There is only one person who will always be there for you.
The person who spends every moment of your life with you – when you wake up, when you fall asleep, even when you dream. The one who is there for the highs and the lows. Never abandoning you. Knowing everything there is to know about you. In this sense, they are truly irreplaceable.
So, isn’t time that you became the hero of your own story? 🦸
There’s no one better place to care for you and meet your needs. Lately, this has become known as self-care.
But what exactly is self-care, and how do you do it? Is it just a matter of lighting a few candles to unwind or is there more to it? We’re here to answer all of your questions and help you decide what self-care means to you.
What is self-care
Self-care is exactly what it says – to care for yourself.
The concept is simple, but since self-care blew up in mainstream media, people have different ideas about what it looks like. Luckily, there doesn’t need to be one single answer – because everyone’s self-care needs are deeply personal. For a working mum of three, self-care might be a glass of wine with friends. But for a recovering alcoholic, that would be the opposite of self-care.
… And can self-care mean buying a rose-petal bath bomb, as influencers might have us believe?
Yes – if your love language is gifts to yourself, and you also adore piping-hot, Insta-worthy baths. Self-care doesn’t come in any one shape or size. It can be about treating yourself, soothing yourself, or even just preserving yourself through hard times. Acts of self-care can be big, small, silly, or deadly serious.
The point is that you decide what your self-care is.
A deceptively simple premise. But caring for yourself is no small task. It takes self-awareness, self-compassion, and the ability to set boundaries.
The first step is taking time to recognise your needs, so that you can meet them. This requires introspection and it’s not always easy. It can be painful to take a long hard look at our lives to find what isn’t working; surprising to realise all the ways we self-sabotage; tough to set new boundaries with ourselves and with others.
Uh-oh. We know. That doesn’t sound like the super-cute concept of self-care that you know and love. But it is worth it.
Why self-care is worth the hype
There’s a long list of reasons to practice authentic self-care. It benefits your general well-being, your mental health, your relationship with yourself and others, your work-life balance and your stress levels.
But wait, there’s more.
Practising self-care is empowering. You establish yourself as being the CEO of your own happiness.
You take the red pill and realise that you – and only you – are responsible for giving yourself what you need. Not only does this release your closest loved ones from an unspoken burden of care, but it gives you the confidence that you can support yourself through anything in life. It’s a sometimes-scary leap that brings you closer to your truth.
That said, self-care isn’t about being selfish or disconnecting from others. If anything, it brings us closer. You no longer reach out to others just for your needs to be met; you reach out for genuine connection. Plus, if you top up your energy reserves and feel good about yourself, then you can transfer that to other people.
Self-care isn’t just a nice-to-have; it’s a need-to-have if you want to live a fulfilled and balanced life.
Things to do for self-care
So, how do you practice self-care? At the risk of sounding like a broken record, we’ll say it again: The answer is different for everyone.
Still, you need somewhere to start, right?!
So, we’ve put together a (by no means extensive) list of self-care ideas. Consider it a pack of thought-starters; a launching pad to help you build your self-care routine. 🚀
A balanced approach to self-care considers your mind, your body, and your environment. The holy trinity of feeling good.
Some of these self-care needs are basic; drink water, eat, sleep enough, yadda yadda. Others are complex and nuanced. Just like you.
You might even read through the list and occasionally think “that’s the exact opposite of what makes me feel good.” And that’s okay. We’ll say it again – self-care is about being the CEO of your happiness. If you struggle to identify what makes you feel good, then fast forward to the section at the end on ‘testing your self-care responses’.
Self-care for your body 🤸
When we say self-care for your body, we don’t mean that these tips will only help you feel physically good. The mind-body connection is powerful, and so naturally, what makes your body feel better will positively influence your mind, and vice versa.
There’s even a school of thought that says your body stores negative emotions and memories. To release those negative feelings, we have to experience and resolve them on a physical level too – this is called somatic therapy.
For most of us, as soon as the pressure dial cranks up, our physical needs are the first thing we sacrifice. We skip meals to make extra time, we swap sleep for stress, we put off exercising, and soon we’re on a fast-track to feeling crummy. All at the exact moment our bodies need extra support to combat elevated cortisol and adrenaline.
Taking care of your body is a good place to start.
How to check in with your body
How do you know if your body needs self-care? 🤔
Although self-care looks different for everyone, humans have universal needs. If you aren’t eating regularly, sleeping your normal/desired amount, or drinking at least a few glasses of water a day, then those are worth incorporating into your self-care routine.
