Self-care to me means that you take care of yourself in the way that you would take care of the person you love the most, whether that’s your child, significant other, parent, or friend. We should love and take care of ourselves. Self-care MAY mean doing something nice for yourself every day or every week, and it could also mean making sure to maintain a self-care routine, or things that you do on a consistent basis that are important for your overall well-being. Just like anyone else, I strive to take care of myself through using self-care practices, but I don’t by any means do it consistently. I read a very interesting blog post about setting self-care goals for yourself and making sure to check back in on them. Everyone’s self-care needs could be vastly different, so it’s important firstly to personalize your self-care routine to what you think you would need. You may want your routine to be in the morning, in the evening, or perhaps you want to set consistent weekly self-care goals for yourself. Whatever you want to do, I’m hoping that the following ideas will help you to create what will help you to take care of the most important person in your life: YOU!
This sounds kind of terrible, but if you’re not important to you, how can you be important to anyone else? It’s like the saying: “You can’t pour from an empty cup.” We become so used to giving to others, that eventually we begin to feel depleted. Self-care helps to fill that cup back up again! By building a self-care routine, you can become more consistent with taking care of yourself. Let’s start by discussing a morning self-care routine.
Morning Self-Care Routine
Your mornings have the power to influence the rest of your day, for better or for worse. I’m sure this comes as no secret to you. When you feel rushed and anxious during your morning, this feeling may carry over into your day. I know that the mornings when I can sit and savor my breakfast and coffee help me to get off to a good start. If I give myself enough time in the morning to settle in before my students come, this also helps to create a sense of calm and order. Here are some things that you can add to your morning routine to make the start of your day as successful as possible.
- Reading- It doesn’t necessarily matter what you read, if it’s a book that you enjoy. I lean more towards inspirational reading and fantasy/science fiction genres, but I’ve been reading so many memoirs and historical fiction books lately as well. If you’re reading a book that you’re into, you can enter a state of flow quite easily.
- Set Daily Intentions- Journaling in the morning, for me, is about setting intentions for the day. You could write 1-3 positive affirmations in your journal every morning. One other way to set intentions for your day is to write down one word, such as peaceful, kind, or positive. Throughout the day, keep this word in the forefront of your mind. Are you choosing actions that are kind?
- Set Daily Goals- If you are big on planning like me, you may like to create a daily to-do list. I have a running to-do list so that I don’t forget certain tasks or put them on the back burner. From there, I usually write down 10 different things that I wish to accomplish each day. Keeping my list to 3-5 tasks would be more realistic and less stressful.
- Move Your Body- To be honest, I do not have time in the morning to do a full workout. My goal for myself is to wake up early enough that I can simply take my dog on a 5-10-minute walk in the mornings. You have to choose something feasible, whether that’s a walk, a workout class, jog around the block, stretching, or yoga.
- Savoring Your Coffee and/or Breakfast- I know that not everybody is a coffee lover like me. It is peaceful to be able to savor your morning drink or meal (and you can even read while you do so). I take my coffee to go, but I have time to relax on my commute to work because I take the train.
Nighttime Self-Care Routine
Just like having a morning self-care routine starts off your day the right way, a night self-care routine helps gets your brain and body relaxed and calm so that you can get quality sleep. If you think going to bed early is the only way to help yourself get better quality sleep, then you are wrong! How you treat your body before bedtime will have a direct impact on how easily you will fall asleep, stay asleep, and on the amount of REM sleep that your body gets. REM sleep is the part of the sleep cycle that increases your brain activity and promotes learning. If you don’t get enough of it, you will wake up feeling groggy.
- Journaling- Journaling could be doing a 1-5-minute quick write about your thoughts (this is often called a “brain dump.”). There are also some journal prompts available on Pinterest, if this interests you. I usually write 5 things that I’m grateful for in my “The Happiness Project: One-Sentence Journal” by Gretchen Rubin. (To learn more about this journal, see my previous blog post: Finding Silver Linings.)
- Take a Shower or Bath- I have found that taking my showers at nighttime help me to relax and calm down after a long day. I also have realized that the entire shower process is a way for you to move mindfully and rid yourself of distractions from anyone or anything. Baths can be even more enjoyable (if you have the time). I love bringing a book and bath bombs with me to the tub!
- Turn Off Your Phone- Using electronics before bed causes your brain to become more alert, making it harder to fall and stay asleep. This is mostly due to the blue light emitted by phones but scrolling social media can also increase your anxiety before bedtime. Overall, using your phone delays your sleep cycle and decreases the amount of REM sleep that you get.
- Stretching- Stretching can help to relax your muscles and get you ready for bed. For many stretches, you don’t have to break out your yoga mat! Some stretches are perfect for the shower, while others you could do while you are laying in bed. Stretching is another activity that helps you to focus on the present moment and on your breathing…so calming and peaceful!
- Pamper Yourself- It’s important to take care of your skin anyway, but I find many of these activities to be soothing yet exciting. I love a good face mask or nose strips. I get sick satisfaction of peeling them off and seeing all the grunge that is no longer on my face. Having smooth and exfoliated skin afterward isn’t too bad either!
Weekly Self-Care Routine
Routines are the best way to build new habits. If you are consistent with these morning and nighttime routines, they will eventually become second nature. There are a broader range of things that you can do throughout the week or on the weekend that can be part of a weekly self-care routine. Maybe you will choose to do certain tasks on specific days, or maybe you can be a little more flexible with it. The definition of routine as an adjective is “performed as part of a regular procedure rather than for a special reason.” Basically, you are creating an established way of doing things.
- Exercise- We all can get into a fitness rut every now and again. You only have one body, so you should make it a priority to take care of it. Remember that weight is not the only determinant of whether you are healthy or not (I wrote a previous post called “Ditching the Scale” here). Make it a goal for yourself to find a fitness that you love (previous post). The recommended exercise for adults, according to the CDC, is between 150 to 300 minutes a week of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise or 75 to 150 minutes a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise. Adults should also do muscle-strengthening activities of moderate or greater intensity on 2 or more days a week (Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd edition, 2018).
- Goals Check-In- At least once a week, you should check in on goals that you set for yourself. If you are not making progress, ask yourself if your goal is SMART. This mneumonic device comes from a paper by George T. Doran in the November 1981 issue of Management Review. SMART goals are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.
- Connect with Friends or Family- Talk to your VIPs in person, over the phone, via text message, or whichever way helps you to keep in touch. As an introvert, I know that I need a balance between social and solitary time, and that’s okay. However, it doesn’t take much of your time to reach out and let people know that you are thinking about them.
- Eat Healthily and Drink Enough Water- Your body is like a machine. If you don’t put the right things into it, it’s not going to run properly. This means mentally and emotionally as well as physically. I know in my heart that my body can’t run on coffee and wine! 😊 Haha… Good nutrition is mostly common sense, but if you don’t know where to start, Google will be your best friend.
- Find Time for You- This is where your weekly self-care routine gets tailored to your specific interests and needs. Maybe you like to watch your favorite TV show or a movie. Some people love to be out in nature and hike. Our jobs hardly ever fulfill ALL of our interests or passions, and so we have to make time for these during our down time.
I hope that this blog post has given you some new ideas of how to create a self-care routine. More importantly, I hope that you take away the importance of routines in order to create life-long habits. Starting your day and ending your day mindfully and peacefully is important for your overall mental and emotional health. I’m really trying to take my own advice with my self-help blog posts, so I will check in and let you know how I’m progressing with my own self-care routines.