By Claire Holmes
Self-care can be practiced in many forms. For some it may look like taking a walk after work. For others, it’s an extensive beauty routine. Regardless of what self-care looks like for you, it’s important to take time out of your day (or week) to allow yourself space to heal and recharge. Wondering what this could look like for you? This is where it gets fun: you are in charge of figuring out what self-care looks like for you by exploring what makes you feel good!
Today, I am going to help you explore some simple activities that can make a huge difference in your day-to-day life. I will then help you mix them into your busy schedule and guide you towards finding what works best for you!
Why is Self-care so important?
To understand “self-care,” we need to first make the distinction between “self-care” and “being selfish.” “Being selfish” is acting in your best interest without thinking about your actions’ impact on others. “Self-care” is a tool, or a means, to promote your health and wellbeing. Self-care allows you to prepare yourself for whatever the world throws at you. For example, self-care enables you to preform daily tasks, care for others, and set your path to success. Ultimately, self-care helps you be your best you—while also being a lot of fun!
Tip 1: Moving your Body
One of the most important things you can do for yourself is move your body at least 30 minutes everyday. An inactive or sedentary lifestyle can be extremely dangerous. Being inactive can lead to serious chronic diseases including heart disease, obesity, and type 2 diabetes.1 Whereas, exercise has been linked with many physical benefits, including reduced risk of coronary heart disease and cancer.2 Being active gives you many mental health benefits as well, including improved learning, increased memory, better sleep, and protection against depression.2 Having an exercise routine helps reduce risk factors for disease, while giving you the endorphins responsible for that feel-good buzz after you workout.
In order to increase your body movement, you can experiment with different styles of exercise. This could be a workout or being more active in general. Everyone has a different skillset—so make sure to start small and set attainable goals. If you have never exercised, try starting with 30 minutes of walking. If you workout often, challenge yourself by completing a new class or increasing the interval difficulty of a go-to workout.
If working out is not for you, try to increase your activity in other ways: hop off the bus a stop early, take the stairs, get a standing desk!
One of my favorite places to find workouts is: https://www.youtube.com/user/popsugartvfit
This YouTube channel is free and offers barre, boxing, yoga, and many other types of workouts. Moreover, they provide modifications to increase (or decrease) difficulty to meet your workout level.
Tip 2: Integrating Relaxing Treatments
Which type of treatment makes you feel good? Is it a mani-pedi, facial, massage? There are so many fun treatments and each one has its own health benefits. For instance, according to Mayo Clinic, massage therapy improves circulation, reduces pain, and reduces stress relief.3 Below, I am going to share some fun treatments you can do at home:
One of my favorite types of facials starts with an exfoliating scrub, followed by a detoxifying mask, and finally a hyaluronic acid serum to soak in moisture. It doesn’t matter where you purchase your products, but try to look at the ingredients before you buy—purchase products with simple ingredients and try to avoid endocrine disrupters. Endocrine disrupters are substances that disrupt or mimic your hormones. This can be dangerous because it can mess with your reproductive, immune, and even your central nervous system.
To find out what is in your beauty products check out the ThinkDirty App: https://thinkdirtyapp.com/
When you are in the shower, try using a loofa or face towel to massage away your worries! A great technique to use could be rubbing these products in a circular motion from your head to your toes. Another fun type of massage is Gua Sha. In traditional Chinese medicine, Gua Sha is used to relieve pain in different parts of the body. It’s said that Gua Sha helps balance your chi. Today, this form of massage has become a popular tool to get ride of inflammation in your face. The Gua Sha tool is a smooth edged stone. If you are interested, purchase this tool and watch a YouTube tutorial on how to use it!
Youtube Tutorial on Gua Sha: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bc12OTFzua0
Tip 3: Creating an Inspiring environment
When it comes to your home or work environment: cleanliness, tidiness, and even level of comfort can effect your mood, stress level, and productivity.
Your home is particularly important when it comes to keeping you and your family happy and healthy. However, learning how to keep your environment friendly, inviting, and clean can be challenging. Leave it to Marie Kondo to make tidying-up appear effortless. Marie uses a simple, yet powerful technique that teaches people how to declutter by keeping only the items that “spark joy.” Another interesting technique can be found in the Danish concept of Hyyge (hue-gah). Hygge is the art of creating an environment that inspires awareness around coziness and comfort. Think throw blankets, candles, and hot tea. Both of these techniques are based on creating spaces that make you feel clear and cared for.
Your home environment is not the only one that affects your mood and productivity. A research report on people and their reactions to work environments found that noisy environments can disrupt cognitive processing.4 This study also discovered that people are generally more productive in environments that are aesthetically-pleasing.4 Their definition of “aesthetic” included natural materials, lighting, and plants. This means that keeping a quiet, organized, and aesthetic work environment can increase your work productivity!
Quick tips: To make your environment more inviting, keep it clean and organized, but also try to add details that make you feel comforted. Try to remove distracting noises, devices, and clutter while adding elements such as natural light, plants, throw blankets, and candles.
Here is a link to some good options for house plants that are almost impossible to kill: https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/home/gardening/advice/g1285/hard-to-kill-plants/
Tip 4: have a Morning Routine
Routines and schedules can be extremely important for mental health. A morning routine helps you set your day up for success! The psychological benefits of keeping a routine include: improved sleep habits, social skills, academic success, and resilience during crisis.5
Some good activities for a strong morning routine include:
- Waking up at the same time everyday
- Making your bed
- Incorporating movement (yoga, stretching, etc.)
