by Mateo Sol
No matter who you are, what you’ve done or what stage of life you’re at, there’s ONE thing you absolutely must incorporate into your life. And that is self-care.
Without self-care, you can spend your life perpetually stressed, sick, and exhausted. Without taking the time to care for yourself, you can also miss out on the truly important things in life like spending time with loved ones or doing what makes you happy.
Neglecting and ignoring your needs is not noble. It’s not a badge that you should wear proudly. Putting everything and everyone else above your physical, mental, emotional or spiritual health is a sign of martyrdom, low self-esteem, and workaholism – not selflessness or a good work ethic.
As a person who has the tendency to avoid my issues by escaping into an avalanche of work and responsibilities – and has fallen chronically ill as a result – I know a thing or two about the importance of self-care.
Self-care is something we are rarely taught about in school and is often a subject neglected by our parents growing up. Take a few seconds to reflect: who taught you how to take care of physical, emotional, mental, AND spiritual needs when you were little? If you’re like most people, you will draw a blank. It’s time that we take seriously this vital missing link in our education and teach ourselves how to care for our needs. Why? Because no one else is going to do it for us!
This article is one of the most important pieces I’ve written on this entire website – and I’ve written hundreds of articles for years and years. You’re welcome to print out, write down or journal about any of the suggestions below because they WILL change your life in some way. And remember, you can always bookmark this page for future reference.
What is Self-Care?
Self-care means taking steps to look after yourself and your physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual needs. Self-care starts with the acknowledgment that you are responsible for your wellbeing. Once you are able to take responsibility for yourself, you’ll be able to function in a more relaxed and grounded way. All areas of your life will improve once you take time to nurture your needs. Self-care is an integral part of self-love which is the practice of being kind and compassionate towards yourself.
Are You Neglecting Self-Care? Here are 17 Signs
Pay attention to the following red flags. If you are neglecting self-care, you will experience:
- Constant tiredness and fatigue
- Irritability (little things annoy you)
- Poor sleep quality
- Muscle tension
- Chronic illnesses (e.g. colds, flu, infections)
- Anxiety and worry
- Neglecting family or friend time
- Obsessive rumination (mind won’t shut off)
- Constant low-grade depression
- More dread than excitement
- Disconnection from your body
- No time to do what makes you happy
- All work and no play
- Feelings of emptiness
- Negative and self-sabotaging thoughts
- Low self-worth and insecurity
I’m sure there are many signs I’ve missed. But I hope I’ve given you a good picture.
Why Are We Resistant to Self-Care?
You’ve probably heard it before. “I’m too busy to do that,” “I have too much on my plate right now,” “I’m inundated with work,” etc. I’ve been guilty of using these banal excuses more than once, let me assure you!
One major reason why we overlook self-care is that we have our priorities wrong. We weren’t taught how important and essential taking care of ourselves is as children. Therefore, as adults we have no concept of self-nurturing – that’s until we fall chronically ill, develop a mental illness or go through a traumatic life experience. Because we are unaware of the importance of self-care, we place other things like work commitments above our health, because that’s all we know.
Self-care, to many people, is also unfortunately associated with selfishness. There is an old and outdated perception that taking care of your needs first equals being self-centered. However, if we closely examine this belief, we can see how ridiculous and short-sighted it is. How are we able to take care of others if we cannot take care of ourselves? How is it possible to let others “drink from your cup” so to speak, if you have no water inside of it to give in the first place? Taking care of yourself equals taking care of others. The more sensitivity you show towards yourself and the entire expanse of your being, the more sensitivity you’ll be able to show towards others. It’s as simple as that. Yet many people carry an unhealthy martyr mindset wherein they believe that they must do everything for others 100% of the time. But being a martyr isn’t dignified or heroic – it is a dysfunctional and toxic form of behavior that makes both oneself and others miserable.
Poor self-esteem is another reason why some people are resistant to self-care. The belief that “I’m not worth it” is so pervasive in our society that it’s an epidemic. Inevitably, poor self-worth results in self-neglect, sometimes even as a form of self-punishment. However, if you struggle with low self-esteem (take this self-esteem test to find out), I encourage you to go ahead and practice the self-care ideas below anyway. The more you incorporate them into your life, the better you will feel about who you are at a core level.
