How to Start to Self-Care: Six Simple and Effective Tips to Start Your Best Self-Care Plan
At some point, you’ve probably heard how essential it is to self-care to have a happy, balanced and fulfilling life but, while this is a popular message, it’s often less clear how to start to self-care when you don’t have a practice. I have compiled a list of tips, and strategies, to create your best self-care plan. Whether you are completely new to self-care, or are just looking to refine your practice, this ultimate beginner’s guide to self-care will have strategies to support you.
Before I dive in, I want to highlight why self-care is so important. Of course, if we practice self-care, we will immediately feel more emotionally balanced, and refreshed. This sense of emotional well-being will allow us to have more energy, and ease, throughout our day allowing us to be present to our lives and loved ones. A self-care practice also reduces resentment, and thereby, conflict in our relationships.
A self-care practice has even greater gifts too especially if you can relate to any of these feelings:
- Do you ever struggle with knowing who you are or feeling like you lost yourself?
- Do you ever feel like you don’t like, or even hate, yourself?
- Do you ever get annoyed when people talk about self-love, or needing to love yourself first before you can love someone else, because you have no idea how to do this?
- Do you sometimes feel like you shouldn’t speak up, or let others know your needs or wants, because you are just lucky that they put up with you in the first place?
- Do you ever engage in unhealthy activities (binge drinking, unprotected sex, restricting how much you eat, over-exercising, gambling, etc.) that make you feel embarrassed, humiliated or disappointed in yourself?
If you answered yes to any of these, you may be struggling with codependency. In this experience, you likely feel less than others, or not good enough, a lot of the time. If this is true for you, a self-care practice will be dramatically life-changing. After all, when we feel not good enough, the common urge is to either neglect ourselves and focus our energy and time trying to win others’ approval, or we may even actively harm ourselves with unhealthy activities. Unfortunately, when we neglect, or actively harm ourselves, we will only feel further disconnected from ourselves. This reinforces not knowing who we are and of course, reduces our sense of self-love and self-respect which facilitates this painful cycle. And without a conscious, self-care practice, we may be able to interrupt this painful cycle from time to time for example by going on a cleanse, or hiding our phones to not doom scroll for hours, but we ultimately will return to our unhealthy practices.
A self-care plan, and routine, will begin to truly interrupt our unhealthy routines. We will be showing ourselves more kindness so ultimately, we will learn to love ourselves by sticking with a self-care plan. Finally, this will break the painful codependent cycle once and for all, because when we love ourselves, we stop exhausting ourselves for others’ validation or approval.
How to Start to Self-Care
In order to kickstart your best self-care plan, you should start small and simple. One of the biggest mistakes I see people make when it comes to starting self-care is being overly ambitious. For example, they may commit to eliminating dairy from their diet, exercising every day, and meditating every evening. This is a wonderful advanced plan for self-care. This is for someone who understands how to structure most of their days to accommodate this, while, also having a healthy sense of self-compassion and self-esteem to accept there are days that it’s a success to just wash our face so they won’t beat themselves up if they don’t follow through on their advanced plan at times.
When beginning to self-care we want to start small and build from there. We want to honor that every little bit counts. I believe the best plan is to pick one small thing you want to do for yourself daily and then build a habit around this for two, or three, weeks. Once this feels more natural then add in another small but loving activity for yourself. Follow the same method until you find three to five things that you can do every day for yourself that help you feel better. These should still be simple activities; not time consuming or expensive ones so that your plan is sustainable.
Beginner’s Self-Care Tip One: Pick one small thing that you would like to do every day; maybe it’s something in the morning or night, and start to do this. For example, maybe you decide that every night, you will wash off your makeup before bed or, you decide to take an actual lunch break every work day. Start here. Once you feel successful with your small self-care step, they you can add to it over time. For example, once you regularly honor your lunch break for at least two or three weeks, then perhaps you add to this self-care by choosing to eat a healthy meal for lunch every day.
