The definition of self-care is a bit distorted today. Contrary to what most people think, self-care isn't just about going for vacations to exotic locations, buying yourself expensive material things, going to a spa for a massage. While they can be great ways to feel good about yourself, their effects aren't long-lasting. I mean, how long does a fresh haircut last? A few days till your next hair wash? What after that?
Real self-care is about turning inwards. It's about accepting and embracing all of you. You might be in a mess, but you can still practice great self-care by being proud of who you are and what you do.
Why is self-care important?
To make this world a better place, who does it start with? YOU. Each one of us. It is all about what helps fill your cup before you go out and help others, and when we begin to care about ourselves a little more, our health and life can start to change.
It's so important to be conscious about self-care (the real kind) in today's times because most of us are running a rat race. We wake up with a tonne of things to do and thinking about what needs to be accomplished the next day, and in this process, we get so lost that we forget about ourselves. The lack of self-care can lead us to feel demotivated, burned out, unhappy, dissatisfied, unfulfilled, and moody. So, self-care plays a huge role in managing our emotional and mental health.
Most people today struggle to answer this question: Do you feel good about yourself? How you feel about yourself at the end of the day, is a measure of your quality of life.
You may have a huge social circle, a hefty bank balance, millions of followers of social media, but if you cannot answer this one question on most nights, then it's an indicator that you need to focus on self-care and go deeper into this aspect.
Here are 20 ways to practice self-care almost every day
1. Setting healthy boundaries
Setting boundaries is a huge form of not just self-respect but self-care too. Setting boundaries could be something as simple as saying “no”, to someone or something. A simple no, without any explanations or feeling guilty. If you do not set boundaries for yourself, someone else will set them for you. This can be done at work with your colleagues, boss, or in your family with your spouse, siblings, kids, and parents.
2. Building a morning routine
A solid morning routine is a sacred time that you give yourself before the day begins. It could be something as simple as freshening up, setting intentions for the day, doing some yoga asanas and stretching exercises, and maybe drink a refreshing cup of chai you wish to sip in solitude. Giving this time to yourself helps in setting the foundation for the rest of your day. So, no matter what the day presents, you have prepared yourself by staying grounded.
3. Social media detox
After a long day at work, you might resort to social media and think of it as a form of self-care, and in your honest attempt, social media only leaves you feeling stressed, more anxious, unhappy. Not to forget, you have wasted a lot of time scrolling through it, have stayed up late at night and not given yourself the sleep you deserved. Does this sound like your story?
Refrain and resist using social media. While it has its advantages, you do not want to use it as a form of self-care. Instead, disconnect, take a break and connect within.
When it comes to self-care, it's not just about adding more things to your daily life. It can also be about what you can remove from your daily life. Here, it's with respect to fasting and maintaining a disciplined eating pattern. Fasting with an intention to take care of yourself, and allowing it to do its job of cleansing and detoxification effectively, is beautiful and counts as self-care too.
5. Disconnecting from toxicity
Letting go of what does not serve you anymore, can actually be the greatest form of self-care. Whether it's a social circle, a friend, colleague, neighbour, or anyone, just excuse yourself because “anything that disturbs your peace is too expensive”.
6. Offering forgiveness
Forgiveness is truly a gift we can give ourselves. The inability to forgive, whether it is holding on to the past, hurt or betrayal is like rust that slowly eats us from within, robbing us of the finite time we have in this life, which is the opposite of self-care. Yes, in some cases forgiving someone can be difficult, but not impossible. Start the process, at the very least.
7. Sitting in silence or “BE” ing
It is the gift of silence. It is a way to find peace and joy in the mundane. Every single day we are just so busy doing one task after the other that we rarely get to pause and just be.
The happiest people are the ones who give whatever they can. It doesn’t always have to be worldly things. It could be a helping hand, a listening ear, or a note of appreciation. Give without expecting anything in return. It is the easiest way to feel happy and fulfilled.
9. Unplugging and slowing down during weekends
In this fast-paced culture, a lot of us can actually find it hard to slow down during weekends, but this is where self-care can step in. We need to break away from feeling guilty about resting and not working on a day when we are supposed to take rest. It might not be your personal need, but your body and mind need it. Weekends exist for a reason, and so we must honour them.
