Let’s say you’ve got a long weekend coming up. How will you fill that extra time?
a) Catch up on chores
b) Plan something exciting for the kids
c) Spend time with an aging parent or relative
d) Do something you love, like golfing or reading for pleasure
If you answered a), b) or c), ask yourself: are you making enough time for self-care? Women in particular are twice as likely as men to act as a caregiver to someone in their life, and they may miss their own self-care in the process.
Self-care is a key component of good health—and International Self-Care Day on July 24 is the perfect time to evaluate our self-care plan. Self-care is unique to each person—one person’s bubble bath is another’s mountain peak. It’s not the activity that matters, but how it relaxes or revives you. These easy steps will help you start a self-care practice.
1. Write down five activities you love.
Write down the top five things that really nourish your well-being. Include things like spending time outdoors, journaling in a café, having coffee with friends—go-to ideas that are doable, even in a small amount of time. This list can change on a whim, especially if something new strikes your interest. The idea is to always have a feel-good activity at your fingertips before defaulting to a task at hand.
2. Leave your inner critic at home.
The little voice that says, “I should be doing …” has no place on your break. As soon as you hear it, visualize putting it in a box and locking it up. Instead, allow yourself the freedom to explore what you’d really like to do in your free time and see what happens.
3. Imagine your alone time is like eating a healthy meal.
Just as a big kale salad can revitalize the body, unstructured time can do the same for your soul. So fill the present moment with activities that feed your soul. Even simply doing nothing is a legitimate activity.
4. Set an example for your family.
Children learn from their parents how to treat themselves. If we show a lack of self-compassion and run ourselves ragged with no break, our kids see that. By embracing the beauty of making time for yourself, you teach your little ones to do the same.
5. Be in awe.
Go for a walk, watch the wind in the trees, stare at a body of water or sit on a bench and see what happens when things slow down—including you.
6. Do something physical.
Stress affects the whole body, and physical activity helps to release it—even if it’s a walk or stretch in the park. This isn’t about burning calories; it’s about getting out of the house and moving.
7. Give yourself a signal that you’re off duty.
Wear a special piece of jewelry, a hat or a shirt—or hang up a “gone fishing” sign. These physical symbols say, “I’m done today.”
8. Accept help.
Reframing self-care as a community responsibility allows people to help us in different ways—even if that means spending money on a care provider to allow us some time on our own. Embrace this as an opportunity, not a failure.