I think most of us can say that self care is really important and it’s certainly something that’s discussed more than it ever was in the past.
But, like many people, you probably don’t always focus enough on your own self care. What with things like work and family and activities, and all the other things that we need to do in our lives, never mind working from home as a coach or consultant, sometimes it’s just really hard to think about carving out some time for that self care.
Sometimes we can feel guilty about taking that time for ourselves when actually, it’s one of the most important things that we can do.
It’s so important to our overall health, mental and physical, and it’s important that we prioritise it.
There are lots of ways that you can adapt adopt healthier habits, and put yourself first. And you can do that in little packets of time.
I think one of the issues with thinking about self care is that we think we have to carve out a big portion of time and that we just feel like we haven’t got enough time to do that. But, actually, the first step is understanding the sorts of things that you can do to take some time for self care, and then just build them in to your life gradually.
And, as ever, as I often say, taking small daily actions can have such a massive impact on your future as the accumulated benefit of all of that compounded activity comes to fruition.
So in this article I’m going to talk about 24 simple ways that you can use to make sure that self care is a priority for you.
1. Practise Self Reflection
One of the keys to be able to find time and prioritise self care is to get really clear about what it is that you enjoy doing, reflecting on how you feel, what your life is like, what stressers you have, and what you need to do in order to look after yourself.
Your thinking is so important. You could start by asking questions like:
- what’s the one choice I can make this week, based on looking after myself, or
- today, what can I do differently to spend a small amount of time focusing on my self care.
As I said at the beginning, it doesn’t have to be lots of time you can just take 5, 10 or 15 minutes a day and just get started doing just one small thing.
Once you work out what’s really important to you and what makes you feel better about yourself and your life, then you can really start to focus on taking at least one of those actions every day.
2. Say No for Self Care
As I’ve already said, we often think that we don’t have time for self care. More often than not, that’s because we’re prioritising everybody else’s care above our own, whether that’s family, partner, pets, colleagues, customers, friends, the list goes on.
So a key part of being able to spend a little bit of time on yourself is to learn to say no on occasions to everyone else’s demands.
And one way to do that is to start by filling your diary with things that you need to happen before you start accepting other people’s requests. So if you do want to do something like read a little bit every day, or have a bath or go for a walk or whatever, you can put that into your diary in the first place. And then, when other people ask for things from you, you can build that around what you’ve already planned.
One of the things I do in my calendar is colour code my activity each week. My different clients have different colours, and my ‘fun things to do’ and ‘my self care stuff’ is coloured yellow, and I like to be able to just glance at the calendar each week, and make sure that there are plenty of bits of yellow on there.
I don’t put everything on there. It’s mainly the big things like activities with the family or watching a film or doing something fun like that, but you could even go down to the nth degree of 15 minutes to read a book or whatever. You could put that in your diary and colour code it so that you know that you’ve planned those things in.
3. Put Yourself in Timeout
I ask my podcast guests what they do when they’ve had a bad day, when it’s all gone horribly wrong, and many of them talk about walking away.
Others talk about doing something different for a short period of time before going back to try and sort out whatever the issue was…and you can do that too.
If you’re finding things difficult, if you’re feeling overwhelmed, you can simply take five minutes to walk away and do something different.
Go outside go for a walk, listen to some music, sit in silence, do a bit of meditation. There are lots of things that you can do in that ‘timeout session’, though you maybe don’t need to sit on that ‘naughty step’!
Take time out to go and do something that you really want to do.
4. Artist Dates
When we’re young, we tend to do quite a lot of activity that involves the arts in some way, whether that be writing, painting, singing, dancing, or whatever.
And as we get older, many of us drop those sorts of activities. When we’re working too hard and working too much, those things definitely go out of the window (unless they form part of our chosen career).
So how can you build more of those things into your life?
One of the things that I do when I’m feeling fed up or things aren’t going well is to sing, or I might pick up a book and read. Some people exercise, some people go out into the woods and do a bit of ‘forest bathing‘.
Some people write and some people draw. A friend of mine has recently taken up watercolour painting. She’s really enjoying it and it’s really helping her to spend that time doing a bit of self care.