10. Going for a health check-up
You do not have to be sick or ailing to get your blood work done. Ideally, this should be done at least yearly, if not every six months. A proactive approach towards health and your well-being is the truest form of self-care. It means that you care and respect yourself and your body and want to give it the best all the time, so it doesn’t have to go through any suffering later on.
11. Getting high on LSD (Long Slow Deep Breaths)
Before you raise your eyebrows, LSD here means - long, slow, deep breaths. It's said that deep breaths are little love notes you can give yourself. Your existence is because you are able to breathe freely. Is that a big enough reason to just take a pause and take long, slow, deep breaths.
12. Getting your beauty sleep
In a time like now, where sleep seems so elusive, ensure your get your slumber. Not just one day, but every single day. Prioritise it. Sleep is a natural feel-good drug. Its importance in our lifestyle is undebatable. Just by giving the basics of what your body needs, which is good food, movement, and tools to be emotionally stable, and deep sleep is enough self-care. Your body doesn’t demand much to be healthy.
13. Asking for help
So many of us hesitate to ask for help and then end up wishing for someone to come forward and offer help and when that doesn't happen, we get disappointed. Need help? Ask! You don't have to do everything all by yourself. Be kind to yourself.
14. Appreciating someone
It is the quickest way to feel good about yourself, and whatever makes you happy is self-care at the end of the day. If you are the one who craves appreciation, learn and start to honestly appreciate other people. You get what you give.
We, humans, have an attitude of lack and thus we continuously try to safeguard ourselves, step back from appreciating others, and look for opportunities to pull them down. Only if you genuinely appreciate the virtues in them, you as a person will begin to grow, not just spiritually but in every area of your life.
15. Appreciating yourself
This one might leave you feeling all happy and sentimental, but in a good way. Record or write a couple of things you truly love about yourself and then read or hear it over and over again for one week. It will make you feel very good about yourself and will help fill the gap when we don’t get appreciated. This is a powerful practice. Do it mindfully.
16. Engaging in a hobby
There is a reason why we ask our clients about their hobbies during our consultation with them. Having a hobby means you have something in your life that is beyond your daily chores.
17. Having a good cry
Although often seen as a sign of weakness, crying can be good for you. A good cry is cathartic. Scientifically, it’s proven to be one of the best ways to release stress and cortisol, which is a stress hormone.
18. Having a good laugh
If crying is so therapeutic, laughter is more so. Whether it's managing pains, improving your digestion, stimulating the vagus nerve, boosting immunity, or simply inducing relaxation, a good laugh can serve several purposes. Every time we laugh, it tricks the brain into believing that we are happy, even if it's fake laughter. It is powerful.
19. Embracing a bad day
Not all days are good. You can have a bad day too. When there is light, darkness can still find its way. The earlier we accept this fact, the better and happier our lives will be. In case you are having a bad day, accept it, sit with your feelings, acknowledge them, and see if there is a lesson you can take away from the day. Using band-aids to cover up a bad day, like partying when you actually don't feel like it, shopping, drinking, smoking, binge eating, or substance abuse, may take you away from reality, but only for a few hours. The crash that follows after that can leave you feeling even more miserable. So, just embrace a bad day, do your best that day, and go to bed hoping for a better one tomorrow.
20. Creating a timetable
You might probably already know all the forms of self-care listed above, but to be able to do them, you need to first learn how to manage and budget your time well. The inability to manage time is one of the most common obstacles today, and because of that, self-care is put on the back burner. You can practice self-care every single day, and not just leave it for weekends or birthdays, provided you add it to your to-do list and prioritise it.
Having said this, do you notice one thing? All of the above forms of self-care are free. So, thinking that self-care is all about exotic vacations, expensive clothes, delicious food is just a myth. You can practice self-care, right here and right now, without spending a single penny.
Luke Coutinho is a holistic lifestyle coach - integrative and lifestyle medicine, and the founder of YouCare - All about YOU by Luke Coutinho.