Other signs your body needs extra TLC include*:
- Waking up tired
- Headaches or tension
- Aches and pains
- Feeling sluggish
- Overeating or cravings
- Loss of appetite
- Trouble sleeping
- Feeling unclean or unfit
If that sounds familiar, read on for our tips on taking care of your body.
*You should always seek medical advice for unexplained changes in your body and self-care isn’t a substitute for medical guidance.
Top up the sleep bank
You don’t need us to tell you that getting enough sleep can radically improve your state of mind and emotional resilience. What you might not know is that a little goes a long way.
Even just getting an extra 60-90 minutes of sleep can be the difference between an overwhelming day and a manageable one.
But how to cash in an extra hour of Zzz’s? Try these tips:
- Be more consistent in your sleep schedule
- Exercise during the day to burn energy
- Avoid caffeine after midday
- Reduce screen time in the evenings
With a little perseverance, sleeping an extra hour is more achievable than you think. But if you’re in the 50% of people who are sleep-challenged, you should check out our complete guide to sleeping better.
“You are what you eat,” is a phrase that was sadly wasted on diet culture, because there was a gem of insight hidden inside. The embedded wisdom is that our food choices are important and personal.
But perhaps it would have been more helpful to say, “eat for who you are”.
Eating for who you are is about choosing food that is right for you. Food that nourishes you, strengthens you, or just gives you the yummy, happy, wholesome vibes. You’ll notice we’re not talking about eating healthy or eating certain foods. Instead, we encourage you to eat thoughtfully.
You could ask yourself:
- What do I need from this meal?
- Am I providing my body with enough fuel for the day?
- Do I eat regularly and consistently?
- How does food affect my mood?
- How do I usually feel after I eat X, Y, Z and why?
- Which foods make me feel bloated, tired, jittery, nauseous, or guilty?
- Which foods make me feel full, strong, energised, comforted, or happy?
- How can I find ways to feel good about what I eat? Is it about the timing, the amount, or my relationship with the food?
Food should meet your needs in one way or another. As the CEO of your own happiness, you get to decide what those needs should be.
Freaky fact: we’re more parts water than human. Around 65%, give or take.
According to ThoughtCo, we start to feel thirsty by time we’ve already lost 2-3% of our body water weight. That’s scary when you discover that our mental and physical coordination starts to decline after losing just 1%.
But you might still wonder whether drinking more water does anything for you, except increasing your bathroom breaks…
We’re here to tell you that staying hydrated is vital for a bunch of functions:
⚡ Boosts energy levels
🩸 Promotes blood flow
🧽 Flushes out toxins
💭 Improves concentration
🧠 Prevents headaches
🚽 Relieves constipation
😋 Increases metabolism
🦴 Promotes healthy joints
💦 Rehydrates skin
Most people need to drink around 6-8 glasses of water a day to stay hydrated.
If that’s a struggle, you could try setting a phone alarm to remind you to drink more often, or add some berries, cucumber, or lemon to your water to make it taste better. You can even get a water bottle with timings on it to keep track of your drinking. And if you really hate water, then tea or sugar-free drinks are better than nothing. You can also hydrate by eating foods with a high-water content like popsicles, smoothies, watermelon, cucumber, or soup. Avoid dehydrating food and drinks too; these include salty snacks, alcohol, or caffeine.
In a popular self-care interactive quiz, one of the questions is,
“Does your body feel uncomfortable, sweaty, or dirty?”
That’s because hygiene is important for your health and self-confidence. It’s a subtle wellness trigger; when you have that creeping feeling of grossness, lethargy, or discomfort, you can often rinse it down the drain with a shower and a change of clothes.
Instagram creative and occupational therapist Hannah Daisy reminds us that self-care isn’t always glamorous, luxurious, or special; especially for people who are disabled or have mental health conditions. She coins it ‘boring self-care’, highlighting the importance of having a self-care routine that meets you where you are.
So-called boring self-care can include:
- Brushing your teeth
- Taking a shower
- Putting on clean clothes
- Washing your face
- Changing bedsheets
And sure, why not play into the ultimate self-care cliché and have a candle-lit bath. Or if you’re more of a get-up-and-go person, some people swear by showering in icy temperatures, which can release endorphins.
Get your bod moving
Movement is great for your body and mind, but it doesn’t have to be long, difficult, or boring. Here are some of our favourite ideas for incorporating daily activity into your self-care routine:
- Follow a fun YouTube tutorial (there’s one for literally everything; from dancing, to yoga to kickboxing, to anything in between)
- Put a podcast on and go for a stroll
- Put some music on and have a dance
- Combine jogging with errands, like going to the supermarket
- Turn work meetings into walking meetings
- Cycle or walk to work
Regular movement releases endorphins, can ease aches and pains, and helps with stress and anxiety. The key is to start little and often until you find your mojo.
