to improve eating behaviors. Mindful eating means eating consciously in a healthy and balanced way in order to rediscover taste, flavor, and pleasure. It involves listening to your hunger cues and completely focusing on your food. This can help you regain control over your eating habits and improve your quality of life.” -Lucie Villeneuve, M.S., EduKale.com
5. Learn to Say No!
“Learn to say no. It’s probably one of the hardest things a person can do; many of us feel obligated to say yes when someone asks for our time or energy. However, if you are already maxed out, saying yes to friends and family can lead to stress and exhaustion. The more you can learn to politely decline requests, the better you’ll feel, and the more you’ll have more time to take care of YOU.” -Laura Kronen, Be You Only Better
6. Self-Care & Self-Improvement through Reading
“I carry a book with me when I go out. I do this because there is a lot of idle time, whether riding public transit or waiting in the doctor’s office. Most people resort to their phone to play games or scan social media. This does nothing good for them and in some cases, adds to their stress.
By carrying a book, I learn new things all the time and finish reading a lot of books. It helps me to de-stress and reset myself throughout the day. The result is better focus and more energy all day long.” -Jon Dulin, UnfinishedSuccess.com
7. Do a Digital Detox
“News and social media can be extremely stressful. It’s important to take a break every once in a
while so you can relax and remind yourself of what truly matters. Instead of turning on the news, you can practice self-care by doing a digital detox for a few days, or even a week. In your screen-free time, you can read books, create art, or find other hobbies to occupy your time.” -Samanta Warren, SamathaWarren.com
8 Schedule a Self-Care Date
“I personally schedule self-care dates for myself and recommend my clients to do the same! With our busy schedules, I believe it’s important to plan a special day or a time that we set aside and leave unbooked on the calendar. I prefer doing self-care dates that elevate myself as a person; for example trying a new holistic therapy, attending a workshop, or having a professional beauty treatment done. Whatever you do, be fully present and enjoy! – Jordan Artistry, JordanArtistry.com
9 Stop Comparing Yourself with Others!
“One of the most powerful self-care tips is being gentle towards yourself by avoiding comparing yourself to others. This may mean turning down social invites or staying away from social media, cutting out unhealthy relationships, or even focusing on your own vulnerabilities to understand why certain things make you feel the way they do. This will not only help improve your self-awareness at the moment but it can help you to grow and strengthen relationships in the long-term.” -Brittany Ferri, Simplicity of Health
10. Self-Care for the Mind: Keep a Gratitude Journal
“Self-care shouldn’t just be for the body but for the mind too. Keeping a gratitude journal has given me a sense of perspective and calm. It reminds me of how fortunate I am to have my health, a safe home, and my family close to me during this difficult time. By writing down what I’m thankful for, I’ve also become more optimistic because I am choosing to see more of the positive aspects of my life while diminishing the power of negative emotions in the process.” – Linda Chester, The Health Hour
11. Ditch One-Sided Relationships
“My best self-care tip is to invest only in relationships with people who invest in you. Too often, I see people spend time and energy on friendships and relationships that are not equally reciprocated. If you feel like a relationship is one-sided and that you are putting in all of the work, my recommendation is to stop wasting your mental and physical energy. Otherwise, you can end up feeling entirely drained and unfulfilled, neither of which translates to self-care.
Self-care means advocating for yourself and refusing to expend your precious efforts on people who don’t show you the same care and attention. Concentrate your efforts on people who reach out to you, who are always there for you, and who bring you joy and life.” -Erin Ipsen, ErinIpsen.com
12. Embrace Your Inner Child & Get Silly
“My best self-care tip is to embrace your inner child. Life can feel heavy and hard! By stepping into a silly, lighthearted, and fun place we lighten up and enjoy the simpler things in life. It is much easier than most people think! Have a dance party at home. Draw with sidewalk chalk. Go pick wildflowers [or just see how many different kinds you can find].
The activity itself is not as important as the act of approaching life with wonder, awe, and creativity. In doing so, relaxation is achieved and joy is pursued. When I find myself slipping into a place of stress I immediately seek an opportunity to lighten up and act like a kid again.” -Caitlyn Scaggs, CatilynScaggs.com
13. Set a Daily Intention & Live Mindfully
“Set an intention in the morning – and stick to it all day long. Your intention, or personal mantra, should begin with ‘I am,’ and should be phrased in the present tense. Some examples might be ‘I am strong,’ or ‘I am enough.’ This allows for mindful living and encourages the mind to return to this positive intention that you have set for yourself over the course of the day. When you are confronted by adversity, challenges, or moments of stress, repeat your intention to yourself with a deep inhale.” -Jasmine Almeida, YogaLastics.com
14. Give Yourself a Mental Pat-on-the-Back
“When the end of the day rolls around and my head hits the pillow, I give myself a mental pat on the back for ANYTHING I got done that day. Be it big, small, smart, or dumb. At least I did something, and even if it was a major fail, at least I learned something. I started doing this shortly after I got over my quarantine slump where I had zero motivation. I knew that positive reinforcement helps to solidify habits so I gave it a whirl. Low and behold the amount of time I do spend working is done with far less self-made stress” -Ana Kalo, KaloCoaching.com.
