Ultimate Guide to Self-Care from A to Z for 2020
Self-Care isn't selfish!
What was your reaction as you just read that sentence? I hope it was something positive because it's true. Taking care of yourself isn't selfish. We all need time to relax and rejuvenate and developing a self-care practice is a great way for you to do that! It's all about making time to manage your stress before your stress manages you. In this post, I'll cover a wide variety of self-care techniques from A to Z!
Acupressure is a form of alternative medicine that entails massaging different places on the body called pressure points. There are hundreds of pressure points all over the body. Depending on the pressure point that you stimulate, you can either feel relaxed or energized. Either way it contributes to your positive sense of self and your wellbeing. Here’s a video from Cleveland Clinic with an acupressure exercise to alleviate stress.
Affirmations are a great form of self-care as they help with your mindset – getting you into a great frame of mind. No matter what it is you’re feeling, there’s an affirmation for that. Feeling scared or anxious? The right affirmation can help you to remember that this too shall pass. Feeling confident and in control? The right affirmation can reinforce those feelings. You can create your own affirmations and keep them in your phone or on your vision board to reference as needed. Creating an affirmation is easy, you just make a simple “I” statement and finish it with powerful, positive, affirmative language such as:
I am __________.
I can do __________.
My ________ is ________.
I love aromatherapy! It’s really amazing how a particular scent can completely change or enhance your mood. The great thing about aromatherapy is that it doesn’t take a lot of equipment or tools. You can have a simple aromatherapy session by inhaling an orange or lemon in order to feel energized or lavender in order to relax. It’s all up to you depending on the mood you want to invoke.
In order to achieve anything in life, you need to believe in yourself and your ability to accomplish things. That belief is vital to your mindset and ultimately your mental health. That belief will carry you through difficult times especially during those times when it feels like no one else believes in you. Belief provides motivation, motivation should lead to action and action should lead to results.
Many of us don’t breathe properly. There’s nothing more refreshing than taking a good, long, d-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-p breath. Breathing correctly can energize your body and feed your soul. Here’s a quick deep breathing exercise from Headspace.
No self-care list would be complete without bubble bath being listed! There’s something infinitely soothing about being surrounded by the warm water and bubbles are just fun! Consider taking your bubble bath to the next level by making it an experience – take a book, maybe an adult beverage, candles, your favorite tunes and just relax!
Scented Candles! These are closely related to aromatherapy. They fill your home with fabulous aromas and can help you get into a contemplative state if you use them for meditation. Candles are also great for providing atmosphere if you’re taking a bubble bath, having a romantic dinner or just chilling on the couch.
Anyone who knows me knows that I LOVE to celebrate. Whether it’s something big or small it doesn’t matter. Life is too short not to take notice of the joyous times. Even if it’s a situation that I like to call a tiny victory – celebrate it!
If you’re stressed out and need to chill out, one thing that I can recommend for your self-care is going back to your childhood and taking time to look up! Watching clouds go by is so soothing. What shapes can you see?
Even if you believe that you have two left feet, dancing can help you feel the joy of life. If you’re not used to dancing, it’ll help you open your horizons and learn something new. If you already like dancing, it’s a wonderful way to be connected to your inner self and it’s great exercise to boot!
Nothing says self-care like escaping to someplace new! The traditional way (besides travelling) to do this is to crack open a book and let your imagination run wild! Books can take you any and everywhere you’d want to be whether it’s in the past, present or future. Let yourself become immersed in the content of the book to make your escape.
If books don’t do it for you, consider escaping with technology by using Google Earth. You can travel to anyplace on the planet, virtually visit your destination in 3D, and then use Google’s knowledge cards to learn something about that that destination especially during this time of Coronovirus and social distancing – Google Earth allows you to explore all the corners of the earth and make your great escape.
Exercise is a form of self-care that allows to you take control of your present and to shape your future at the same time. You’ve got to use it or lose it! The key to exercise is taking the time to find the activity that you like so that you’re more likely to do it. It doesn’t have to be about going to the gym – you can engage in bodyweight exercises or just put in more effort into your everyday chores to make them into a light form of exercise. Darebee is a great site with tons of exercise routines that don’t involve equipment.
