What Does “Self-Care” Actually Mean?
When people talk about their self-care practice, I find that they’re usually referring to things like taking a bubble bath or going to get a mani and pedi.
Don’t get me wrong, those are great and they give us a chance to do something nice for ourselves. But let’s be real, getting a manicure doesn’t really show true self-care, does it? I consider that more maintenance or pampering.
Self-care, in the truest sense of the word, means showing yourself an act of kindness that goes beyond anything aesthetic or superficial. True self-care is really health management.
I know that’s not a very sexy way to view self-care, but just hear me out.
Your health encompases everything from your physical state to your emotional and mental states as well. So, if we take that into consideration, does a bubble bath really count as true self care? Not in my book.
To me, a self-care practice is holistic. It’s about caring for yourself in mind, body and spirit.
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The Benefits of Self-Care
A regular self-care practice, that includes many of the examples that we’ll get to in a minute, can benefit your life in so many ways.
A self-care practice can:
Increase confidence & self esteem, overall happiness, energy, mental clarity & cognitive function
Strengthen relationships with yourself and others
Decrease stress, anxiety and depression
So, now that we’ve covered what self-care really means and some of the amazing benefits you can get from implementing a regular self-care routine, let’s get into some ways that you can practice self-care in a genuinely holistic way.
20 Ways to Practice Self-Care
Self-Care Tip #1: Movement
Movement can be anything from taking a walk to training for a marathon. It really doesn’t matter as long as your body is moving. This is a great way to get more energy because movement creates energy (it’s scientifically proven, by the way).
Too tired to workout? Start moving. I know that sounds crazy, but trust me, you’ll feel better once you get going.
In addition to weight loss, weight management, increased focus, and increased feel-good hormones, one of the best benefits of exercise is that it improves insulin sensitivity. This means less belly fat and better digestion.
People who say they hate working out just haven’t found something they like doing. That’s my take on it anyway.
Bottom line is that it doesn’t matter what you do. Just get up and get moving.
Self-Care Tip #2: Connect with Nature
It’s been proven that getting outside and connecting with nature has been shown to increase mood and creativity, while decreasing insulin resistance, stress, anxiety and depression.
When I spend time outdoors, I like to use it as a time to connect with myself as well. I used to listen to music or a podcast, but now I rarely even take my phone with me. I truly enjoy the peace that being outside brings me, and I use that time as a chance to reset and recenter.
And if you’re outside, connecting with nature, you’re probably less likely to spend your time indoors, bingeing on Netflix and ice cream. Just saying.
Self-Care Tip #3: Meditation & Mindfulness
The research that supports establishing a daily meditation practice is irrefutable. Meditation can quite literally change your brain’s chemistry. In a good way.
Since I have been meditating on a daily basis, I have noticed better sleep, less anxiety, more focus throughout the day, less reactivity, and an overall feeling of calmness. I am able to handle daily stressors much more effectively, and I don’t get worked up over small stuff.
A lot of people I talk to are interested in meditating, but they just don’t know where to start. It’s like anything else. Just start. YouTube is a great resource for just about anything, and there are so many guided meditations on there that you’ll be able to find something that resonates with you.
And you don’t have to meditate for hours to get some great benefits. Start with just 5 minutes and work your way up. Some days I’m able to meditate for 30 minutes, other days I’m lucky if I get in 5. But no matter how long I’m able to sit, I always feel better after I’ve done it. Always.
Self-Care Tip #4: Conscious Breathing
People are surprised when they learn that I am a naturally anxious person. It’s not to the point where I need medication and it doesn’t interfere with my daily life, but I carry a good bit of anxiety.
The most beneficial way I have found to regulate my anxiety, in addition to meditation, is breathwork. I absolutely love breathwork.
It’s the one thing that can calm and center me when I’m feeling anxious or stressed.
Breathwork doesn’t have to be complicated. Although there are breathwork practices that can last hours, I’m not necessarily talking about that. I’m talking more about conscious breathing, taking a few minutes to stop what you’re doing to focus on your breath.
One of my favorites is called box breathing. Picture drawing a box in the air slowly with your finger. Each side is a 4 count breath. So, as you draw the first side you inhale for a count of 4. Then as you draw the second side you hold for a count of 4. As you draw the third side, you exhale for a count of 4. Then as you draw the last side, you hold for a count of 4. Repeat as many times as needed.