15. Yoga in One of Its Many Glorious Forms
“Yoga is my favorite form of self-care. Yoga can encompass a simple mindful walk outside where you notice the pink flowers blooming, the beautiful blue sky above you, puffs of white clouds, and the blooming white azalea bush next-door. Yoga can also be mindful moving through stretches, yoga poses, downward dog, warrior two, and ending a physical practice with Savasana. Yoga is a lifestyle and a beautiful way of connecting to all living beings, with your own spirituality. Self-care means nourishing yourself on a deep level and reconnecting to yourself in mind, body, and spirit. For me, yoga is something I can do if I’m in a hotel room traveling, if I am in my backyard, or if I am stressed out about work.” – Katie Ziskind, WisdomWithinCT.com
16. Offer Yourself Caring, Kind, and Encouraging Words
“Your words are powerful and your body is listening and responding appropriately. Care for yourself by being kind and loving, even inside your own head. For the perfectionists, give yourself a break! Recognize small achievements instead of always reaching for the next one. Be your own cheerleader and watch the magic happen.” -Shannon Conklin, YourOrganicEdge.com
17. Take a Break from Alcohol
“Self-care isn’t *just* about what you do. It’s also about what you don’t do. Taking a break from drinking alcohol has the potential to radically transform your life. Personally, I went from unconfident, anxious, and overweight to recreating my identity, feeling happy, and most importantly, feeling free.
Am I saying you need to give up drinking forever? Absolutely not. However, many people find a 30-day break to be absolutely life-changing. They talk about better sleep, losing weight, and feeling more energized. Some people that do a 30-day challenge choose to go back to drinking, and others continue on their sober journey. You’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain!” -Leon Sylvester, SoberClear.com
18. Learn Something New
“My favorite self-care tip, the one that has gotten me through quarantine, is learning something new! Every day, if possible. I’ve learned how to grow succulents, finally use my Instant Pot, hang a TV, fix a leaky shower head, write HTML code, use my sewing machine…it doesn’t matter what you learn. (And if you fail at something, that’s learning too.)
When you watch young kids and see the pure joy on their faces when they’ve learned to crawl or walk or ride a bike…that’s the spark that ignites our souls. It’s easy to forget that we are here on Earth to learn and grow. This is how we nourish our minds and bodies!” -Jen Breitegan, OrganizeEnvy.com
19. Drink Enough Water
“Over the years, I have found one of the best things I can do to take care of myself is to make it a priority to drink half my body weight in ounces of water every day. It gives me so much energy, clarity of mind, prevents headaches, increases my metabolism, and does wonders for my complexion.
When you’re tired, it’s easy to drink lots of coffee, soda, and other sugary things, But our bodies need water desperately! This is a simple tip, but it is something everyone has time for and can make a huge difference in how you feel.” -Lauren Schmitz, The Simple Home Schooler
20. Keep Pursuing Your Passions
“My single best tip for self-care is to keep pursuing your passions. Don’t let life, (being a mom, finances, job, etc) keep you from spending time doing what you love. If you pursue your passion, you’ll grow as a person, as an artist, etc. and that’s the best thing you can do for yourself. You’ll gain confidence not just in yourself but in what you are capable of. Everything else you do in life will benefit from you taking time for yourself.” -Kimberly McGraw, LifeWorththeLiving.com
21. Create a Simple Morning Ritual
“I recommend a moment of self-care in the morning. It’s helpful to combine self-care with a routine that you already have. If you’re a coffee drinker and love the ritual of enjoying that first cup, try taking that cup outside and sitting for ten minutes. You’re taking time to pause before starting your day instead of getting sucked into emails or scrolling Instagram right away. You’re also absorbing the benefits of being outside. Even if you live in a big city, try walking down the street and finding a bench to sit on for ten minutes while you drink your coffee. Listen to the sounds of birds chirping, cars driving by. Feel the wind on your skin or the sunshine on your face. Try to be present as much as you can – you deserve this time” – Katie Wolf, TheCenteredCreative.com
22. Make Sleep a Priority
“Respect your body’s natural sleep schedule and prioritize sleep before everything else. If that means missing your morning workout or adjusting your morning routine, so be it. Many people tout the benefits of having an early morning routine (it’s something I used to preach and live by myself), but there’s a problem when getting up early comes at the cost of adequate sleep.
