What is self-care?
Too many people interpret self-care as an excuse to splurge on things you normally wouldn’t (or shouldn’t) buy. They see it as treat yo self‘s posh cousin. But that’s not what self-care is. Buying yourself presents can be a form of self-care but it should never be your only way of practicing it.
At its core, self-care is taking the time to do things for yourself. It’s focusing on the things that bring you joy. It’s about allowing yourself to be a little selfish. You can do this by treating yourself with a facial/manicure/new outfit/etc. but there are lots of things you can do at home (without spending money) to show yourself you care.
18 Self-Care Rules
- Become your own best friend. I will freely admit that I am my own worst enemy. I tend to be extremely negative and critical in judging my achievements (or lack thereof). I know I’m not alone in this; many of you probably do the same thing. But imagine that instead of you, it was a close friend who had all of your qualities and did all the things you did. How would you respond to them? Would you highlight all the ways they “failed”? Of course not! You’d congratulate them on their efforts and support their attempts to improve. So why not extend that same kindness to yourself?
- Keep a journal. Most of my close friends already know how deep my love for planners runs. Planners are great for tracking things you need to do and places you need to go. They take care of the “before” by laying everything out for you. But what about the “after”? How did that meeting go? Were you able to get all of your tasks done as they were scheduled? Did you meet anyone interesting at that event? Most people don’t take the time to reflect but doing so can have enormous benefits. Through keeping a journal, I realized that I tend to underestimate how much time I need for each task. As a result, I end up not getting everything in my planner done. Usually, I have to move tasks to the following day (which, of course, upsets THAT day’s balance) or lose sleep trying to finish everything. The best part about journaling is that you can do it however you want! (daily, weekly, monthly, by hand, electronically, etc.)
- Use technology to your advantage. I definitely don’t use my iPhone to its full potential but there are lots of simple ways to make your devices work for you! Even if you use a planner to keep track of everything, you still have to remember to refer back to it. Don’t let this be a reason you miss something on your to-do list. It’s easy to set up reminders for things you need to bring with you, appointments, and other tasks. Don’t tell yourself, “It’s just one little thing; I’ll remember,” because all those “little things” will add up.
- Do one thing at a time! Make this the year you practice one-mindedness. I’m sure you’re great at writing a paper while listening to a podcast and checking your email in one tab and doing some online shopping in another. But in my experience, this is one place where quality definitely beats quantity. Give your mind a break by allowing yourself to focus on only one task at a time. Take away the temptation to multitask by temporarily blocking certain websites if you need to. I’m guilty of almost always having 10+ tabs open on my browser so I practice one-mindedness by starting written assignments on paper, only using my laptop to look up information. In fact, almost all of my blog posts start off written completely by hand! (Check out the last picture in this post.)
- Prepare weekly. Review your week each Sunday night (or earlier) to acknowledge what’s happening in the next few days. Take a look at upcoming events, appointments, and deadlines. You don’t want to be surprised by your own schedule!
- Prepare daily. Take a few minutes each night to do your morning-self a favor. Lay out clothes you’re going to wear and pack your bags with all the things you’ll need. You can reap the benefits of this each day by getting a few extra minutes of sleep.
- Get help when you need it. You are not a self-sufficient machine. Sometimes you have to face things you’ve never dealt with before. Even if it’s nothing new, pressure from other factors can create a significant amount of stress. It’s always okay to reach out for help. Stop by during your professor’s office hours in those moments when you don’t even understand what you don’t understand. Reach out to your bosses if you’re having trouble at work. If the issue is more about your mental health, then try counseling services. If you’re a college student, then visit your university’s health center. You can also try online services like 7 cups. Choosing to start seeing a counselor last semester has been one of the best decisions I’ve made in my entire life.
- Get some rest. No matter how little sleep you used to be able to get away with, your body will catch up eventually. Make sure you give yourself time to sleep each night. All iPhones already have a pre-installed “Bedtime” reminder/tracker in the Clock app. If you don’t like this app or if you don’t use an iPhone, then there are lots more options in the app markets. (See #3; make your technology work for you!)
- Meditate for a few minutes each day. Take a couple of minutes near the start of each day to check in with how you’re feeling. The goal is to notice the things that lead your mind to wander and to bring yourself back when this happens. You can use apps like Headspace or check out NYU’s Calming Corner for downloadable mp3s.
- Actually treat yourself. I started this post bashing spending money as self-care, but when done responsibly, buying yourself a present is not a bad ting. So go ahead, get yourself something that makes you happy! Just keep in mind that it should be a planned purchase that you actually have the money for and not an impulse-buy that will put you in debt.
- Take breaks from work. I have a bad habit of drowning myself in work to avoid confronting certain things. By filling all of my time with work and studying, I don’t have to face uncomfortable emotions. But doing this is extremely unhealthy on so many levels. By never taking breaks, you’re only setting yourself up to eventually burn out.
- Read a book. Reading is great for so many reasons! It helps build vocabulary, improves your writing skills, and teaches you new things. Click here for some books I read last year.
- Take note of good things that happen. The planner that I use already includes a “good things that happened” section in its weekly layout but even if yours doesn’t (or if you don’t use a planner), then you can start keeping track in a journal.
- Do more things that make you happy. Take a few minutes to jot down three to five things that you love doing. Then, try to do at least one thing from your list in the following week.
- Fake it. Sometimes, we don’t feel very happy or positive. But you can actually “trick” your mind into feeling better. According to the facial feedback hypothesis, your mind pays attention to what your face is doing and uses that information to figure out how you’re feeling.
In other words, you don’t just smile when you’re happy; you also feel happy when you smile. This extends to your entire body. The way you sit and stand affects how confident you feel. This is called power posing. Learn how to do that here.
- Go offline (for a little while). I am not the type of person who can completely swear off social media. But I can refrain from checking Instagram/Snapchat/Facebook/etc. first thing in the morning. By doing this, I start each day by focusing on me and what I need to do; not what other people are up to.
- Do nothing. Andy Puddicombe described me perfectly as the person who responds to stress by burying themselves in work. But in his TED talk, he talks about the value in setting aside time to do nothing. Watch his video and then set aside 10 minutes to step back from your busy schedule and just. Do. Nothing.
- Do something! This seems to go against #17 but don’t wait for the perfect moment to make any of these changes. You’ll always find a reason to wait. As is the case with Impossible Lists, the most important part is that you just do something.