I LOVE self-care. I have so many self-care ideas, because as women especially, we are constantly told that we need to give and give. In my personal opinion, giving yourself what you need instead (and then some) is the best way to start becoming the best version of yourself.
What is the first thing you think about when you think of self-care? Is it massages? Getting your nails done? Going out for a nice meal?
While these things are really great, they are only surface-level self-care routines. Real self-care comes from the nitty-gritty, and it takes the dreaded W word- work. I have included my self-care ideas for you to get started on your self-care journey!
Self-Care Can Be Fun
Self-care is work, but it can also be really fun. 100% of the time you will feel better and see progress. There are three pillars of self-care that need to be addressed:
- Financial Self-Care
- Physical Self-Care
- Mental Self-Care.
These pillars rely pretty heavily on each other. Think of these pillars as a triangle: 🔺 if one of the legs of the triangle is off, then the triangle as a whole is unbalanced.
Financial Self Care
I’m just going to get this one out of the way. It is the least “fun” self-care pillar, but one of the most important. Financial instability is the leading reason for divorce and 16% of suicides are financially related. I won’t delve too much into financial stability because that can be a blog post (or website) on its own.
I will say, society tells us that in order to be happy we need to spend, spend, spend. We get a quick endorphin rush every time we swipe that credit card, however, this can lead to debt and in turn depression, anxiety, and a myriad of issues that can become life-long leeches.
Spending is fine, as long as you can afford it. If you have some extra cash to go get that massage by all means do it! But don’t think that if you can’t, that means you aren’t taking care of yourself. All of the advice for self-care that I give will be free or low-cost.
If you are looking for financial advice, there are a ton of really great podcasts and books! The Broke Millennial is a good starter’s book for those who don’t know how credit works, what an IRA is, or what compounding interest means. I also highly recommend The Financial Feminist podcast. Tori is a 27-year-old self-made millionaire who got her start by saving 100k by the time she was 25. She breaks things down to be relatable and talks about the wage gap between women, men, and minorities.
If you like social media and are pretty gung-ho on trying to get your collective shit together, I recommend following these people and others like them. Surround yourself with people you want to be like so you can then emulate them.
Everyone knows that physical self-care is important, but a lot of the time it’s the most stressful one to think about (even over money!). There are a lot of myths around physical self-care, plus the fitness and health industry is a multi-billion dollar industry that can be extremely overwhelming.
Here’s what you need to know to get started:
Listen to your body- this isn’t to deter you from pushing and challenging yourself to things that are more difficult than normal (by all means you should ALWAYS try to challenge yourself), if you are on the verge of injury, or if you are dehydrated, take that break and drink water!
Small exercise IS exercise- going to the gym and getting on the squatting rack after 5 years of sedentary lifestyle is not the ideal way to re-introduce exercise. Not only will you most likely be so sore you won’t go back to a gym for the next 5 years, but it is also DANGEROUS. Work your way up there. Take daily walks and go a little bit further each day. The best thing I ever did for my physical health was getting a dog. I don’t recommend doing this unless you are able to take care of a pet (both financially and emotionally/physically) but it IS a great way to get you out of the house! Lily got me out of the apartment twice a day and it really helped boost my energy and I actually found a nature trail that was right behind our apartment complex at the time!
Physical exercise also boosts your endorphins, which can have such a positive impact on mental health! (see the triangle of pillars!)
Eating mindfully- Notice how I said “mindfully” and not “healthy”? Healthy gets such a bad rap- and for good reason. When I think of healthy food, I think of celery, carrots, peas- GROSS! Healthy doesn’t necessarily mean that you eat like a rabbit, and it should be the end goal, however, we are talking baby steps to success!
Eating mindfully can mean different things for each person- maybe it’s logging calories for some people, or for others it’s paying attention to what kind of food they are putting in their bodies. Want that donut? Eat that donut, but also realize you need other nutrients to make your body the most productive you can be!
Mental health has been such a huge hot topic for the last few years. This is great! The more people talk about it, the more it becomes the norm for us to take care of our minds like we would our bodies! The downside of this is that we see more and more “mental health” resources that may actually do nothing for our mental health. (see financial self-care pillar)
I am going to break down what you can do for your mental health into two segments: the fun stuff and the not-so-fun stuff
Relaxing- you MUST take time for yourself, and yourself alone. This can include anything from a 30-minute bubble bath or steaming shower to a day at a peaceful air BnB (depending on your personal situation). Whatever this time looks like for you, turn off the phone, get off the ‘gram and just take in your environment and appreciate this time that you decided to dedicate to yourself.
Meditation – this goes in the fun pile for me. I love a good guided meditation. There are loads of options for free on YouTube, or you can use a meditation app such as Calm. A lot of people have the misconception that meditation is to be without thoughts, or you have to focus on one color or thing. This is why I like guided meditations- they allow you to think with the guide rather than let your thoughts roam freely. But whatever works for you, is how you should do it.
Hobbies – hobbies are productive things that you enjoy doing that may or may not have an end goal. Writing, reading, crochet, cooking are all examples of hobbies. A hobby is not watching TV until the crack of dawn. A hobby should be something that enriches your life and brings a sort of meditative practice.
The Not-So-Fun Stuff
Reflection – this one I think is the most difficult phase of self-care. Nobody likes to admit their weaknesses, and we sure as hell don’t like to look at them for too long. Unfortunately facing our pitfalls headstrong will help us to be better in the long haul.
Therapy – Getting a third-party professional to help guide you to become the best version of yourself can go a long way! Even if you don’t think you “need” a therapist, you can use one. You don’t have to have a mental illness or go through trauma to get therapy. The only downside to this is that sometimes it isn’t covered by insurance and can be costly. There are apps that advertise free therapy though! If you have used any, let me know in the comments your experience.
Journaling – Journaling can be a chore, but for self-care it is imperative. The benefits of journaling are:
- You can see how your thoughts change through time and where your headspace is at the time of writing
- You can see growth and setbacks
- It can help make you recognize triggers early on
- You can bring this journal to your therapist and get better help
- Writing is a skill that can benefit daily life
If you don’t know where to start, or journaling sounds overwhelming to you, there are mental health-specific journals available on Amazon. These give you guided prompts and help lead you through your journal entries.
Ok let’s back up a little bit- this probably sounds really daunting, especially if you don’t have any of the self-care pillars built up yet- that’s ok! We don’t need to work on all three pillars at the same time. What is most likely to happen is that once you start working on one pillar, the other two will fall in line.
Like I said before, each pillar holds the other pillar up. How so? Because if you take care of one, you might start to find that you take care of one or two more pillars. When I started going to therapy and meditating, I started craving the feeling of paying more attention to my body. I started eating mindfully because it made me feel better. Then I started exercising, and the list goes on. Saving money and paying off credit card debt gives the same type of high. If you are like me, and when you are in a bad mental state the credit card comes out. Better mental health = less frivolous spending.
Just take it day by day; one foot in front of the other, and so on. You don’t need to completely overhaul your budget on day 1, and you don’t need to jump in on that CrossFit membership day 1 either. Also, allow yourself to make mistakes. No one is perfect, and you shouldn’t have that expectation for yourself either. We crawl before we learn to run and that applies to your self-care routine as well.
Let me know in the comments how your Self-Care Pillars affect your life! Do you have the same ideals around self-care? What tools do you help with your self-care routine?