39 Self-Care Ideas For Those Struggling With Self-Love
Unless you have your shit together most of the time (which is the rare few among us), you probably struggle with self-love and self-care. I will put my hand up here with those of you who identify with the majority who have intense, messy lives. It’s not easy. Being human is a journey and most of us have to learn from scratch how to nurture ourselves.
If you struggle with stress, overwhelm, and a mind that just won’t turn off, this list of self-care ideas is for you. If you grapple with low motivation, negative mindsets, and self-defeating habits, this list is for you. If you tend to be cynical, neurotic or highly-strung … you know what I’m going to say! Yes, this list is for you. It’s for everyone who is brave enough to own their imperfections and do something to feel better.
The best advice I can give is to take it one step at a time. Don’t rush. The advice presented below is the work of a lifetime – not the work of a week. So be realistic and do the best you can.
Self-Care Ideas For the Body
1. Sit somewhere in nature. Feel relaxed by the scenery, the fresh air, and the birds singing.
2. Have a soothing bath. Put some essential oil in the bath to unwind and let go.
3. Take a deep mindful breath. Oxygenate your body, reduce the tension, and refresh your energy.
4. Take a nap. Find a comfy place and drift off into dream time. Set a timer if you’re worried about sleeping too much.
5. Make yourself some delicious food. Bake yourself some cookies. Eat a tasty salad. Cook some comfort food. Make something just for you.
6. Dance to your favorite song. Get in touch with your playful side and enjoy a good workout while you’re at it!
7. Drink some herbal tea. Make yourself a soothing brew with whatever tea you have lying around. If you like experimenting, try holy basil, damiana, chamomile, and lavender.
8. Give yourself a massage. There are many self-massage techniques which you can easily find online that require nothing but your hands. For a deep tissue massage, you can use an old tennis ball and roll out the kinks in your muscles. If chronic muscle pain is an issue for you, you might like looking into more high-end tools like this massager that I personally use or an older tool like the body back buddy.
9. Eat your leafy greens every day. Nourish your body with the vitamins and minerals found in leafy greens like spinach, broccoli, and kale. Stick ‘em in a smoothie or soup and you don’t have to taste them!
10. Take a walk in the sun. Get some vitamin D. Clear your mind. Fit some exercise in while you’re at it.
11. Create a physical space that nurtures your wellbeing. Get rid of the clutter, dirt, and dust around you. Create order in your environment as this will create more order in your mind.
Self-Care Ideas For the Heart
12. Give yourself a big hug. Stand somewhere quiet and hug yourself. Feel held and comforted.
13. Have a good laugh. Watch or read something entertaining even if that means a silly video of baby goats in pajamas on YouTube.
14. Have a good cry. Let out all your feelings. Watch a sad movie. Have a tissue box and a blanket to snuggle in handy.
15. Show gratitude. Find something to be thankful for in your life.
16. Look at yourself through the eyes of a loving parent. Be the best mother or father to yourself that you could possibly be. Treat your inner child with love, gentleness, and respect.
17. Say kind words to yourself. When you’re angry, sad or scared, gently tell yourself, “It’s OK,” “I understand,” “I forgive you,” “You can do this,” “I believe in you.”
18. Learn how to self-soothe. Feeling anxious or upset is normal. Find little rituals or practices that make you feel calm such as drinking a cup of cocoa, heating up a hot pack, listening to music, coloring, or cuddling a soft toy.
19. Go on a date with yourself. Go somewhere special and spend a day with yourself. Spend time thinking about the qualities you most love and appreciate in yourself.
20. Check in with your heart. Regularly explore how you’re feeling on an emotional level. Does something feel uncomfortable or wrong? What emotions are currently dominating your inner landscape? By gently acknowledging these emotions you’ll be able to practice self-care.
21. Spend time around people that support you. Find people who believe in and uplift you. Keep away from those who seek to drag you down and infect your life with negativity.
Self-Care Ideas For the Mind
22. Feed and expand your mind. Learn something new. Read up on different topics and open your mind to new perspectives. Enrich your understanding of the world.
23. Journal and self-reflect. Record your journey with self-care and write down your key discoveries. Reflect on your progress and feel proud.
