The journey towards reaching our dreams is not a quick one. More often than not, accomplishing our goals takes years or even decades, and along the way, we can become tired and worn out (I know I’ve sure been there!). As I talked about in Chapter 7, “Finding a Balance” of my book, Dream Big!: How to Reach for Your Stars, it is vital that we practice self-care to overcome this.
What is self-care? Self-care is an aptly-named, self-explanatory practice focused on developing habits to take care of oneself. It can take many forms, and science has shown that it has tremendous benefits for both physical and mental health that’ll keep us on track towards our goals.
Despite this, the concern of how we can fit self-care into our busy schedules still lingers. Finding the time to build self-care into our daily routines as we relentlessly chase our dreams can be tough, but doing so will better set us up for accomplishing our dreams. I promise: practicing self-care is worth it and will get you closer to your dreams in the long-run! Keep reading to learn my advice for building self-care into your day.
At first glance, self-care might seem tedious or just another thing to add to our already heavy plates. However, in reality, it’s just the opposite. Self-care is what helps us find balance in our lives. By practicing it, we can improve both our mental health and physical health, ultimately resulting in more energy, better focus, and a more positive mood to support us as we take on all our other responsibilities. Self-care is what makes walking the long journey towards your dreams sustainable! You wouldn’t drive a car across the United States without making sure it’s in great shape, right? The same can be said about yourself when pursuing a dream!
Self Care Improves Mood
By taking care of ourselves and habitually doing things that make us happy, we’ll have a more positive mood. Based on a study conducted by the University of Western Ontario, a positive mood enhances our ability to think creatively and carefully when solving problems. If you have a more flexible mindset, you’ll also learn good strategies when problem-solving. That way, when you’re ultimately faced with stressful situations, you’ll be better able to work through them.
Another benefit of having a positive mindset is improved self-esteem. This is especially important when chasing your dreams and dealing with mental health disorders. You need to trust yourself and be confident in your abilities. You need to know you deserve a seat at the table and all the success you earn. Throughout your journey, you are going to face challenges, but by having this strong mindset, you’ll be able to overcome them.
Practicing self-care and improving our mood will have an important impact on our mental health. The mental health crisis continues to grow throughout the world. For instance, the National Institute of Mental Health reports that about 31.1% of adults in the US will experience an anxiety disorder at least once in their lives. This number is slightly higher at 31.9% for adolescents. Also, according to the American Journal of Surgery, 28% of working Americans experience burnout, a mental state caused by excessive and prolonged stress. These numbers demonstrate how seriously we need to care for our mental health and by extension, ourselves.
Self Care Improves Physical Health
Self-care also can encompass building habits that have countless benefits for our physical health. These include exercising, getting outside, getting enough sleep, and meditating – all of which have been linked to lower mortality rates. These practices have also been shown to improve your immune system, curb sugar cravings, help with sleep, lower blood pressure, and develop a healthier heart.
Self-care also consists of things like personal hygiene and nutrition. If we are nourishing our bodies and taking care of ourselves, we can live healthier and more fulfilling lives. We’ll feel strong enough to take on any task on our plate, ultimately leading to higher productivity levels. Then, the more we accomplish, the more opportunities we are opening up for ourselves in the future!
Even astronauts take these benefits into consideration! In an interview with Mashable, NASA astronaut Cady Coleman said, “Self-care is actually an everyday subject for astronauts and for the team that sends people to space, in that the mission is so compelling and important and it’s easy to sort of throw everything else aside and be all in for the mission… If you don’t take care of yourself, then you’re not going to be able to be the team member that you need to be.”
The benefit and appeal of self-care are evident, but how do we incorporate it into our busy schedules? I know firsthand the frustration of adding something else to do when you already feel overwhelmed. But over the years, I’ve learned helpful tips and tricks on how we can seamlessly add self-care into our days!
Find What Makes You Happy
When picking out what your self-care habits are going to be, think about what makes you happy. What are your needs and values, and above all else, what do you look forward to doing? If you look forward to practicing self-care, it’ll make it that much easier to practice continually. Remember: self-care isn’t one-size-fits-all! You need to focus on your own joy and needs in order for it to be beneficial.