Self-Care Tip #5: Outsourcing Tasks
It does not make you a super woman or a super mom or a super wife because you do it all.
I find that a lot of women feel like they have to do it all themselves to justify being the badass they already are.
When you are doing it all, you are most likely half-assing it all. I know that sounds harsh, but it’s true.
And when you are doing it all, you are most likely exhausted, stressed, and resentful…and that makes for a cranky you-know-what.
There is at least one thing that you do on the regular that you absolutely detest doing that you could easily outsource.
For example, you may hate grocery shopping. I get it. It’s not my favorite either. But grocery shopping is something that has to be done. You and your family have to eat.
However, if the grocery store is your version of hell on earth, outsource that baby.
You can have your groceries delivered…which is a magical service that should have been invented ages ago. Or at the very least, you can shop online and do curbside pickup. Either way, you aren’t in the grocery store and your sanity has been saved.
Think about something you hate doing, something that absolutely sucks your soul from your body, and outsource it. This week.
This, in my opinion, is one of the best ways to practice self-care.
Self-Care Tip #6: Setting Healthy Boundaries
I’ve been learning all about boundaries lately. And in doing so, my whole world has opened up.
I always thought I was great at setting boundaries.
Well, that couldn’t be farther from the truth.
Thanks to the book, “Set Boundaries, Find Peace: A Guide to Reclaiming Yourself” by Nedra Glover Tawwab, I have learned so much juicy wisdom when it comes to boundary-setting.
It’s definitely not an easy thing to do, especially when you and those around you are used to you having not-so-healthy (or not-so-there) boundaries.
But the things that I have learned about myself and the way I navigate relationships has been invaluable. I have put things into practice that have honestly created a deeper relationship with myself and a stronger relationship with my loved ones.
Although this might be one of the hardest things to do on this list, it’s probably one of the most important.
Self-Care Tip #7: Social Media Edit
I do this about twice a year and I always feel amazing afterwards. If you’ve noticed that you tend to get sucked into social media and it leaves you feeling less than inspired, then it’s probably time you did a little social media edit of your own.
Remember, you are in complete control over what you see in your feed.
If you are friends with or follow someone who regularly posts negative content, you have the choice to unfriend, hide or unfollow them. Period.
Refer to self-care tip #6 if this is something you struggle with.
Self-Care Tip #8: Email Clean Up
Do you have about a thousand or so unopened emails sitting in your inbox? If so, I highly recommend spending about 30 minutes or so deleting and unsubscribing.
I cannot tell you how much better I feel after having done this. I honestly didn’t realize how bothered I was by seeing that ridiculously high number of unopened emails until I did a major email cleanup.
If you have thousands of emails, I would recommend setting a timer for about 10 minutes at a time and unsubscribe and delete as many emails as you can. This may take you several days, but it will be worth it.
There are so many small things in our lives that add up to large amounts of stress. We already have enough legitimate stuff to worry about without letting our out-of-control inbox add to our already full lives.
So do yourself a favor and cleanup your email.
Self-Care Tip #9: Clean Your House & Clear the Clutter
You may be wondering why I would consider cleaning your house as a self-care practice.
When your environment is clean and organized, your mind responds the same way.
It has been shown that the physical act of cleaning, in addition to the results you get from cleaning, are linked to a decrease in stress, anxiety and depression.
And believe it or not, the physical act of cleaning actually releases endorphins (endorphins make you feel good).
Self-Care Tip #10: Stop Complaining & “Venting”
If I had a dollar for every time I’ve called a friend just to “vent” about something, I’d be a millionaire.
We think venting is helping and that it’s harmless. We’re just getting something off our chest, right?
Yeah, venting and complaining are basically the same thing. Either way, you aren’t solving your problem. You aren’t actually doing anything about it.
Venting and complaining are just ways to avoid facing your problems. You’re just keeping yourself stuck in a whole bunch of drama.
And I’d be willing to bet, because I have been guilty of this myself, that by venting to a friend you’re actually looking for validation that your stance on the issue is the right stance.
The other party involved is wrong and you are right. We love approval, don’t we?
If you really want to solve your problems, approach them in a constructive way, face them head on. Talking through this with a friend is often helpful. But just remember, there’s a difference between venting/complaining and talking through an issue in a constructive way in order to formulate a plan of action.
Self-Care Tip #11: Journal
I’m a huge fan of journaling. I know that a lot of people are turned off by the idea of writing down all of their feelings and they think it’s a little woo-woo. And maybe it is.