If you’re looking to engage in self-care, it’s important to be in touch with your feelings. It’s also important to let yourself FEEL whatever it is you’re feeling at a certain point in time. If you’re happy – be happy! If you’re having a less positive feeling, don’t shut yourself off – feel that feeling but don’t wallow in your misery for too long. If you’re experiencing things such as sadness, anger, etc. it can also be helpful to talk to someone that you trust. And if you're experiencing these feelings for an extended period of time you should consider speaking to a professional.
If you’re not allergic – flowers are wonderful! They’re bright, beautiful, colorful and smell really good. They’re a great pick me up and are wonders for adding a quick flair to your decorating by brightening the corner of any room. If flowers make you happy, consider buying yourself a bouquet from time to time as a way of appreciating yourself.
Having an attitude of gratitude provides self-care to feed your mind. If you’ve ever heard the statement, “whatever you focus on you become” – it’s true especially when it comes to gratitude. The more you focus on what you’re grateful for, the more you’ll have to be grateful for. A great way to do this is to use a gratitude journal such as this one that I've created. A gratitude journal provides space to record your thoughts around the concept of gratitude and to write down the things that you’re grateful for. Here are a few questions to get you started:
Today I’m grateful for ___________
Who’s made you smile in the past 48 hours and why?
What have been the greatest experiences of your life? Why?
What are 5 skills that you have now that you didn’t have 5 years ago?
Who or what do you love?
As you well know, habits can be good or they can be bad. Either way, monitoring your habits can be a way of engaging in self-care. If you have good habits – congratulations! Keep up the good work. If there are some bad habits that you wish to change, a good way of going about that would be to think not only about what you need to do to change that habit, but how you can tie those changes into a positive habit that you already have and make that into a routine. One way to motivate yourself to either continue with a habit that is good for you or to discontinue a habit that’s bad for you is to track it. Why? Because you don’t wanna break the streak! Habit trackers let you see how far you’ve come.
Hobbies are a great way to help you relax and engage in self-care. If you’re doing something that you love – which will relax you and help you to connect to yourself by connecting to something that you enjoy. Practicing a hobby can also increase your self-esteem as you become more competent in your skillset. When I look at my 1st scrapbook, it was basically pictures glued in an album; like the one above. I've come so far since then if I do say so myself 😊.
If you can’t think of a hobby to start, think back to the activities you loved as a child and see if you can come up with something from there. Or ask friends and family what they think you're skilled at and use that as a basis of research.
It’s important to treat yourself every now and again. Take time to indulge yourself. Now indulging yourself doesn’t have to mean food, it can be using a specialty bath bomb in the tub, a book you’ve been dying to read or binge watching your favorite show whatever you’d like. The important thing is to take a few hours, a day or weekend and indulge!
If you’ve read any of my other posts, you know how I feel about journaling. It is one of the greatest tools that you can use to learn about yourself. There are so many ways to journal – you can journal about each day; your hopes, dreams & desires; what you’re grateful for or even your goals. Explore the many forms of journaling, pick a journal you like and get started.
Kindness is something that the world could use more of, especially in times like these. But kindness starts at home. In order to be truly kind to others, you must start by being kind to yourself. Most of us would never talk to others the way we speak to ourselves. Silence your inner critic and engage in positive self-talk. And then spread that kindness out into the world.
Laughter is good for the soul. There have been several studies that have shown that happiness increases your life span and helps you to create connections to others which does positive things towards increasing your self-care. I’m sure you’ve heard that it takes more muscles to frown than to smile. Funny pet videos anyone?
Let It Go
Life is too short. It’s too short to carry around the baggage of those who’ve hurt you. Doing that contributes to a decline in your mental health, well-being, and happiness. So instead, let it go. If that means journaling about your feelings, do it. If that means praying for the strength to forgive, do it. If that means finding someone that you trust to talk about how you feel, do it. Just let it go.
Massage is a well known technique of those who are interested in self-care. Depending on the type of massage, it will soothe you and studies have shown massage can release endorphins which are otherwise known as one of the “happy” chemicals or the brain. The great thing about message is that you don’t have to schedule a formal message to obtain its benefits. You can have your partner rub your shoulders or back, or you can even give yourself a mini massage such as this scalp massage.
