Peruse the internet long enough, and you’re bound to run into another article touting the importance of self-care. While we’re all for the concept, we’ve noticed that a lot of these articles seem a little…flimsy. They promote the idea of taking a long bubble bath after work but rarely go deeper than that or discuss different types of self-care.
Plus, they can sometimes make you feel like self-care is just one more thing you should be doing at the end of another busy day.
We’re here to debunk the notion that taking care of yourself has to look or feel a certain kind of way. In fact, we want to give you some tips on how to practice self-care on an ongoing basis so you’re creating a life that feels good to you—one that doesn’t make you feel like you need to “earn” a bubble bath or a nice glass of wine, but one that helps identify what you need and how to find peace moment-to-moment.
Sound appealing? Let’s explore how to practice self-care, different types of self-care and what feels right for you.
4 Types Of Meaningful Self-Care
If you want to know how to practice self-care so it feels meaningful and enriching, we’ve got you covered. After all, we’ve struggled with trying to achieve balance, perfection, and all those other buzzwords that somehow end up making you feel badly, too. So here’s what we’ve come up with: use these practices to create a life that takes care of you inherently—not one you have to escape from to find a tiny bit of respite.
1. Mental Self-Care
Mental self-care is the first type of self-care we are discussing. Learn how to edit your thoughts, pay attention to your future self, and be selective with social media.
Edit Your Thoughts
There’s a Buddhist saying that goes “your worst enemy cannot harm you as much as your own, unguarded thoughts.” Unsupervised, our minds can drag us down some pretty nasty roads. Repetitive thoughts can make us spiral into believing we’re not good enough, don’t deserve happiness, or that people are angry with us when they actually had that look on their faces because they couldn’t remember if they left the stove on.
To avoid projecting your feelings and spiraling into negative thoughts, you need to edit your mental chatter. Thoughts come and go but you get to choose how you feel about them. Listen to what your brain has to say, but then choose to interpret your thoughts so they benefit your whole self. This is one of the best practices you can employ to take care of your mental health on a daily basis.
Do Things Your Future Self Will Thank You For
We all have immediate wants and needs. Sometimes we really want a chocolate chip cookie or to curl up with a good book. Certainly, occasional indulgences and quiet time qualify as self-care. But other times we have to assess not just our immediate needs (what our present self wants) but what our future self wants.
Your present self may not want to wake up at 5:30 to go to spin class, but your future self (even 2pm you!) will have more energy, and be better able to take care of yourself if you’ve sweat out some stress before heading into a full day of meetings.
Take care of present you, but remember there’s a future you, too—and listen to what she’s asking of you—even if it’s something hard.
Be Selective On Social Media
You don’t need to turn off your phone and go radio silent for a week to take care of your mental health amidst the crazy world of social media. There are more practical ways to approach the world of Instagram perfection.
First, remember that everyone is presenting their highlight reel on social media—not the unedited, uncensored version of their life, which we guarantee includes just as many sleepless nights, dirty dishes, and moments of confusion as yours does.
Next, stop following people that make you feel bad! If your feed is full of supermodels who claim that dark chocolate is a vice (ha!) or opinionated people from your past that aren’t even in your life anymore, of course, logging on is going to feel like a psychological minefield. Follow people that make you feel good; select accounts that are body positive and closer to what real life looks like. It will help you remember that the pressure to be the perfect woman is holding you back from being something better: the amazing real woman you are.
2. Social Self-Care
Social self-care is the next type of self-care we’re discussing. Relationships make up a big part of our lives, whether it be romantic relationships, work relations or family. Learn how you can take care of yourself by having difficult conversations and holding yourself accountable.
Be Willing To Have Difficult Discussions
Are you constantly avoiding conflict or having a difficult conversation with someone because the thought of it makes you uncomfortable? We’ve been there. But sometimes being open, honest, and authentic with someone—even if it’s messy—is the only way to stay true to yourself, your boundaries, and what you want out of life.