But journaling is a great way to process feelings and emotions. It’s a safe, private way to work through any unresolved situations you may be experiencing. Journaling is also a really effective practice to use when you are experiencing periods of self doubt or confusion.
There are different ways to take advantage of journaling.
Free writing is where you just write down whatever comes to mind. Sometimes, I will set a timer and just write until the timer goes off. I don’t stop and I don’t question what comes up for me. I just write. Free writing has allowed me to see some patterns that have played out in my life that I was completely unaware of.
You can also use journal prompts. These are especially useful for when you’re going through tough situations. Often times, we have resistance to certain feelings or emotions when we’re working through hard stuff. Journaling with a prompt can help you process these “trapped” emotions. Again, just write without questioning what comes up. You may be surprised by what you write.
I use journaling a part of my morning routine, and I find that I look forward to it. I love starting my day with a clear mind.
Self-Care Tip #12: Eat Nutritious Food
As a Health Coach, I cannot stress enough the importance of eating clean, nutritious food.
This is, in my opinion, one of the most important self-care practices.
When you eat nutritious foods, you’re giving your body the vitamins and minerals it needs to functional at its best. And when your body is functioning in an optimal way, every aspect of your life is positively affected.
On the flipside, when you eat food that is highly processed and full of sugar and refined grains, it literally changes your brain (not in a good way). When you eat garbage, you feel like garbage.
A few recommendations:
Let 75% of your plate be taken up by plants
Meat should be of the best quality you can find (organic, grass fed, pasture raised)
Drink more water (about half your body weight in ounces)
Limit refined sugar and grains
I am all about treating yourself. Just remember, treats are treats. That means that you enjoy them once in a while. My advice to you is to keep the treats out of the house. Let’s face it, if something “treat worthy” is in the house, you are most likely going to eat it. So, do yourself a favor and keep the food in your house as nutritious as possible.
Self-Care Tip #13: Remove or Limit Alcohol
I’ll be the first to admit that alcohol is fun and tasty.
Alcohol is also a depressant and leads to poor decision making. And when it’s used as an emotional crutch, as it so often is, it can contribute to weight gain, brain fog, lack of motivation and a whole host of other not-so-great things.
I’m a big fan of red wine. Huge fan, actually. In the past, I have depended on wine when I’ve been really stressed out. Guess what? Drinking a crap ton of wine didn’t help the stress. It didn’t help me cope with my problems. It only allowed me to avoid taking action and working through stressful times in a healthy and effective way.
I am all about the ocaissional adult beverage, but only if it’s for pure enjoyment and not for dealing with stress. If you are dependent on alcohol to get through the day or to deal with stressful situations, it’s time to reevaluate your relationship with it.
Self-Care Tip #14: Say “No”
Do you find that you overcommit or that you just can’t say no?
This leads to overwhelm and eventually resentment. And if you’re busy taking care of everyone else and showing up for all the things, you’re most likely putting your needs on the backburner.
I’m not saying that you should say no all the time. But I’ve learned that if it isn’t a “hell yes” for me then it’s a no.
And I know that there are just some things that we’re obligated to do, especially when it comes to work or children. But if you find that you just don’t have enough hours in the day, there are most likely some things that you can politely decline.
You know the saying, “You can’t pour from an empty cup.” In order to show up in the best way possible for everyone in your life, your needs must come first.
Self-Care Tip #15: Try Something New
How many times have you thought about trying something new and then said to yourself, “One day I’ll do it”?
I’ve done this pretty much my whole life. I’ve always had a list of things I want to accomplish or places I want to travel to…one day.
It’s only been recently that I’ve seen today as one day. I have tried so many new things lately.
And you know what? I’ve discovered parts of myself that I didn’t know existed. I’ve become more confident, I’ve made some new friends and life is just way more fun when you’re open to new experiences.
Allowing myself to suck at new things or even realize that I’m good at things I didn’t expect to be good at has been huge for me.
Instead of pushing aside my wants and desires because it seems a little scary, I have started to honor myself in the most amazing way by not taking myself, or life, too seriously.
Self-Care Tip #16: Take a Nap
Naps are so underrated. I used to feel guilty for taking a little snooze during the day.
But my goodness, sometimes you just need to take a little siesta to recharge and relax.
Taking a nap also taps into my inner rebel. I feel like I’m really indulging when I “treat myself” to a nap.