So, what art activity can you pick up?
5. Take a 15 Minute Walk
I’ve mentioned walking already and it’s certainly something that many of my podcast guests rely on when they have an issue or when they want to take some time for themselves.
It really helps to reduce stress and it can lighten your mood and can make you feel much better and help to improve your energy levels.
Work out what works best for you – you might choose to walk without your phone, taking a ‘digital timeout’ at the same time.
You might, instead, choose to do something like take photos on your walks or you might listen to podcasts, which is something that I do on a regular basis, albeit I sometimes find I have so many ideas at the end of those walks that I’m creating more more work for myself as a result, adding stuff to my todo list, rather than feeling less stressed!
6. Spoil Yourself
We’ve already said that many of us say yes to everybody else and that we’re not very good at saying no.
The other thing is we often treat other people to presents and activities, like meals and so on and we don’t always take the time to treat ourselves.
So think about what you see as a treat?
Is it reading a book, is it having a massage, or is it going for a swim? Is it eating something that you really love? Is it having a drink of wine? Is it putting on new lipstick?
Whatever it is, think about how to spoil yourself, how to do something that will make you feel spoilt. And then plan that in, regularly.
7. Learn Something New
You may have heard the concept of a growth mindset rather than a fixed mindset and one of the main elements of that is understanding that we’re always learning.
And there are so many resources available nowadays to be able to learn. It used to often involve a trip to the library to get that book, or perhaps sign up to that evening class, whereas now you can just go onto the internet and find a whole host of information to help you to learn – eg Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) with the universities, more specific courses on platforms like Coursera or Udemy. You can read books, you can watch videos, you can go onto YouTube, you can watch TED Talks.
Anything you want to learn now you can find very easily. So find something, and get learning!
8. Social Media Detox
We use technology to keep connected with the world, with our friends with our family, with our work and so on (especially in this current climate).
We rarely spend time without a phone in our hands and we quite often can find ourselves down rabbit holes looking at social media, reading information, watching videos and basically doing lots of things other than the practical tasks that we plan to do or taking the time to do a bit of self care.
Sometimes, using social media can be part of self care, it can be a part of connecting with people, and maybe finding out what our friends are up to and that sort of thing.
But, if you think about how much time you spend on social media every day and work to reduce that, many people say it really has a big impact on their mental resilience their mental health and their energy levels.
And let’s not forget the social media platforms are designed to keep us addicted to them. If you haven’t already watched the docudrama film, The Social Dilemma, then I recommend it.
9. Make Time for Connection
Whether you’re introvert or extrovert, connection is still key.
Extroverts want to get out there and get their energy from being around lots of people, which in the current pandemic is hard without using technology.
Introverts are popularly known as being shy people who don’t want to spend time with other people, that’s not actually true. I’m an introvert who is also very chatty when I’m with people and I prefer one to one situations.
But I get my energy from being on my own. So whilst I’m with people, I’m very chatty and connected to them, but when I’m not with them I like to spend time on my own recouping my energy.
So work out how you want to connect with people. Is it one to one. Is it one to many. Is it with particular people on a more regular basis.
Whichever way it is, work out what works best for you and make sure you do more of that.
10. Spend Time Alone
This is particularly important for the aforementioned introverts, but we all need it. Our lives are hectic and we rarely stop and think and be quiet, particularly in the times of lockdown where we’ve got everyone in the house with us.
If you don’t live alone it can be really difficult to spend time on your own.
So, how can you make that happen. Can you have a bath? Can you go to the bedroom? Can you go for a walk? How can you be present with yourself and not on display to everyone else all the time.
11. Journal Your Thoughts
Journalling can be a way to help you to really clear your mind and cut through all the chaos of normal life and work out what you want to do, who you are and what your thoughts are about what’s happening in your life.
Some people write pages in their journal every day to help them to get their worries and their thoughts out of their head and give them that clear start that they need.
If you’re not a pen and paper person, then there are lots of apps and online opportunities to journal. If you’re interested in finding out more about this and giving it a go, I have a 30 Days of Inspiration all about journalling.