Try a soothing massage
Here we come back to our chat on the mind-body connection. Stress can cause a lot of tension in the body, which feeds back into an unhappy state of mind. Massage and stretching are tools almost as old as humankind, used to treat ailments, ease discomfort, and relax.
Though a professional massage would, of course, be divine, the good news is that you can do it for yourself at home anytime.
Check in with your body when you’re feeling tired, achy or stressed:
- Give those shoulders a rub
- Peel off your socks and massage your feet
- Try rolling a tennis ball under your feet to massage your arches
- Lie on the floor with a rolled-up towel under your spine to help open the chest area – so good if you work at a computer
- Massage hand lotion into your palms for a dreamy relief from scrolling
- Try a gentle stomach massage to ease bloating and anxiety
It should feel good – so focus on areas that you enjoy and find a pressure that works for you. YouTube is full of self-massage tutorials if you’re stuck for ideas.
Self-care for the mind 🧠
This is what most people think of as self-care. It seems a little simple. Yet, dig deeper and it’s clear we all face barriers to doing what makes us happy.
Sometimes it’s because we’re not sure what makes us happy. We seek out short-term fixes that come back to bite us later. Often, we run out of time as our responsibilities pile up. And occasionally, we technically do the things that make us happy, but we forget to be present – going through the motions and missing out on the full enjoyment.
When was the last time you did something just for yourself and let yourself savour it with your whole heart? Without distractions, rumination, or worry?
If you’re not sure, then start scheduling personal happiness activities to elevate the joy in your life.
Mindfulness is how we can bring clarity and slowness back into a life spent in perpetual motion.
Deep, we know. 🦉
It’s all about learning how to focus your thoughts and mind. Mindful.org explains mindfulness as, “the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us”.
To develop mindfulness, you have to practice – typically through meditation. You can try apps such as Headspace to guide you along. But meditation isn’t the only way to practice – mindfulness can be tied into lots of different things, such as cleaning, listening to music and even walking.
Mindfulness or meditation might not stand out as a relaxing or enjoyable thing to do, at least at first. “Isn’t it boring?” You might wonder, or even “I can’t do this, what’s the point?”.
Think of mindfulness as something to help future-you. Every time you practice, you strengthen your power over your mind – which we all know can be a scary beast at times. Future-you deserves a place in your self-care routine, and we’ve got a whole section on it towards the end.
Take a break from the Internet
Scientists found that after just three days stranded in a desert without technology, people’s posture improved, they slept better, and they had better conversations.
Luckily, you don’t have to fly to the Sahara for a little digital detox.
Spending less time online and taking regular screen breaks can do wonders for your physical and mental health. It can be tough when it feels like all the fun stuff is online these days, but we promise there’s a whole world just waiting for you beyond the screen.
You can introduce micro-moments of self-care into your day to cut down your screen time:
- Write more stuff down on paper
- Do more voice notes
- Try an app that can read your emails to you
- Put screens away during mealtimes
- Don’t take your phone to the bathroom
- Dial down your screen time in the evening
If you’re serious about cleansing from your device, we’ve got a whole guide on starting your digital detox.
Do ‘reflection and resolution’ sessions
When was the last time you sat down with yourself and looked your problems in the eye?
We all have things that bother us. Unresolved worries, sadness or hurt that eat away at our peace of mind. Working through them is an act of self-care.
It’s called reflection and resolution. You set aside time to identify your stressors and niggles, coming up with proactive solutions. You could focus on practical or emotional challenges. Here are some ideas:
- Reflecting on your mood and emotions to identify patterns or triggers
- Identifying unresolved conflicts or sources of tension in your life,
and figuring out how to work through them (or let them go)
- Troubleshooting your schedule to make improvements
- Reflecting on how fulfilled you feel by different areas of your life; finances, health, emotions, personal growth, intimate relationships, social life, family, work and career, and community
- Considering your achievements, ambitions, and values, and setting structured goals to keep you moving forward
- Working through difficult emotions by journaling
Taking time to do an emotional health check means you’re less likely to become overwhelmed and blind sighted. Finding ways to resolve feelings or situations is what makes self-reflection a positive and productive process.
Cultivate daily gratitude
The human mind tends to focus on the negatives, which skews our perspective on life.
Having a daily gratitude practice is a way to recognise and appreciate all the good things and blessings we have. And when something good happens, it shifts us from thinking “I hope it lasts”, to “I’m grateful that it’s like this now”. It helps us to accept the things that we cannot change and embrace the changes that we can make.