Not only does it feel like an indulgence, but there are actually benefits to taking an afternoon nap. Napping has been shown to increase memory and focus, improve work performance, and boost your mood.
But try to keep your naps between 10 and 30 minutes, otherwise you’ll wake up with that groggy feeling that completely defeats the purpose of taking the nap in the first place.
Self-Care #17: Self Pleasure
This happens to be one of the most fun tips I’m recommending that you add to your self-care practice.
When it comes to women and self pleasure, this just isn’t talked about enough. It’s still a taboo topic. And I can’t for the life of me figure out why.
What a gift it is to be able to connect with your body on such an intimate level.
Self pleasure has so many incredible benefits. It can increase your confidence, lower stress, help you sleep better, and increase intimacy with your partner.
For more reading on the benefits of self pleasure, check out this article published by Forbes.
And if you don’t have a partner, self pleasure is a must in my opinion. There’s something to be said for knowing how to give yourself an orgasm.
Outsourcing your pleasure when you’re single can lead to impulsive decision making. You are more likely to choose someone out of a sense of desperation for intimacy instead of someone based on a genuine connection.
Remember, you don’t need anyone to give you intimate pleasure. And if you feel weird or strange touching yourself, it’s time to get comfortable with it. It’s your body and it’s beautiful.
There is absolutely nothing to be embarrassed about or ashamed of when it comes to exploring your body.
Self-Care Tip #18: Gratitude Practice
There are only positives when it comes to establishing a gratitude practice. I actually wrote an entire blog post on this topic because I feel so strongly towards it. You can read that post here.
If you only implement a few of my recommendations to your self-care practice, let this be one of them.
Having a grateful attitude, and adopting a gratitude practice, can change your life in so many beautiful ways.
It’s been shown to lower stress, anxiety and depression. People also report having more happiness and joy when they express their gratitude.
When you’re in a state of gratitude, it’s actually impossible to be judgemental, stressed, unhappy, anxious, or jealous at the same time.
Oftentimes, we get so consumed with what’s going wrong in our lives or so focused on what we don’t have that we completely ignore the fact that we are absolutely surrounded by abundance.
If you find yourself feeling like you don’t have enough or that you aren’t enough, ask yourself this question: What if I woke up tomorrow with only the things I was grateful for today.
Would that change your perspective on the abundance that’s already in your life?
Self-Care Tip #19: Celebrate Small Wins
Have you ever set a goal for yourself and it quickly becomes all you ever think about?
Have you ever set a goal only to start focusing on the next goal before you’ve even accomplished the initial goal?
I’m guilty of doing both. I have been so results-focused that I end up completely ignoring my progress along the way.
The progress, or the journey to get to the destination, is actually more important than the goal itself…at least in my very humble opinion.
It’s in the journey that a bunch of small victories happen. All of those small victories are what actually adds up to the big win, the end result.
If you take the time to celebrate those small victories, not only are you more likely to hit your goal, but you’re also more likely to do it quicker. This makes for a much sweeter victory.
Plus, when you celebrate your wins along the way, you’ll be more likely to keep going when things get hard.
Self-Care Tip #20: Forgive Yourself & Others
Forgiveness is so much easier said than done.
We often think that by forgiving people their transgressions against us, that we’re saying that what they did is ok.
That couldn’t be farther from the truth.
Forgiveness is for you and you alone.
As Oprah so wisely puts it, “Forgiveness is giving up the hope that the past could have been any different. It’s accepting the past for what it was and using this moment and this time to help yourself move forward.”
True healing involves forgiveness. You can’t truly move on from the past until you learn to forgive, both yourself and others. And what doesn’t get healed stays with us.
Forgiveness equals freedom.
I’ve just given you 20 awesome tips to either create or add to your self-care practice that don’t have anything to do with taking a bath or painting your nails. While this isn’t an exhaustive list, it is definitely enough to get you started.
And while I don’t expect anyone to do all of these on any given day, there are definitely a few that you could add to your regular self-care practice.
True self-care can be life changing. Taking care of yourself shouldn’t be seen as a luxury or something to be done when you have a few spare minutes.
True self-care is non negotiable if you want to live a happier, healthier life.
And while some of these tips are hard to implement, those are probably the ones that need the most attention. The ones that will help you get that life you desire.
I’d love to know your thoughts on this list. Are there any you’re excited to try out for yourself?
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