20 Easy Ways You Can Practice Self Care Today!
Having trouble brainstorming what could make you happy? While there are countless different ways to incorporate self-care into your day, here are twenty of my favorites:
- Listen to your favorite song first thing in the morning
- Watch an episode of your favorite TV show
- Light a candle with your favorite smell
- Take a hike and enjoy the beautiful view
- Find a nook and read one of your favorite books
- Send a text to someone you haven’t spoken to in a while
- Cook a delicious meal or bake your favorite dessert
- Hype yourself up and listen to a motivational speech
- Break open a journal and write all your thoughts
- Get your blood pumping or practice some yoga
- Clean or reorganize your living space
- Make a music playlist of all your favorite songs
- Blast that playlist and have a dance party
- Pour yourself a glass of water or tea
- Set your alarm to catch a sunrise or sunset
- Put down your phone and take a break from social media
- Get dressed up and take cool photos
- Get outside and have a picnic with all your favorite snacks
- Incorporate your favorite color into everything you do
- Create a vision board (This is my personal favorite! Check out my post on how to do so here)
10 More Challenging Ways You Can Practice Self-Care Today
From what you may have seen or heard on social media or online, self-care may seem like a lot of bubble baths and chocolate (which are both amazing and great ways to practice self-care!). However, often the most rewarding self-care with long-term benefits may be even more challenging. Here are some more challenging ways to practice self-care.
- Create and stick to a budget
- Set healthy boundaries
- Make an appointment for the Doctor, Dentist, Orthodontist, Gynecologist, etc..
- Work with a therapist
- Practice conscious communication
- Show love to those you care about (ex: call your mom!)
- Commit to self-love
- Don’t overcommit yourself
- Declutter and go through old possessions
- Be assertive and know your value (ex: ask for that raise, ask for that extension)
While a lot of these may not seem as “fun” or easy, believe it or not, they are self-care! Whenever you put your interests first, focus on your wellbeing, and set yourself up for success, you are practicing self-care. A good routine of self-care will include both fun and more challenging methods.
Now that you know some different ways to practice self-care, let’s make sure it sticks! Here’s how to turn self-care into a habitual act.
Set Realistic Goals
After you find what makes you happy, pick one behavior you can practice and stick with it. It doesn’t have to be a huge thing. In fact, it is better to start with something more small and basic. You don’t want to overwhelm yourself; making too many changes to your daily routine at once will be hard to maintain and will be all the more discouraging when and if you can’t. Once that behavior becomes habitual, you can start to incorporate more behaviors.
Organize Your Schedule
With your goals in mind, set chunks of time out of your day aside and plan to work on them. I mean this literally. Open up whatever you use to schedule your time and add in a small self-care slot. We more easily follow through with our actions when we plan for them. If you get a reminder on your phone or see a mark in your planner, you’ll be reminded to practice self-care each day.
Evaluate Your Progress
Self-reflection is essential to growth. Figure out what worked best for you, and what didn’t. Ask yourself: how can you make adjustments? Progress isn’t necessarily linear: maybe you forget to practice self-care or took on too much and weren’t able to maintain it — that’s okay! Forcing yourself into things defeats the purpose of self-care. Be flexible and keep an open mind, and you’ll have a more positive outcome.
Remember, You Deserve This
I don’t know about you, but I’m a huge fan of Queer Eye, a makeover show where the “Fab Five,” a group of five experts transform the lives of a deserving individual in each episode. Many of these subjects on the show don’t often feel like they’re worthy of taking care of themselves or that it’s a selfish thing to do so. However, it’s not selfish to love yourself or think you are deserving! In order for self-care to stick, you have to truly believe that you are deserving of the time and care you’re giving to yourself (and trust me, you are!). Additionally, you can’t take care of others without first taking care of yourself. Moreso, taking care of yourself will help you be the best version of yourself and allow you to reach your full potential!
Practicing self-care has truly helped me on my journey to reaching my dreams, and I hope it will do the same for you! Want to learn more about the significance of self-care and how to develop healthy habits? Check out my new book, Dream Big!: How to Reach for Your Stars. In it, I share even more reasons on why self-care is so important and give tips on how you can easily incorporate it into your day for long-term goal success!