When we hear about self-care, there’s usually a list of recommended things we could or should be incorporating into our days.
We’re all familiar with them— Eat right. Exercise. Manage stress levels. Spend time with loved ones. Laugh. Get enough sleep. Hydrate, etc.
But rather than feeling lucky to hit on just one or maybe a few of these areas each day, wouldn’t it be great if we started and managed our actions and decisions during the day to hit on most, if not all, of these areas?
It all begins with having a mindset of making yourself a priority (without feeling selfish,) and being ok with spending a little extra time on yourself here and there throughout the day.
Take the extra 60 seconds to cut up a lemon for your water. Spend the extra five minutes cutting up some veggies for a healthy breakfast, rather than a quick fix like a bagel or even skipping breakfast. Or, how about giving yourself permission to kindly say no to a time commitment that will cause you stress or isn’t a priority to you?
Most importantly, when we care for ourselves, we’re also better equipped to care for others— now and for the long term.
In this post my goal is to share an easy-to-implement approach to self-care that works for me. I believe that by being consistent with this simple approach, you will not only feel the difference over time, but you’ll also expand upon it in your own way.
Your approach to self-care should be customized to your needs, personality, likes, dislikes, what’s important to you, and where you are on your own personal journey.
It’s a matter of paying attention to what you need and what works for you.
What works for me may not necessarily work for you in all instances, but hopefully you’ll walk away with at least a few new ideas to incorporate into your approach to self-care.
And by consistently practicing your own approach to self-care, you’ll realize how you are more in control of how you feel than you think!
Without further ado, let’s get into it …
I view self-care as being intentional about everyday decisions and actions so they work together, are dependent on each other, and over time ultimately guide me to how I want to feel and where I want to go.
The most important thing I’ve realized is that I can initially elevate my mood and energy levels in the morning and keep them elevated throughout the day by the decisions and actions I take. Not only do I enjoy my day more and have more energy, I’m also more inclined to stay aware of practicing self-care consistently over time.
Morning | Priming Your Mindset & Energy Level
The minute you get out of bed is the most critical time to kick your self-care routine into gear.
Because we our mood and energy level varies from day to day, we have to be proactive about priming our mindsets and energy levels as we begin our days, especially on days when we wake up tired, in a funk, or uninspired.
This involves making conscious decisions to do some things and avoid others.
1| Eat a healthy breakfast of protein, power foods, and healthy fats. Ever since I participated in a 21-day clean eating challenge at my gym, I realize that breakfast is the most important meal of the day because it primes my energy level for the rest of the day.
Rarely do I eat carbs like bagels and muffins. I also stay away from sugary yogurts.
My go-to breakfast is fresh veggies (including 1 or 2 power veggies), two eggs, and a healthy fat— either a handful of unsalted nuts or a few slices of avocado.
To make this as easy as possible, I always have the veggies partially prepped so all I have to do is cut them up, toss them into the pan, and saute them for a couple of minutes before adding a couple of beaten eggs.
Some of the veggies I frequently use are red and green peppers, red onion, and my two favorite power veggies— baby spinach and shiitake mushrooms.
I highly recommend doing a little research on power veggies to figure out which ones you like the most. The nutritional value of these foods is incredible, and some are even a good source of protein.
Steel cut oatmeal with dark berries and nuts is another option if you’d rather not eat eggs every day.
Consider investing the extra time and effort to eat a healthy, satisfying breakfast because the boost it will give your energy level and mood should last for hours.
2| Listen to peaceful, uplifting music, a positive message, or if time allows, start a morning routine. To get my mental state on track, I usually start my day by asking Alexa to play music that I find easy to listen to but positive and uplifting. After breakfast as I’m getting ready, if calm music seems too calm, I’ll switch to something more energetic.
The key is to listen to something that elevates my mood and doesn’t bring me down.
I find it best to not even turn on the news because (by design) it’s filled with stories of tragedy that don’t serve me and I don’t even need to know about. If I want to know the weather, I check the weather app on my phone.
At the beginning of the day, whatever I listen to should help me lock in a positive mindset and fuel my energy.
On days when time allows, I’ll indulge in a morning routine, which is always time well spent.
3| Make the final rinse in your shower cool (or gradually cold!) There’s a lot of research about the benefits of exposing our bodies to cold, and they make sense to me. An easy way to make this part of your routine is by making the final rinse of your shower cool (or even better) gradually cold. To be honest, I often forget to do this, but by writing this post and re-reading the benefits, this is something I want to do more often.
4| Use a hydrating facial mist. After I get out of the shower, the first thing I do is mist my face with a rosewater facial mist. It feels great. It smells great. And it makes me feel a little pampered as I start the day. When considering buying one, take a close look at the ingredients.