Is the sun shining? Has something small happened today that you can be grateful for? Who are you glad to have in your life?
You could even turn your gratitude into post-it notes around the house with positive affirmations.
Sometimes it can be difficult to reframe your thinking, especially if you are struggling with your mental health. Don’t be afraid to seek out help if you are struggling. We also have a guide to help too.
Speak to a therapist
Mindfulness and self-care are great for your well-being, but sometimes we need extra help. A therapist can help you to manage difficult thoughts, situations, and give you tools to better manage your problems.
Therapists aren’t there to solve your problems, but everyone can benefit from having a supportive space to talk things over. If you don’t have access to a therapist, then consider the next idea on the list instead.
Connect with others
Social interaction can have a huge impact on your well-being, even if you’re an introvert. When you’re struggling, it’s tempting to keep people at arm’s length – but there are lots of benefits to connecting with people who make you feel good. 💑
Being with the ones we like or love prompts the release of feel-good hormones, including endorphins, oxytocin, serotonin, and dopamine. They reduce stress levels and improve our mood. We also release oxytocin when we do things to help others, which serves as a great way to build empathy and take our minds off our own troubles.
How you socialise is ultimately up to you. You don’t have to go out and drink with friends to have a good social life. You may just want to spend a little bit of time with your family and friends, go for a walk with a loved one, or pick up the phone for a chat.
Self-care for your environment 🏡💖
Once you’re looking out for your body and your mind, you could expand your self-care to include the spaces around you.
During the lockdowns, many people working from home began to notice the profound effect their environment had on their mental health. The space we’re in and our access to the outdoors can subtly trigger different moods.
Taking care of your space needn’t be expensive or difficult. And no, it’s not all about houseplants – though the urban jungle trend is totally still cute. 🌿 Sometimes all that is needed is a small adjustment to make your body comfortable, such as the temperature or light level.
Read on to find out how to do a health check on your environment and start introducing positive changes for your self-care.
Do an environment health check
An environment health check is when you take stock of your surroundings and consider how they make you feel.
Think about three spaces you spend the most time in. Ask yourself:
- How much natural light is there? ☀️
- What items or objects are in the space? Are they things that I use regularly or that bring me joy? 💖
- Is it cluttered? How easily can I find things? 🔍
- Is it comfortable? If I spend lots of time sitting, does the furniture allow good posture?
- Is it too hot, too cold, stuffy, or damp? 🌡️
- What distractions are there? 👁️👁️
- Is there anything inconvenient about the space that I could improve?
- How do I feel when I’m in this space?
- Do I want this space to be cosy, productive, or energising? ❤️🔥
Once you’ve carried out a health check on your space, you’ll have a better about which of the following idea will help.
They say a cluttered space is a cluttered mind.
Perhaps that’s why cleaning your space can help to reduce stress and anxiety levels, help you to gather your thoughts more easily, and make you more productive, peaceful, or inspired.
You don’t need to completely clean your entire house right now though. Simple changes can make a huge difference. This can be as easy as choosing a sneaky space to stash clutter in your room or reorganising your storage areas.
Increase natural light
Why do those sunny days feel so good, even if we’re not outside?
Natural light affects our feel-good hormones, our sleep, and helps us produce that all-important vitamin D. Countries further from the equator tend to get much less sunlight during winter and people there can become vitamin D deficient.
Here’s how you can bring natural light into your life the year-round:
☀️ Open all the curtains first thing in the morning
☀️ Move your desk close to a window
☀️ Clean your windows regularly to remove grime and dirt
☀️ Move any large objects in front of your windows
☀️ Prune back trees or foliage blocking sunlight into your house
☀️ Head out for a walk every day (without sunglasses!)
☀️ Buy a special lamp that emits bright light
The other thing to consider is reducing your exposure to blue light, especially in the evening. Buying warm coloured bulbs will not only make your space cosier, but you may sleep better too.
Get some house plants
We know we said it wasn’t all about the plants. But come on, who doesn’t love some gorgeous indoor foliage? 🌱
They look fantastic, but that’s not the only benefit. Some people find that having something to care for – even if it’s just a plant friend – can help their mental health. You get a sense of achievement every time you look at this cute little creature you’ve kept alive. Plus, they filter carbon dioxide out of the air and several species have super-purifying powers.
Optimise the temperature
The temperature of our environment affects our circadian rhythm, our concentration, and our physical comfort.
Scientists say that between 21 – 23 °C is the optimum temperature for working. It’s also known that a slightly cooler temperature in the evening can trigger sleepiness.