12. Plan your Meals
There are so many reasons why meal planning can be really helpful if you’re the person who’s responsible for getting the menu sorted and food on the table. Each week in your house, it can be really stressful – getting variety and cooking healthy food and keeping the grocery costs down.
I know for myself, when I do plan a whole week of menus in one go and I make a list and shop accordingly. It can be so much easier and less stressful.
You know what you’re cooking every day. You have that variety, you don’t buy things that you’re not going to eat, you don’t end up throwing food away, and it just makes for a much more relaxed way of eating and cooking for the family. And also helps you to eat more healthily, I think.
13. Get Organised
For me, part of self care and being organised is about decluttering.
I don’t like to have a lot of mess around and I think it can really contribute to feeling overwhelmed and out of control if you’ve got a lot of stuff around you, whether that be in your house or on your desk, on your computer, or in your head.
So, getting organised, cleaning cupboards out, and throwing away things or donating things that you don’t need any more, unsubscribing from email lists, sorting out your clothes so you can find them more easily and so on, can really contribute towards your peace of mind and feeling more relaxed in your environment.
14. Create a Playlist
Actually, create a number of playlists.
Create playlists to help you to feel more relaxed, to calm you down, to work to, to energetically dance around to, maybe just sing to – music can have such an impact on our wellbeing.
And the more organised you can get in creating these playlists so that you have the music at your fingertips, the more useful and likely you are to use the music to help you through certain situations.
And if you aren’t able to make your own playlist then go on to places like Amazon Music or Spotify and choose other people’s playlists and just revel in the music that you find there.
15. Create a Vision Board
This is about planning for the future, thinking about how you see things in your life in the future, and bringing those plans to life by way of a vision board.
And that may be a physical board that you stick on your wall or it might be a piece of paper that you have in a file that you can refer to and look at. Or it might even be an online version that you can use as the screensaver on your computer.
It can help you to get going, moving toward what you want your life to be like in the future and it can really help you to surface those things that you want in your dreams to enable you to really focus on taking the action needed to get there.
If this sounds interesting, check out this course ‘Having Fun with Vision Boards’
16. Let Go Of Perfection
We’re surrounded by perfection in these days of social media, image touch ups and apps that enable us to create things that weren’t quite the reality when we took that photo.
We are surrounded by fake perfection. It does no one any good. It doesn’t make people feel good; it makes people feel like they’re not good enough. Don’t get caught up in that and let go of the idea of being perfect.
Sometimes perfection can keep us procrastinating. I love the phrase ‘done is better than perfect’.
Perfection gets in the way so often. It stops us producing content and programmes and selling our services to people because we think we’ve got to be perfect before we do it.
And actually, if we want that to be the case, we’re never going to do anything because we can’t reach perfection. We have to go with the best we can, in the circumstances.
17. Have a ‘Get Stuff Done’ Day
That simply means, choose a day and get your stuff together and done.
How often do we end up with lots of things on our to do list that never really get done, particularly in these days of digital to do lists where we can just easily postpone them until tomorrow.
Every so often have a ‘get stuff done’ day, and actually get done all those things that you’ve been putting off for ages. And that might involve self care too.
It might be that you need to have a ‘look after yourself morning’ and have a bath or it might be that you need to organise your office or your house and do some decluttering. Carve out that time to enable you to focus on whatever those things are.
Within my CALM membership we have ‘Get It Done’ sessions on a regular basis, which allows people to really power through that list of tasks that just never get done otherwise.
People have done things like cleared all their filing, or put together the outline for a new programme, or whatever the thing was that was too big to get started on but once it was given time, they just got on and did it.
18. Get Enough Sleep
Sleep is so important to our health and wellbeing. There are so many reports now that talk about how important sleep is and how much it impacts things like your physical and mental wellbeing and resilience, your weight and your energy levels.
It’s so much harder to cope with the stress of life and business and so on if you’re not well rested.
Maybe look at creating a bedtime routine. Make an effort to get enough sleep every night by turning off all your devices well before it’s time to go to bed, perhaps taking some supplements, by making sure your room is really dark.