- A short meditation
- Eating a nourishing breakfast
These are good places to start. Pick and choose the ones you like the best and test out incorporating them into your morning! Similar to any habit-forming process, developing a routine takes time and consistency. The timeline also depends on the individual! Remember to give yourself time to acclimate. You can track your progress through journalling.
Tip 5: Learning to Say "No!"
Saying “no” can be extremely difficult, but it’s healthy to set boundaries. We have been seeing this in the case of Simone Biles in the Tokyo 2020 (and now 2021) Olympics. She decided to choose her mental health and, therefore, physical health and long-term career over the current competition. It is important to remember that we all need time for mental and physical recovery. If your commitments are getting in the way of that, remember that you’re allowed to say “no.”
How to say “no?”
If you are feeling overwhelmed by a plan or proposition, no matter what the context, you can ask yourself these questions to help assess whether or not you should get involved:
- Is this activity (or project) getting in the way of other tasks I need to accomplish?
- Will saying “no” have a negative impact on myself, my career, or those around me?
- Does this activity align with my interests, goals, or values/beliefs?
- Is this something that is going to benefit me or will it just add stress to my plate?
Start by asking yourself those questions. If you believe that you should not get involved, then inform the other people involved that you will not be participating. They should understand and you will feel relieved that you stood up for yourself.
Saying “no” is not just important when it comes to social plans. Saying “no” is crucial for setting boundaries and guidelines for respect when it also comes to the workplace, your family, or even a romantic relationship. Saying no isn’t always easy, but you got this! You’ll know when you need to politely bow out. Listen to your gut and advocate for what is best for you.
Tip 6 : Allowing yourself to rest and recharge
Rest comes in many forms. Rest could be sleeping a full eight hours, or taking a 20 minutes power nap. In addition to sleep, there are practices that can be recharging: meditation, yoga, time with loved ones, a movie night, a bubble bath, or a walk in nature. It may feel like I am dumping a lot of different activities on you, but self-care is all about experimenting with activities and seeing how they make you feel. It is called “self” care for a reason. It is all about you and what helps you recharge.
Allow yourself that rest, that time to recuperate in the way that is the most inspiring for you. Play around with what activities allow you to feel rejuvenated and energized. No one likes going into a Monday feeling exhausted from the weekend. Try using all-day Sunday, if not Saturday and Sunday, to practice and perfect your self-care.
If you are interested in learning more about meditation—or other ways to nourish yourself beyond food—check out my other articles:
To prioritize self-care and make time for your needs, treat yourself like you would a loved one or dear friend. Be kind to yourself and meet yourself where you are today. Try to set realistic goals. By moving your body, integrating some relaxing treatments, creating an inspiring environment, having a morning routine, learning to say “no,” and allowing yourself to rest, you are already on the right track to providing yourself with some TLC. After a bit of practice, you won’t believe how much of an impact this will have on your life!
Hold up. I’ve just given you a lot of tips, but you might be wondering where to even begin. Let’s break this down a little bit further:
Start with three tips. For example: moving your body, fun treatments, and keeping a clean environment. Integrate those three for a week and see what sticks. Next week, move on to tips 4, 5, and then finally 6. Mix and match them in whichever way works best for you, then keep the ones that provide value to your life. Remember that self-care helps us present the best version of ourselves to the world. It is not selfish! In fact, it could help give you the mindset you need to become more selfless!
Take on your self-care routine as you would any project. Start with small steps and build your way up. Always remember, this is your health and your journey. You want it to be sustainable for you!
- Health risks of an inactive lifestyle. MedlinePlus. https://medlineplus.gov/healthrisksofaninactivelifestyle.html. Published May 5, 2021. Accessed July 30, 2021.
- Vina J, Sanchis-Gomar F, Martinez-Bello V, Gomez-Cabrera MC. Exercise acts as a drug; the pharmacological benefits of exercise. Br J Pharmacol. 2012;167(1):1-12. doi:10.1111/j.1476-5381.2012.01970.x
- Never had a massage? What you should know. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/massage/art-20045743. Published January 12, 2021. Accessed July 26, 2021.
- Sander E(LJ, Caza A, Jordan PJ. Psychological perceptions matter: Developing the reactions to the physical work environment scale. Building and Environment. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360132318307157. Published November 19, 2018. Accessed July 26, 2021.
- Arlinghaus KR, Johnston CA. The Importance of Creating Habits and Routine. Am J Lifestyle Med. 2018;13(2):142-144. Published 2018 Dec 29. doi:10.1177/1559827618818044
One of the greatest gifts that I have received in my life was my own discovery of health through nutrition. My background in Environmental Engineering and my career as a Fashion Model have shown me the variety of pathways that affect our health as a whole. The environmental toxins in beauty products, nutrients in food, or the energy in media we consume all have a significant impact on our health. In order to continue my life’s passion and to be able to help others find their health, I have become certified as an Integrative Nutrition Wellness Coach by the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and I am entering a masters program in Nutrition and Exercise Physiology at Teachers College Columbia University to become a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist. I want to help others find their journey to sustainable health as I have found mine. I use the phrase “sustainable health” because health has to continuously work for you in your everyday life and environment. Perfection is not the goal, it is the journey that matters.