Throughout The Day | Maintaining & Resetting Your Energy
5 | Take breaks. Spend a few minutes to get some fresh air, sun, and take in the sounds of nature. There’s also a lot of research out there about how taking breaks boost our productivity. One school of thought on this is the Pomodoro Technique. If you’re interested in trying it, an online timer can be found here. I think this is a great tool when working on specific types of longer projects that require focus. Taking breaks is also a great way to solve problems and come up with new ideas. That’s because our brains “chew” on the things that are on our minds even while we’re not engaged in them. This is why we often wake up in the morning with a solution to a problem or get the best idea while walking the dog.
6 | Spend some time in nature by yourself. Spending time in nature by yourself is a great way to reset your mind and energy level and to also get answers to questions you may not even realize you have. This summer I did quite a bit of running at places where many people walk, and I was always surprised to see so many women walking in pairs rather than by themselves. The women walking in pairs were typically engaged in a heated discussion that involved complaining or gossiping, and they were missing out on most of the benefits of their walk. Every now and then, consider getting outside by yourself.
7 | Gracefully say “no” to things that don’t serve you. When you get a request to do something or an invitation to go somewhere and that inner voice says, “ugh,” listen to it. It’s telling you that if you say yes, you’ll regret it; you probably won’t have a good time; and you could quite possibly miss out on something that’s more important to you. It’s ok to listen to your gut and pass. If you want to dive into this topic more and learn about essentialism, here’s a great Tim Ferriss podcast episode entitled, “How to say no gracefully and uncommit.” This is a wonderful episode filled with so many strong examples that further support the overall message of this post.
8 | Avoid gossip and drama. It’s amazing how one quick comment or conversation can derail one’s mood or even the entire day. As much as you want to support a friend or relative about their problem, if it can wait, it might be better to save a conversation until the end of the day. Another source of drama can be social media so train yourself to think twice before checking it.
9 | Run your errands during off-peak times. This has come to be one of the best strategies I’ve learned to adopt. Whenever possible, I run my errands when the masses aren’t. For example, I avoid Costco on the weekends as much as possible. Instead, I go after dinner on a weeknight. I practically have the place all to myself, and lines are short. If I must go on the weekends, I try to get there right when they open or just before they close. Another thing I do is avoid stores that tend to always drain me and shop at stores where I have a better experience. Once you start paying close attention to this, it’s pretty eye-opening.
10 | Avoid multi-tasking, especially while doing something you enjoy. I am the first to admit that I get caught up in multi-tasking. I make myself a nice lunch, and then I’ll decide to fold a load of laundry while I take a bite here and there. I’m really trying to stop myself from doing this even if it slows me down a little. It’s worth a few minutes to sit down, relax, and enjoy my lunch. On the other hand, I think multi-tasking works when we’re doing something that is not as enjoyable or even tedious. For example, while prepping dinner, I may turn on a podcast to listen and learn. This actually helps me enjoy the process of prepping dinner more and before I know it, dinner is prepped and I’ve learned something new and feel inspired.
Evening | Winding Down, Reconnecting & Resting
11 | Get comfy. At the end of the day, as soon as you can, put on your most comfortable clothes to start to unwind a little.
12 | Make your phone calls to family & friends. Because I have my day behind me, I find the evening the best time to call family and friends. I find I’m a better listener then too!
13 | If you watch TV, keep it light. Again, I really try to stay away from the news unless there’s a story unfolding that I want to follow. I don’t want to begin or end my day learning about tragic events. I also stay away from violent, disturbing, or criminal shows. I once heard someone say that we eat with all of our senses, meaning we take in what we listen to and watch and that sounds logical to me. Instead, if I watch television at all, I’d rather watch something positive or funny.
14 | Put down your phone about 2 hours before bedtime. This article does a great job of explaining all of the reasons why looking at your phone close to bedtime or even in bed prevents you from getting optimal sleep.
15 | Get the amount of sleep you need. Easier said than done sometimes, but this is huge!
16 | Sleep in a completely dark room. Personally, I need to sleep in a completely dark room. Even the tiniest presence of light can disturb my sleep. Here’s an article with a link to a research study about how sleeping in complete darkness is good for mental health.
So there you have my approach to everyday self-care, which basically involves gravitating toward what fuels me and avoiding non-essential things and situations that deplete me. I find that if I begin my day with this approach in mind, it stays with me throughout the day and carries over into the next. I’ve found that the more that I’ve practiced this, the more it becomes a habit or a lifestyle. As always, good luck with it!!