Try to address interpersonal problems as they arise; don’t wait for resentment to breed over weeks (or years!) with someone before exploding. If someone does something that hurts you, address how you feel in a calm manner and in the moment. It’s okay to be assertive and communicate your feelings with someone—in fact, it’s the only way to have honest, respect-based relationships.
Hold Yourself Accountable
Yes, we all want to cancel plans sometimes when we’d rather stay home in our sweats than get dolled up to go out, but following through with plans and being a dependable person can actually contribute to your self-esteem.
The trick is to identify which plans you tend to dread. Is there one friend who you hang out with who always dominates the conversation and complains, never asking how you are? Is there someone who makes you feel badly about yourself, or an ex-boyfriend who tries to take up a lot of your time?
Evaluate which relationships have been the most equal in the long run (knowing that of course things will ebb and flow) and which relationships consistently drain you. Show up for those who show up for you and hold yourself accountable for the people you love.
3. Emotional Self-Care
Emotional self-care is our third type. Taking care of your emotions is critical so they don’t blow up disproportionally. Our body is feeling some type of way – let’s acknowledge and take care of it!
Be Honest With Yourself
So often, we simply go through the motions of our day-to-day life—even those purported moments of “self-care”—instead of actually experiencing them. We’re on auto-pilot at our jobs, and when we get home, trying to relax can feel robotic or forced, too.
It pays to get very still sometimes and listen to that authentic, honest voice within. Where are you experiencing tension in your body today? What has been on your mind that you’ve tried to push away? Process your emotions, release your body through yoga, meditation, or stretching, and save enough space in your day to be truly honest with yourself about what you’re experiencing and what you need.
Through this exercise you might realize you need to shut your phone off and not talk to anyone for a day; or you might realize you really need to call a friend and connect with someone. Maybe you get an “aha” moment to finally sign up for that marathon you’ve been thinking about because you want to do something that pushes you to feel strong and confident.
You might remember how much you liked to paint when you were younger and how soothing it felt. Whip out that paintbrush and get back in touch with that feeling. We can only truly identify how best to take care of ourselves if we are honest with ourselves.
4. Physical Self-Care
Most of what we hear about in the world of self-care is really about pampering yourself. Take a hot bath with some good-smelling salts, place cucumber slices on your eyes, try a new face mask etc. And sometimes that’s really what you need!
After a long, stressful day at work or a difficult season of taking care of elderly parents or young children, your body truly just needs some time to relax. If you’re constantly on the go or dealing with stress, make tonight the night you set aside some time for restoration for your body.
And don’t forget about things like stretching and foam rolling for the stress you’re muscles are holding onto.
On the other side of the spectrum, self-care can also mean pushing your body physically. Almost any form of physical activity can help reduce stress. Instead of taking a long bath, maybe your preferred method of self-care is going for a long walk outside or hopping on the treadmill and sweating the day away.
We have found that in most sedentary periods of our life, due to injury or sickness, our stress and anxiety only increase. Having a physical outlet, whether high-impact or low-impact can absolutely be a form of self-care. In fact, it’s one of our favorites!
Accept Being Beautifully Un-Balanced
We throw around the word “balance” just as often as we do “self-care.” But guess what: sometimes life has to be unbalanced. There are some chapters of your life where balance will not be attainable, and instead of beating yourself up for it, you can surrender to the messiness of the moment.
Motherhood? Not a chapter of your life that’s always going to allow for balance. Caring for an ailing family member? Pushing through a difficult moment in your career? Juggling a divorce and the demands of raising kids by yourself? Sometimes in life we can’t live a perfectly balanced life filled with morning yoga and an enlightened attitude. Sometimes life gets hard and we have to hustle; we have to put in late nights and early mornings and cry in our car. That is life: and just because your life isn’t in complete harmony at a given moment doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you.
In the end, getting into your PJs and snuggling up to a movie marathon may absolutely be the self-care you need sometimes.
But other times, it’s making hard decisions, setting boundaries, and taking time to really listen to what your heart and soul need to stay happy and whole in the long run. The road to taking care of yourself might include some hard work, sweat and tears. But that’s okay. Because while buzzwords and catchphrases come and go, prioritizing your mental, physical, and spiritual well-being should never go out of style.