Meditation is a self-care champion. It helps you calm your mind – which is important during these hectic times, it puts you in touch with your inner self and it helps you to gain control over your emotions which helps to connect you to your fellow humans. If you find sitting down and quieting your mind difficult, consider guided meditation. It’s an easy way to dip your toes into the calming waters of meditation as you are guided through various scenarios such as walking on the beach or taking a cruise.
Mindfulness is a way of being. It means connection – connection to your body, connection to your mind, connection to the food that you eat, connection to the relationships you have with others. For instance, if you’re being mindful about something that you’re eating, you’re gonna concentrate on each bite – the flavor, texture, smell, taste – everything about that bite – be in the here and now. Mindfulness helps you to slo-o-o-ow down which isn’t always easy in today’s world.
Your mindset is one of the greatest tools in your self-care arsenal. There’s a quote that I like by Remez Sasson which states “Fill your mind with light, happiness, hope, feelings of security and strength, and soon your life will reflect these qualities.” It’s true. What you surround yourself with is what you become. Surrounding yourself with positive thoughts and keeping the right mindset can help you to continue your self-care routine even when the going gets tough. Use affirmations or quotes to help you with your mindset.
Much like reading, music has a way of transporting you to another place. If you’re engaging in self-care listening to relaxing music should be your go to. It can pump you up or it can mellow you out. You can use music to help you reminisce about the good times with family and friends as a way of increasing your gratitude and thereby increasing your self-care.
Whether you’re in the big city like me or someplace rural and remote, nature should play a big part in your self-care routine. Listening to the birds sing, breathing in fresh air, admiring the vibrant colors of a flower, feeling the sun on your skin, contemplating a tree – all of these connect you to something greater than yourself. So the next time you need to think something through, escape from life’s hectic pace or just want to enjoy yourself and relax – consider spending some time in nature.
No is a word that many people have a hard time saying. But you shouldn’t! There are so many demands on our time in this day and age, that being able to say no (as much as possible) to those activities (or people) that stress you out is a really important component for your piece of mind. I’ve always believed that saying “no” now, allows you to have the time to say “yes” later to those things that matter most to you.
The many components of self-care include taking care of your body and taking care of your mind. But let’s add another component – taking care of your space. It’s really difficult to relax and rejuvenate when you’re surrounded by clutter and chaos. Studies have shown that clutter can cause stress and vice versa.
Start small. Pick an area, set a timer for anywhere from 10-20 minutes and just start organizing.
Eventually, your home will become even more of a place of sanctuary which of course will increase your self-care. These same principles apply to your electronic clutter too. Consider organizing your computer files as well using the same strategy. The FlyLady has a lot more tips on how to get organized.
Furry babies! Or even scaly ones too. Whatever animal companion shares your life is the right one. Pets provide unwavering love and affection and spending time with them has shown to have a positive effect on one’s body by lowing blood pressure and on one’s mind by providing unconditional acceptance. Even something as simple as watching your fish swim around can have positive effect. If you don’t have a pet of your own, borrow a friend’s or consider volunteering at your local animal shelter so that you can still reap the rewards.
For those of you who don’t care for animals or are allergic – plants can be a wonderful addition to any self-care routine. Plants beautify your space and help cleanse the air which increases the serenity of your environment. If you’re like me and don’t have a green thumb, start with simple plants such as cactus, succulents or snake plants and schedule their watering days into your calendar so that you don’t forget.
All too often as adults we forget the lessons of our childhood. As we get older many of us get more serious and don’t make as much time for play. As part of a self-care routine, it’s important that we play. Play can be via hobbies, adult sports leagues, video games or just spending a joyful afternoon with your loved ones over a good meal. Whatever form it takes make sure to make time to recapture your childhood sense of wonderment through play.
Prayer keeps you connected to God and ultimately connects you to yourself. You can use prayer to help make major decisions, ask for grace for others or just have a conversation with your higher power. This can bring joy and comfort in good times and in bad which can contribute to your self-worth and self-care.
Making time to just be and experience silence (even if you hate the quiet) is important. It helps you think over things before talking them out with others if you have a major decision coming up, it prepares you to add meditation to your self-care regime, helps you to enjoy a good book and much more. If you’re not used to a lot of quiet time, start slowly. Find a favorite place in your home and just sit and contemplate for five minutes.
