Self care has become sort of a buzzword in the last few years, but it’s not necessarily something we learn in school, and maybe not at home either.
Self care is how we show ourselves love, respect, and, obviously, care. Self care can be skin care, therapy, exercise, treating yo self, or even taking time off, or going to the doctor. Whatever way you spin it, prioritizing self care is paramount to maintaining our mental and physical health as well as self esteem.
I’ve always practiced self care by the definition above, but I didn’t prioritize it until my mid-late twenties, and it really makes a world of difference. Making your self care routine a priority will help boost your confidence, and self esteem. It also helps you show up as your best self in your relationships with others because you are filling your own cup.
In a way, self care makes us better at being in relationships with others because when we learn to care for ourselves, we are learning how to care for others as well.
I practice many self care routines, but these are my top, non-negotiable self care practices:
Feeding My Mind
Years ago, I deleted, unfollowed, or discouraged ads and accounts on Instagram that made me feel bad about myself. I also unfollowed people that posted constant outrageous or depressing news, or who were generally Debbie Downers.
I lowered my tolerance for bullshit in general, stopped watching the news (though I do read a few sources, in moderation) and just started cutting the fat from the things I was putting in my head and replaced them with healthier alternatives.
I made a point to follow more art accounts, body positivity pages, and things that hada positive effect on my mental health and well-being.
I bought and read more books that lifted my spirits, encouraged my growth, and taught me how to be a better version of myself. I watch documentaries that teach me, or get inspired by people changing the world for the better.
I started making room for more people like that as well, in combination with making less room for the Debbie Downers of the world.
It’s imperative you not only look at what you’re eating, but what you are consuming on a day-to-day basis and ask yourself if it’s really good for you. Adjust accordingly.
Feed Your Soul
Invest in the things that light you up. Nurture your hobbies, or learn some new ones.
If I’m not writing, making art, reading, and spending time in nature, something feels missing and I start to feel “off.”
No one else is going to prioritize the things you love to do for you. You have to do that for you. No one else is going to be able to tell you what lights you up. You have to get out into the world, get into projects and hobbies, feel it, and find out for yourself.
Nurturing creativity is a way we can fulfill our souls purpose. Allow yourself to play and express yourself creatively on a regular basis. It’s really one way humans can make magic, taking one thing and turning it into something else. Make your magic.
This is a non-negotiable for me primarily because my mood dips without it, I feel more sluggish and tired, and not as confident in my own skin.
I love to feel mentally and physically sharp, energized, and fit. Plus, exercise, like meditation, is always a time to clear my head and hit reset.
As a writer, overthinking and over-analyzing comes naturally to me, and getting into my body through exercise and out of my head is always a welcome relief and surprisingly, always lends perspective whereas overthinking tends to do the opposite. Funny how that works.
I probably spend more money on food than I do on anything else every month other than rent, and I’m ok with that. Eating lots of fresh produce every day, organic when possible, is when I feel my best, most energized, and vibrant. I could eat cheaper food that made me feel more sluggish, but investing in my health is a worthwhile choice.
Plus, I rarely get sick, and that also saves me time and money. Food certainly is medicine, and I want to invest in food that pays off long term.
With that said, my definition of eating well isn’t perfect. I allow room for sweets, cheats, or a little wine on a daily basis. Part of living well means being able to be relaxed, socialize, enjoy food, and enjoy all that life has to offer, and for me, a strict diet is not part of that equation.
So, I eat mostly (organic) fresh produce, legumes, whole grains, and good coffee, and leave a little room for chocolate, wine, pizza, a bite of steak or whatever else I want to try.
Flowers and Gardens
Flowers and gardening are part of my self care practice because they make me so dang happy. Approaching my house and seeing the roses or jasmine that I planted blooming fills my heart, as does watching all the plants in my garden change daily.
The sights, touch, and scents of plants are a full sensory experience, and it’s not only a physical gift, but it’s the gift of an experience as well.
I also often buy myself bouquets of flowers because it’s a little gesture that makes a big difference in lifting my spirits, and it’s a way I show myself consistent love, care, and attention.
Buying yourself flowers or putting a little money towards having a garden (or indoor plants!) is telling yourself that you deserve beauty. You deserve romance, and magic, and to delight in the miracle of our natural world. It’s one of my favorite things to do, and looking at a flower is a source of endless inspiration and happiness.
Go buy yourself some flowers.
I went through a phase where I was really into dressing in a way that, for lack of better words, allowed me to disappear. At the time, I didn’t think much of it, or how my clothes might affect my mood.
Now, I choose to dress like a flower, wearing a lot of bright colors and sparkly accessories, or at least in comfortable clothes that I find beautiful.
The way I see it, we are all works of art, always changing and evolving, and we can adorn ourselves, and speak to the world with our outside appearance. Why not have a little fun with that?