For example, I can only fall asleep so early and I used to sacrifice sleep in order to get up before 6 am and exercise. But over the long term, it put stress on my mind and body. I was always tired and agitated. I even started getting migraines. These days I sleep in until 7, which is my natural wake up time, and I moved my workouts to the late afternoons. It’s the most self-compassionate change I’ve ever made!” -Connie Alexander, TheFitCareerist.com
23. Take Time to Do Nothing
“How about setting aside a time to do nothing? That’s right, absolutely nothing.
Take a cue from your creative friends. Sit and stare out a window. Lie down and stare at the ceiling. Maybe walk around the block, but with your only goal being to allow your cortisol levels to drop! … While
I’m not suggesting anyone let their children starve or skimp on an important work project … if we give this time to ourselves, this huge grace, we will be more prepared to step forward into our lives when we return from a do-nothing break.” -Nita Sweeney, NitaSweeney.com
24. Positive Self-Talk
“The self-care tip that has changed my life is positive self-talk. I’ve made it my mission to change the way I talk to myself, starting with what I say when I step out of bed. As one foot hits the floor I say to myself, “Good,” and as the second foot hits the floor I say, “Morning!”
From this first waking moment, I’m programming myself to look forward to what’s ahead. As the day goes on, I practice reframing any negative narratives in my head. If I start to notice the cellulite on my legs, I stop the thoughts and notice how strong my legs are and how grateful I am for the ability to move with ease. If I get defeated over my productivity, I interrupt the thoughts and remember who I helped and remind myself that tomorrow is a chance to start again.
Bubble baths and jade rollers are great, but positive self-talk is my ultimate self-care tool. The increased optimism that resonates within me overflows into other areas of my life as well, allowing me to see the value I bring to the table in my relationships and career.” – Tiffany Napper, TiffanyNapper.com
25. Weekly Accomplishment Reflection
“When I think about self-care, I think of it expansively as including mental self-care as well as physical self-care. I find that sometimes it is difficult to step back and realize how far we have come in achieving our goals, whether they are related to our career, relationships, or health.
I find it can be very helpful to carve out an hour every weekend to reflect on what went well that week and how I have advanced my goals in the key areas of my life. While this also involves reflection on what did not go so well and what could be improved in the future, it reminds me of how far I have come and helps inspire me to be my best self. In most cases, it results in excitement about the week ahead and a positive mindset.” -Jessica Rose, CopperH2O.com
26. Wake Up Earlier
“My advice if you don’t have time for self-care: wake up earlier. This may sound like the opposite of self-care, but if I really need some me time, I love to wake up at 5 am This is the time I can take to get creative, to journal, to relax and read, whatever I need at the moment. But the best part is knowing that I took the time for myself. That’s worth waking up early for.” -Maryna Shkvorets, MarynaShkvorets.com
27. Set Healthy Boundaries
“Set healthy boundaries! Bubble baths and painted toenails are great, but a big piece of self-care isn’t found on the surface, it’s found in the depths of protecting your time and energy. So many of us don’t even know what it looks like to set boundaries and we’re missing out on the benefits of doing so: healthier relationships, the ability to nurture ourselves and our needs so we can be there to support others, decreased negative energy in our lives, and more.
Setting healthy boundaries can look like silencing your phone at 10 pm, it can look like asking your spouse for 30 minutes of alone time after work, voicing your discomfort with a conversation topic, and many more acts of self-care in the emotional and mental space.” -Amanda Gist, AmandaGist.com
Your Self-Care Plan Worksheet
Now that you have so many great self-care ideas, you might be overwhelmed by what to do first. The last thing I want to do is overwhelm you here, so my top tip for starting a de-stressing, rejuvenating self-care practice is to pick ONE thing to focus on at a time.
You can pick one thing to focus on for a day, a week, or a month. Then, in time, you can add more things to your self-care routine.
Only you know the best self-care activities for you. Don’t feel guilty or worried that you’re not doing enough — just do what feels right to you and let your new self-care process lift you up and soothe your soul.
Right now, make a commitment to do JUST ONE THING today to take better care of yourself. I’ve provided a simple PDF below that you can download and print out. Keeping a visual reminder handy will help you remember to give yourself the tender loving care you need and deserve.