“Self-Care soothes the body, mind and soul.” Cassandra Martin-Himmons
Much like affirmations, motivational quotes can be a great addition to your self-care routine by helping you maintain a positive mindset. And having a positive mindset is a cornerstone of self-care. You can post your favorite quotes on your vision board or create posts for your social media accounts like Instagram or Facebook. Use them whenever you’re in need of a pick me up or to help you focus on those things that you want to accomplish.
Reading is one of my loves. There’s nothing like the anticipation of a new book. A story to take you away to another land, place in time or dimension. Reading can open your mind; help you gain knowledge & experiences and provides a platform to take you to wherever you want to be. Continued growth and development is a part of self-care that we should all get behind. Like they used to say, reading is fundamental!
When you reminisce, you think about days gone by especially if they were good times. Times that you spent laughing with family and friends, times spent eating a great meal that you didn’t want to end, time spent getting to know your first love or the fun that you had with relatives who’ve passed on. You can also reminisce about your past achievements to help you remember that you ARE a force to be reckoned with. Which ups your mental self-care game.
There are two ways that you can stretch yourself. One involves your body, while the other involves your mind. Stretching your body keeps you limber and in shape, which your future self will appreciate as it helps you keep your range of motion as you grow older.You can find a lot of free stretching routines at Darebee.
Stretching the mind helps you to develop into a better version of yourself. You try new things while working to remain open minded and non-judgmental. Increase your skillset, make new friends, read, write in your journal – whatever it is just keep going and use it to enhance your self-care practice.
I’m a tea kind of a gal. It’s tasty hot or iced and there are so many flavor combinations – it would take a lifetime to try them all. To me nothing is more soothing then a nice warm cup of tea – it’s comfort in a cup and helps to nurture you – which after all isn’t that what self-care is about? Check out this article by Twinings on how to brew a proper cup of tea.
Tai-Chi is a centuries old practice that consists of performing slow repetitive movements while focusing on your breath. Tai-Chi helps to reduce stress levels by decreasing blood pressure, increases flexibility, and helps one maintain balance. All of which increases your self-care. Watch these videos on WebMD that shows a beginner Tai-Chi routine.
A good self-care practice encompasses the body and the mind. Sometimes when things happen it can be an instinct to keep things to yourself. But if those feelings are negative, that’s not good. It’s important to let those feelings out. Whether with loved ones or a therapist it’s important to have someone that you can trust to talk things out with.
Tech disconnect! Nowadays many of us are tied at the hip to our smartphones and other devices. However, too much time spent in front of devices isn’t good. It can cause eye strain, fatigue (from staying up late at night 😊) and is very distracting – too much to see & do and not enough time. Consider doing a periodic tech disconnect where you take a specific amount of time to disengage from your devices – start with a day – either once a week or once a month. That way you’ll be able to engage in other self-care activities.
It’s important to take a break from your everyday life and a vacation is a great way of doing this. Now when I say vacation it doesn’t mean that you have to go to a fabulous location halfway around the world – although that is a great way to relax and rejuvenate if time and money allow. If not, think about a staycation. Get to know your city or town in a different way from the ordinary. Visit your tourist destinations if there are any, visit a restaurant that you haven’t been to before, walk a different route, the possibilities are endless.
Visualization should be a cornerstone component of your self-care routine. It’s a great tool to help keep you motivated when the going gets tough. For example – if exercising is on your self-care agenda, but you’re having a hard time getting started, consider having a visualization session each day where you visualize getting dressed in your exercise gear, doing your exercise routine, succeeding at doing that routine and what the end results will be when you exercise consistently for the next 30-60-90 days or however long you’ve allocated. Use these questions to help you with your visualizations:
Visualize - how do you feel while you’re engaging in your activity?
Think about - what does the environment look like when you’re involved in this activity?
As you visualize further - what do you hear?
And finally, what do you smell?
A vision board is a great way to visualize your self-care goals and motivate yourself to take daily action. Making it a powerful tool in your self-care practice. You can use a vision board to integrate new habits or routines into your self-care practice. Once you’ve created your vision board, make sure to look at it daily in order to help you achieve any self-care goals you’ve set for yourself.