The Most Effective Way to Start to Self-Care
The best place to begin a self-care practice is with your basic physical needs: sleep, water, and food. I deeply believe this both due to my personal recovery from codependency and depression, as well as my work with therapy and coaching clients over the years. Our physical body is the foundation for our emotional stability. After all, when we are tired, we overeat which can be both physically and emotionally uncomfortable. When we are tired, our partners are more likely to feel underappreciated as well. A sense of being underappreciated may then lead to marital conflict (truly, I see it all the time in couple’s therapy). In regards to hydration, a study found that even slight dehydration leads to moodiness and fatigue in women. Fatigue, can then of course, reinforce appetite and relationship issues as already addressed. Finally, if we eat too much sugar, it may appear we are depressed, or anxious when it’s just an imbalanced diet.
Beginner’s Self-Care Tip Two: Pick one small change you would like to make in regards to your sleep, diet, or hydration. Begin to implement this. For example, you may decide to stay hydrated so you calculate how much water you truly need (.5 ounce to ounce per pound you weigh) and make a commitment to drink these many glasses a day.
Self-Care is Planned
It’s important to plan your self-care. A self-care practice is actually a self-care routine. You want to schedule the self-care activities which fortify our physical, and emotional, needs on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. Some examples of this are scheduling your nights so you go to bed early enough to wake up rested, taking a bath once a week, or scheduling a monthly Zoom with your best friend. It’s essential to schedule this for two reasons. First, your life is probably quite busy so if it’s not scheduled it’s easy to put off your needs for “tomorrow” and, if you don’t feel good enough, you probably won’t do it if it’s not scheduled because you feel guilty taking time for you.
Beginner’s Self-Care Tip Three: Schedule your self-care in your planner, or the calendar on your phone. It may feel odd at first but this is a step that people often want to overlook, because it seems so simple, but then, they notice it’s not happening as regularly as they’d like. You want to actually write it down until it becomes a habit.
Beginner’s Self-Care Tip Four: Begin to track what’s working, and what’s not working about your new self-care plan to either change the activity you committed to as it may not be the right time for it, or to plan around your barriers. For example, if you have children, you may want to work out in the mornings but notice you aren’t because mornings are so busy but may notice that the best time for you to work out is once they’ve gone to bed. Or, you may find, it’s hard to keep filling the glasses you need to stay hydrated so you choose to buy a water bottle that’s big enough for half of your day’s water needs.
Self-Care Needs to Be Flexible Yet Consistent
Some days we aren’t going to sleep well, or unexpected events will come up interrupting our self-care routine. That’s going to happen with even the best self-care schedule in place. However, a true self-care practice must be consistent. On days that you have too much going on, or don’t feel energized enough to commit to your full plan, still choose to do at least one nice thing for yourself.
Beginner’s Self-Care Tip Five: Some days you may be overwhelmed, or even upset with yourself, and want to avoid self-care. This is the time that you have to fight your urge to do nothing, and still do something small for yourself. For example, perhaps you have to commitment to meditate every day but you don’t have time for this but you notice you can still be mindful and take four deep breaths before bed. You do that instead.
Your Self-Care Needs to Be Authentic, Relaxing and Fun
When we want others’ approval, we may judge our personal self-care plan. It’s important that your self-care plan is based on your personal values, needs, and schedule. If you are doing something “nice” for yourself just to post a pretty picture to Instagram in the hopes of likes, then it’s not true self-care. When you do something “for yourself” that’s actually for approval, validation or to impress someone else that’s not true self-care. Self-care is something that you find relaxing, and/or fun, regardless of what other people may think.
Beginner’s Self-Care Tip Six: You may not be as new to self-care as it seems. There are probably already things you do for yourself that are caring, and enjoyable, just maybe it hasn’t been very consistent yet. Think about a passion of yours that you either infrequently do, or stopped doing, or an activity you want to try that seems relaxing or fun and schedule in a time in the next month to do this. For example, maybe you love painting but have stopped since you started dating your current boyfriend. Make a plan to either take out, or buy, some paint supplies and block a couple hours for this.
Congratulations – by reading this article you have already started to self-care! From here, you should be ready to implement these beginner’s tip to create your best self-care plan and routine. I cannot wait to hear what you choose to do for yourself that’s kind, and how this process goes for you. I’m so excited for you to show yourself the love and care you truly deserve.