24. Still your mind. Find a way to calm your mind each day. Meditation or mindfulness are two excellent practices. Pay attention to the present moment and get out of your thoughts.
25. Take a break from social media. Clear the stream of your mind for a few days. Give yourself a break from the comparison, egotism, and drama that stems from social media. Delete social media apps from your phone and spend time doing something else.
26. Create a routine for your day. The mind thrives with structure. Create clarity and order by setting in place clear habits and routines. Just ensure that you are flexible and allow these structures to shift and evolve through time as need be.
27. Create an achievements folder. Whether on your computer or in a physical folder, set aside a place where you can record all of your proudest moments. What obstacles have you overcome? What projects have you completed? What struggles have you managed to learn from? Record all of your successes to reflect on when you’re in a funk or feeling like a failure.
28. Simplify your to-do list. Ask yourself, “What is actually necessary?” Identify the things on your mental (or physical) to do list that are wasting space. Not everything is vital or important to do. Minimizing what you have to get done can reduce a tremendous amount of stress. Use a technique such as the Eisenhower Matrix to assess what is vital vs. unimportant.
29. Put your phone on airplane mode. Airplane mode stops all calls, texts, and annoying distractions from interfering with your life. Free yourself temporarily each day from the mental slavery of perpetually checking your phone. For example, after 6 pm take a ‘mini holiday’ from your phone until the next morning.
30. Set yourself small, manageable goals. Set yourself one or two major things you want to accomplish each day that will bring you a sense of success or fulfillment. This could be as simple as cooking a nice meal to as big as writing a chapter in your book. Simply feeling like you’ve achieved one of your goals is a wonderful feeling that you can experience daily!
31. Do something outside of your comfort zone. Even if that means going a new route to work or walking your dog along a new street! Enjoy the sense of self-confidence and empowerment that comes with knowing you can do something a bit uncomfortable and different.
32. Set clear boundaries. Stand up for yourself and say “no” even if your voice shakes. Set clear limits on your time and energy. Safeguarding your energy is a form of self-care and self-respect. Give energy only to that which you consciously agree to invite into your life.
Self-Care Ideas For the Soul
33. Light a candle and watch the shifting light. Indulge in some relaxation with a scented candle. Watch the flickering of the light against the wall and connect with your inner self.
34. Ask for help and guidance. If you’re feeling confused, lost, sad, stressed or depressed, reach out to someone. Asking for help is a sign of courage and intelligence. Find a trusted friend, advisor or professional to help you out.
35. Connect with your soul’s guidance. There are countless ways to interact with your soul essence. Prayer, meditation, visualization, oracle reading, and dream work are all fairly simple ways to get back in touch with your core.
36. Be receptive to beauty. Beauty opens and expands the soul. Beauty can intoxicate and fill you with awe. Find at least one beautiful thing every day to enchant you. Nature is an easy and nourishing place to find all things beautiful and wild.
37. Connect with another person. Find someone to have a heart-to-heart conversation with, even if that person is online. Express your deepest thoughts and feelings and reciprocate that with another who is on the same wavelength as you. Human connection, when it is authentic and raw, is uplifting to the soul.
38. Be your own best friend and soulmate. Treat yourself as you wish to be treated. Enjoy spending time with yourself and fall in love with who you are. Celebrate your messy humanity and divinity and the strange paradox of who you are.
39. Creatively express your deepest feelings. Write, draw, sculpt, scrapbook, paint, sing or dance your rawest feelings. Creatively express yourself in whatever way feels most appealing and natural. You don’t have to be an artist to do this! Self-expression and creativity are universal balms for the soul and have tremendous healing energy.
How to Use the Suggestions Above
Some final thoughts on the self-care ideas I’ve just shared: pay attention to any that jump out at you. When reading through this list, which ideas tug at your attention? Write down the corresponding numbers in a notepad or online word document. These are the practices you should focus on first.
Remember, there’s no need to rush! That would be contrary to the point of this article. So go at your own pace. Do as much or as little as feels comfortable to you. Most importantly, be consistent. Self-care is a habit and with a little stubbornness, it can become a wonderful way of life.
About Mateo Sol