Self-care is great, but despite what the name would suggest, self-care is not all about caring just for yourself, self-care can incorporate caring for others. And volunteering is a way to do that. I’ll let you in on a secret – when you volunteer to help others, you’re really helping yourself. You grow, learn new skills and connect with other people all of which increases your self-care.
Walking is one of the simplest and easiest ways to move your body. You can relax with a stroll or increase the intensity by speeding up your gait. Either way you’ll benefit. By strolling, you’ll be able to connect more with the environment that you’re walking in and you’ll physically feel more relaxed. By speed walking, you’ll have more focus on your breath, you’ll increase your endurance and release those happy endorphins to boot!
Water is life. You’ve probably heard that we’re approximately 60 % water, so it definitely should be one of the most important parts of your self-care routine. The Mayo Clinic has a great article regarding how you can calculate how much water you should drink each day while Camelbak has a really cool hydration calculator that you can try as well. Amazingly enough, there are some people who don’t like water (shocked emoji) if you can believe it! But have no fear, if you’re a person who doesn’t like the taste of water, there are still some things that you can do to ensure that you get all of your daily requirements.
Try eating foods with high water content – foods such as green leafy veggies, watermelon, celery, cantaloupe, or strawberries. In addition to eating those good for you foods, you could also try infused water. Infused water consists of water in which fruits, vegetables, herbs or other flavorings are added in order to enhance the experience of drinking water.
All Recipes has a wonderful article that talks about the basics of making flavorful infused water combinations and includes several recipes
As I’ve said before in this article, having a complete self-care regime means taking care of your body & your mind. Eating whole foods takes care of both at the same time. When you nourish your body with whole foods, your mind becomes nourished also which helps you to manage your stress before your stress manages you.
Strive to have complete nutrition at every meal. For examples on how to do this, go to myplate.gov, where you’ll find lots of healthy eating tips.
All work and no play… you know the rest! Work-Life balance may be a buzz term nowadays, but that’s because it’s important. In order to be a fully realized actualized person, you need to have balance. That means that to the extent possible, your work life should not intrude upon your personal life and vice versa.
The body and the mind need to have a period of rejuvenation otherwise they will begin to break down. So make time for play. This can be as simple as taking a lunch break and eating a nutritious meal or turning off your work phone or not looking at work related e-mails when you are off duty.
Cuddling, kissing or even more (!) can help you feel connected to your partner and releases feel good chemicals in the body and brain. Connection to another human being should be a very important part of your self-care routine.
Yoga is hot! And I’m not just talking about hot yoga. It’s extremely popular and with good reason. Depending on the type of yoga, it can get your heart rate up, it can relax you, it can increase your flexibility, it can help ground you and it can help you become more connected to yourself among other things. You don’t need much equipment and classes are everywhere, no wonder it’s hot!
Yoga Journal has a great article that explains the differences between several types of yoga so that you can pick the type that’s right for you.
Sleep is something that we all need and many of us don’t get enough of. Sleep is restorative and allows the body to repair itself so good sleep hygiene should be a major part of any self-care regimen. Start by calculating how many hours of sleep you need to feel at your best. Do you require the standard 8? How do you feel when you get one hour more? One hour less?
After you figure out what you need, turn your bedroom into a sanctuary by using linens, soothing wall colors, scents and music or a noise canceling machine. Once your bedroom is a sleep oasis, then it’s time to develop a bedtime routine. You can try going to bed around the same time each night, turning off your electronics at least one hour before bedtime, and develop a ritual that signals to your body that it’s time to go to sleep. Your ritual could be something like: taking a nice warm shower, getting into your pajamas and reading for ½ hour before you go to sleep; or anything that works for you.
Well, that's it an A to Z guide to self-care. There are so many ways that you can engage in self-care. It's just a matter of finding the activity that works best for you so that you'll stick with it.
Let's talk, tell me in the comments section what self-care activity do you do regularly? Is there anything on this list that you haven't done that you're gonna try?
Cassandra Martin-Himmons is a trainer, wellness coach and consultant who believes in empowering her clients and providing the tools that they need to make positive changes in their lives to manage their stress and increase their self-care. In her spare time, she enjoys papercrafting, volunteering and travel. Connect with her on Instagram or Linked/In