Our physical body is what the world sees, and we can communicate in that way. What are you communicating to the world with the way you dress? What would you like to communicate to the world, and yourself? If what you are communicating and what you want to communicate differ, how can you change that so your outward physical expression is in alignment with what you want to say to the world?
For me, I like to express fun, light-heartedness, beauty, and sometimes a little badassery.
Yes, presents. I’m talking about presents, and not just physical presents. I don’t like to accumulate too much “stuff,” but once in a while, treating myself to new sheets, new books, jewelry, a meal out, spa services, or vacations is one of my absolute favorite self care practices.
You deserve nice things! I’m not encouraging excessive consumerism or spending beyond your means, but as someone who only used to wear clothes and socks until they had holes in them, and rarely allowed myself to buy anything new (I accepted freebies from others instead of choosing what I wanted.)
The boost I get from comfortable and beautiful clothes, or a quality, natural lipstick, or a visit to a spa is priceless.
Once in a while, buy the good chocolate. Buy a quality pair of shoes that will last. Buy the face mask and a silk pillow cases. You are worth it.
Treat yourself like a goddess and allow yourself to feel worthy of a little spoiling, because you are.
You deserve to invest in your well-being, in your pleasure, delight, and in experiences that will enrich your life.
The Gift of Time
This one is huge. Vacations definitely fall into this category, and I take at least one or two vacations or staycations a year, but I’m also talking about making time for yourself on a daily and weekly basis.
Where can you cut back on obligations and start saying no to the things you don’t really want to do? Perhaps you don’t want to brunch with that frenemy, but you do so to keep the peace, or you’re really burning both ends of the candle with social and work obligations, but you can object to the zoom happy hour, or the baby shower, or the divorce party.
Yes, we have to show up for our friends, but we have to show up for ourselves as well, and if you’re sacrificing your peace to please others, you’re fighting an uphill battle.
This one used to feel frivolous and like a waste of time to me, as a nature girl who likes to put her bare hands in the garden dirt and jump in the ocean, but I feel infinitely better embracing my girly side with a little pampering.
I like to keep my bathtub squeaky clean and take epsom salt baths. I like picking out wild nail colors that make me happy to look at and give myself a manicure and pedicure while watching something funny. Nothing feels as good as doing a long skin care routine and a face mask and waking up all glowy and healthy.
I spend a few hours dying my hair with henna (which naturally strengthens and conditions hair) every few months, and buy candles made with essential oils and palo santo wood to burn so my home smells delicious and welcoming.
Home Sweet Home
This is huge. As a writer and artist and general introvert, I spend a lot of time at home. It is so important for me to clean regularly, and decorate with soft blankets, cheery pillows, and images that light up my heart.
Making your home your sanctuary is a worthwhile investment, and it doesn’t have to break the bank when you get creative.
This isn’t something I do consisently, but I’ve found it most useful in the short term (periods of a few months or so) when I am struggling with something in particular and seeking a confidential and fresh perspective.
I’ve seen about six therapists or counselors in the past ten years for various reasons, and some I only saw for a session or two because they weren’t a good fit. Three in particular were exceptional, and helped me through hard decisions, made me feel empowered, and helped me re-frame my mindset from feeling stuck to seeing all the options and opportunities for growth.
One helped me get out of a relationship which led to my biggest personal growth spurt. One helped me start my own business which paid my bills when I wasn’t sure how I would, as well as get over a fear that was interfering with my daily life. And another one helped me step into my power, reframe my attitude, and offered me warmth, a listening ear, and helped me break a toxic pattern with an issue I couldn’t talk to anyone about.
Some even made me laugh, dropped F bombs with me, and felt like talking to a good friend.
Therapy can really be magic. If the idea of walking into a therapists office and talking about your troubles makes you cringe, consider a service like Better Help, which offers remote counseling services where you can do therapy by phone, video chat, or email.
Our friends can be good for lending us a listening ear, but our friends are not unbiased, mental health professionals (most of them, anyways) and having the confidentiality of a therapist can really be a gift.
Plus, personally, I don’t think it’s fair to treat our friends like therapists. Of course we want to keep each other in the loop and keep it real, but sometimes it’s better to pay someone to help us take the load off lest we accidentally bare too much weight on our friends shoulders.
This is a creative way to keep records, stay accountable, clear your mind, and gain perspective. Journaling has been invaluable in my personal evolution, in keeping a history book of my coming-of-age, as well as offering me immense soothing in the form of release.
Once you write something down, it has a little less power over you and a little more power on the page. How wonderful is that?
Journaling is how I work through things without a therapist, especially since I can look back on how I was feeling, then adjust.
There are many more self care practices I use, but these ones are the ones I do on a daily or weekly basis that are the can’t-live-without-em variety. Ok, I could live without them, but I wouldn’t be living nearly as well.
Tell me in the comments below, what are your favorite self care practices? Or, how have these practices changed your life for the better? What shifts have you experienced since upping your self care game?