By working out what works best for you and building a routine around that. For example, I’m a ‘night owl’ and so I don’t worry about going to bed early. I just make sure that I don’t plan anything in the morning until 11 o’clock, which gives me plenty of time to go to bed late, wake up late and still have a normal day working and doing things that I need to do.
19. Ask for Help
So often we try and do everything ourselves. We worry and we get overwhelmed and we think that other people won’t be able to help us. Or that they’ll think that we’re a failure because of the fact that we can’t do whatever it is that we’re getting stuck with.
More often than not, people are absolutely willing to help, all it needs is for us to actually ask for that help, and we’re so reluctant to do that.
So try and think about asking for help, particularly when you’re getting overwhelmed and you can’t see a way through something yourself, and especially when there’s people around you who are able to do the thing that you need done better than you.
20. Eliminate Toxic People
I’m sure you’ve heard that we’re the sun of the people we spend the most time with. Unfortunately that works negatively as well as the other way round!
You know, if you’ve got toxic friends and family or work colleagues, how hard it is to do a good job and feel positive and enjoy your life, full of energy, when that person is dragging you down.
So if there are people in your vicinity who are toxic and who aren’t helping you. Work out how you can either cut them out of your life or, if that’s not possible, at least reduce the amount of time that you spend with them.
And certainly focus on creating a way of not absorbing the energy that they’re pushing towards you.
21. Watch your Words
Do you speak to yourself? Can you hear a voice in your head? What does that voice say to you? More often than not, we have voices in our head that say worse things to us than anyone else ever says in real life, and worse stuff than we would ever say to anybody else.
So, be aware of what’s going on inside your head; be aware of what you’re telling yourself and where it is negative.
Think about how you can turn it into either being positive or not being said at all. The more you become aware of the things that you say to yourself, and start to think about changing them, the better for your mental health and resilience.
22. Feed Your Mind
I’ve already talked about how much there is available now to help you to learn and develop and keep that growth mindset. There’s also so much out there to help you to feel positive and motivated and uplifted.
Work out what works for you, and choose something every day to help you to keep that motivation going. For example, I don’t like watching videos so I don’t watch videos, but I do listen to podcasts. I read articles because I love reading, so I pick out positive articles and make sure that I read those on a regular basis.
And again, I’ve already talked about listening to music. Music might be the thing that you need to help you to stay positive and keep you uplifted during the day.
23. Practise Gratitude
Gratitude is one of the basic forms of self care. And it’s such an important thing to introduce into your routine.
It doesn’t cost anything. You can easily get started with just feeling grateful and peferably writing down – in a book or you can get apps on your phone – the Five Minute Journal is one that I recommend.
You can just take a few minutes every day to write down a few things that you’re thankful for – in the morning or the evening, or both. And the more you do it, the more it becomes second nature. And the more that that happens, the more that you do it, the more it becomes a habit and the more you’ll start to notice all the great things around you.
It really can help to lift your mood and make you feel positive, even under duress.
24. Let Go of Guilt
As Paula Gardner here, self care and guilt seem to go so well together.
Puttng yourself first and thinking about your own self care doesn’t mean that you should disregard everyone else and not care about them, but it’s really hard to help other people if you’re struggling and if you’re feeling overwhelmed.
We’ve heard the now cliché about being in a plane and putting on your own oxygen mask before you help anyone else – and that includes your children. The point being that if you have died because you’ve run out of oxygen, you’re not going to be in a position to help anyone else, are you?!
So, think about how you can look after yourself as a way of creating a basis for helping other people. You’ve got to look after yourself first to enable you to have the energy and availability to help other, and so doing that shouldn’t make you feel guilty.
So my theme for January has been the first of my Five Fundamentals, which is Self Care. I’d really encourage you to think about how you can build more self care into your life, to really help with your overall overall health and happiness and, to that last point, that of the people around you.
As I said right at the beginning, it doesn’t take lots of time, you can take very small daily actions relating to yourself care and really help to make yourself feel well and much more resilient to the world around you.