Don’t forget to consider central heating, which can cause headaches and dry skin. Wearing warmer clothes may be a gentler alternative to staying cosy throughout the day.
Enhance the ambience
How can you make your environment more relaxing? The above advice will help, but there’s much more to having a pleasant space:
- Consider the psychology of colour when decorating
- Have multiple low lighting instead of a single overhead source
- Introduce more soft furnishings around, like blankets and cushions
- Try an essential oil diffuser for some relaxing aromatherapy
- Have objects around that bring you joy or have personal meaning
Ultimately, your space should be somewhere you like being. Design it to cater for your needs and you’ll soon be rewarded by a home that feels like your special place of refuge in the world. 🦦
Self-care for future-you
While lots of acts of self-care have immediate positive influences, we shouldn’t overlook the long-term. If you’re only looking after yourself in the present moment, then who is thinking about future-you?
Gyan Yankovich from Repeller Magazine writes “To me, self-care means doing all the things I used to leave for future me to worry about (paying bills, sewing missing buttons back on, going to the dentist) as soon as they need to be done.”
This simple mind-hack means that you free up cognitive and literal space so that your future self has more time to enjoy life. The only challenge left is to make sure future-you grabs onto that extra time and uses it for good.
Take care of finances
One of the fastest ways for stress to build up is by letting your finances slip. If you tend to overspend, miss bills, or forget to set taxes aside, then it’s time you took a proactive stance on your finances.
Set aside time to get a real overview of your in-goings and out-goings. Plan for the future and agree how much you’ll spend. Set standing orders for your recurring bills so you don’t have to remember each month. Make sure you have something stashed away for unforeseen circumstances.
Say goodbye to niggling worries about money, knowing that everything is covered for future-you. 💸💸💸
Reset your spaces
Resetting a space means leaving it how you found it – or how you’d want to find it; clean, tidy, and ready to use.
There’s nothing better than coming home to a clean apartment after a holiday or waking up to a tidy kitchen in the morning. It’s like a present for yourself. Plus, tidying up takes much less time when you do it little and often. Instead of leaving mess to pile up, you simply take a few minutes to reset each space before you leave it.
Look at your diary for the week and take something out.
Whether it’s one too many social arrangements, a working meeting foolishly scheduled after a dentist appointment, or an exercise class you know you won’t make – we always overfill our diaries. It leaves us feeling burnt out, tight for time, and guilty. We need to factor more downtime into our busy lives. ⬇️⏰
De-schedule one activity for the week and future-you will be grateful.
Doesn’t future-you want an ample supply of healthy, tasty meals?
Sure, right now you might prefer to spend your Sunday afternoon on the sofa. But when future-you is doing a Starbucks lunch run for the third time next week, your wallet and your stomach won’t be thanking you.
And if you think meal prep means eating cold pasta for five days, check out this mouth-watering list of ideas from Bon Appetite. 🥙🍱🥯
Schedule self-care appointments
Last, but by no means least, the best way to care for future-you is to make self-care a regular deal.
Set aside time in your life to look after your mind, body, and environment, and stick to it. Through consistency and commitment, you can take your life into your own hands and make it work for you.
Testing your self-care responses
All our recommended tips are here to be tested in the lab of your own life. 🧑🔬
Self-care is all about personalisation, so the most important thing is to know what actually works for you. But as we mentioned earlier, some people find it challenging to know what makes them feel good.
If that’s so, then you should test out your responses to self-care. A great way to do this is to keep a mood journal. Here’s how:
- Divide each day into morning, afternoon, and evening. Make a quick note of how you feel, choosing as many as you like from the following words: Happy, sad, excited, stressed, energised, lonely, anxious, content, relaxed, achy, tired, hungry, thirsty, cold, hot
- Note down what you were doing at the time, or just before. See if you can notice any pattern or triggers in your mood.
- Start introducing relevant self-care activities into your day. For example, if you often feel stressed at the end of the workday, schedule in some exercise or a personal happiness activity right after work.
- Monitor your mood to see how your self-care affects it and make changes accordingly.
You’ll also notice that throughout this guide, we’ve included prompts to help you identify how your self-care makes you feel, such as in the environment or eating sections. You may find it helpful to review these when tracking your self-care responses.
There’s no one more important than you.
Even if you love your friends and family more than yourself, you have to fill up your own cup before you can pour into theirs. We do this through self-care.
Self-care is deeply personal and differs for everyone. It doesn’t need to be complicated, and your self-care routine can be whatever you want it to be. Remember, it’s a journey, not destination. Take time to figure out what works for you.
We can promise you one thing – stick with it, and you’ll be happy you did.