Self-care is a trending topic of wellness right now, but I think the word is often misused. When I heard the term “self-care,” I thought of face masks, bubble baths, and spa days. While these things technically constitute self-care, it’s also important to understand what it actually is and how different it can look for everyone.
Self-care is simply about meeting yourself where you are and giving your mind, body and soul what it needs. We spend our entire lives caring for others but often forget to love ourselves in return. Recently, I’ve developed my own self-care plan, and it looks vastly different from what I would have expected; sometimes, self-care is making yourself dinner, working out or doing a new skincare routine. However, it can also look like reaching out for help or learning a new hobby. Let’s look at the components of a good self-care plan and the steps you can take to develop your own!
Step one: Short Term Goals
The first part of your plan should be used for small, everyday forms of care. Think of something you could do on any ordinary day that is simple but effective. This may look different depending on the day, but developing a list of multiple pick-me-ups that are easy to achieve — even when you’re not feeling motivated–can go a long way in helping you care for yourself daily.
You can also begin thinking about what you hope to achieve throughout your self-care journey. Come up with short-term goals that you can accomplish within the next few weeks and continue working on in the time to come. For example, one of my small goals was spending more time outside and finding an outdoor hobby that I enjoy!
Here’s a hint: Make sure it’s an attainable goal that you think you can realistically achieve. We’ll get to the larger, pie-in-the-sky goals later!
Step Two: Identify possible warnings signs
This aspect of your plan should include a list of red flags that show you may need more self-care. What are possible triggers in your life or situations that cause your mental health to suffer? How can you tell when you’re beginning to decline mentally or emotionally?
This could include certain people, places, classes or even days of the week that tend to get you down. Sometimes it’s random, but you know the feeling when that dark cloud is coming. There might be times that you need to alter your plan or bump it up to work on your self-care before or after to prevent/repair yourself from consequences.
Step Three: Emotional Care
This is typically an invisible kind of care, and it includes understanding your emotions and when you need to keep them in check. Things like having a rest day each week, learning to listen to your emotions and let yourself express them or beginning to set boundaries with the people in your life can all benefit you emotionally and spiritually.
The emotional part of your self-care plan should include anything that you feel will allow you to begin living in harmony; maybe therapy, journaling and meditating could be included as well. Make sure you take the time to understand your emotions and when you might need to pay extra attention to them.
Step four: Bodily Care
Think of ways that you can best nourish, move and love your body in a way that’s fun and effective for you. Attend more workout classes if that’s something you enjoy, or go on walks at sunset. Maybe you want to work toward intuitive eating and finding a balance between what your body needs and what it wants. Come up with ways to give your body love and treat it nicely; after all, if you love your body, it will love you back.
Step Five: Mind and Body Interactions
How do your mind and body work together? Sometimes, they work to create harmony, and other times, your detrimental mindset can carry over into the way you treat yourself physically. Mental and physical rest contribute to a healthy balance, as well as keeping yourself moving. Yoga and meditation are examples of ways that you are working your mind and body at the same time, moving toward inner and outer peace.
The way you view your body is just as important; you will give yourself the physical love you mentally condition yourself to believe that you deserve. Think about ways you can make these interactions more positive.
Step Six: Ways to Treat Yourself
Make a list of the things that you truly enjoy doing or look forward to. Is there a dessert you love, a store you can’t stop visiting or an item you enjoy purchasing? Use these ideas, big or small, to treat yourself when you’ve accomplished something. Short-term goals are the things that make up your long-term goals, and achieving them deserves a reward!
For me, buying candles or plants, getting myself flowers, enjoying a pedicure or heading to the mall for a shopping spree are great ways to treat myself when I’ve done something great! Maybe you could bake your favorite cake, or have a wine night alone or with a friend. Don’t forget to praise yourself verbally as well; you deserve to be proud. So, make sure you let yourself know how amazing you truly are!
Step Seven: Long-Term Goals
Now we’ve made our way back to those big, general goals. This may seem like a tall task, but this is the time to take a step back and think about why you wanted to begin a journey of self-care. Are you hoping to gain a better relationship with your body, with your mind or with those around you? Is this a plan you can create alongside your mental health journey? Have you realized that you take so much time caring for others and want to feel in control of your own care for once?
These are goals to keep in the back of your mind and go back to if you feel like you’re getting off track. Deep down, you probably know what goals you have for your journey, so stick with the things that will make you — and only you — feel proud of yourself. What can you do to become the best version of yourself?
Some days, caring for yourself can be as simple as getting out of bed and taking a shower. Other times, I spend more time doing things for myself to bring me closer to my goals. It seems so simple, but taking a step back to acknowledge the aspects of self-care that you tend to skip over when life is passing you by can help you identify the areas that need more love and healing than others.
We spend so much of our lives attending to our loved ones, giving them advice and helping them through the tough times that we often forget how much of this we’re neglecting to give ourselves. Be generous, be kind and be plentiful, but also be selfish when you need to. Identify the times that you need emotional, physical or spiritual care, and allocate time for yourself; never forget how loved you are and allow that love to come from the inside as well.