Self Care Routines 101: A Practical Guide

self-care 101 woman sitting

We hear it all the time. “You need to take care of yourself.” But what exactly does that mean? A lot of us go to work every day, stress over how bills are going to be paid, and wonder where in the world we are going to find time for ourselves. Sometimes we just need someone to give us permission and other times we need ideas and practical solutions for squeezing it in.

I’m packing today’s post full of inspiration and ideas to help you work it out, and oh yeah – giving you full on permission to take time for yourself.

Establishing self-care routines is important for one’s mental and physical health. Areas to focus on in order to improve your self-care routines are:

  • Planning ahead and creating a schedule
  • Making time for yourself
  • Being physically active (exercising)
  • Eating the right foods
  • Focus on your mental wellbeing and cut out negativity
  • Recognizing the importance of self-reflection

If you are reading this guide because you don’t feel like there is much balance in your life and you know that you could be taking better care of yourself, don’t worry! Self-care is a subject that most people struggle with due to the demands of everyday life. With this practical guide we are going to get you on track, you deserve it!

Planning Ahead and Creating A Schedule of Your Day

This is a hard one for a lot of people. However, if you are on the journey of taking better care of yourself, then taking time to create a schedule for your day instead of “winging it” is where you want to start.

Think about when you go to work. If you’re like most people, your job provides you with a schedule. You know when you are going to be at work and when you are going to get off. It probably has your lunchtime provided within the schedule, as well.

Just as your workdays are typically planned out to maximize production, you need to plan out your day as well. This means scheduling time in your day to read a book, eat a meal when you’re hungry, get a pedicure–whatever it may be that you enjoy and relaxes you.

You will have greater success in actually having time to do the things that you want to do if you actually schedule it.

A lot of people feel that they have no time for things outside of their normal daily routine. However, it can be argued that you have quite a bit more time than you think you do. It doesn’t matter if you are taking large steps to fix your self-care routine or small ones. What’s important is that you start somewhere. Creating a schedule that gives you even 5 minutes for yourself is a good way to do that.

Learning to Make Time for Yourself

This ties in a lot with planning ahead and making a schedule; however, it requires a bit more deliberate action on your part. Everyone needs “Me Time.” We are so busy with ripping and running around attempting to take care of things and conquer the world that we forget to take time out of our day for ourselves.

“Do whatever it is that relaxes you and helps you unwind. Your mind and body will thank you for it later.” ~ Simple Minded

Instead of attempting to take care of a bunch of things in one day after the exhausting workday, start using at least some of that time to take a break, have a seat, and chill out. Scheduling that into your calendar can actually make this a reality.

When you are committed to improving your mental and physical health by just taking time out of your day for yourself, it can provide a host of benefits to your body–both physically and mentally. These benefits include:

  • Increase in focus and mental acuity
  • Has a positive effect of your health, causing you to become ill less-often
  • Helps improve your personal appearance and improves your skin
  • An overall increase in physical wellbeing
  • Increases productivity in the workplace and at home

Obviously, with these benefits, it is important to make time out of your busy day for yourself. What should you do with that time? It doesn’t matter! If you like to read a book, or sit in a bubble bath, that is all up to you. Do whatever it is that relaxes you and helps you unwind. Your mind and body will thank you for it later.

Associated Studies and Research

Making time for yourself is so important that Dr. Ivel De Freitas is actually conducting research and clinical studies on the importance of self-care and taking care of one’s self to prevent the onset of the dreaded burn out. You can look at it here.

Engaging in Regular Physical Activity

This should be a no brainer. Incorporating exercise into your self-care routine is going to provide a lot of benefits, and aside from that, it is something that we all should be doing. Everyone knows that exercise is good for your health, but how exactly?

The Benefits of Exercise # 1: It Will Make You Happier

Exercise has a direct correlation with our mental health. Exercise can create changes in the brain that regulate stress and anxiety. It will also affect the parts of the brain that are sensitive to serotonin and norepinephrine, which relieve feelings of depression.

When you exercise, it releases endorphins in your brain, making you feel happier. It has also been shown to improve your mood and decrease negative feelings such as depression and will also reduce an individual’s perception of pain.

“It doesn’t matter if you work out really hard or decide you want to take it easy with something like walking. Exercise will still produce the same effects.” ~ Simple Minded

If you suffer from any type of anxiety, you should be exercising. Studies show that it will help you to reduce your feelings of anxiety and help you better manage it as well. It will also help you become more aware of your current mental state and better help you keep distracted from your fears.

The best part? For those who don’t want to engage in an intense exercise routine, exercise can help your mental health no matter how strenuous the exercise is. It doesn’t matter if you work out really hard or decide you want to take it easy with something like walking. Exercise will still produce the same effects.

The Benefits of Exercise # 2: It Will Help With Weight Loss

It is a commonly known fact that exercise will help you with losing weight and improving your physical appearance. This obviously should take priority in your quest to conquer a self-care routine. There are studies now that have shown that inactivity directly affects weight gain and obesity. With that said, with some of that newly found “Me Time,” don’t use it all just sitting around.

When we exercise, it will help to speed up our metabolism. Your metabolism is what regulates the burning of calories that our bodies take in, so if you notice that you are eating a lot and feeling a bit sluggish, exercise might be your answer.

To better understand how incorporating exercise into your self-care routine is important, especially if you need to manage your weight, you need to know how your body spends the energy that it takes in from food. It is primarily spent in 3 different ways: Exercising, digesting food and maintaining bodily functions like regulating your heartbeat and breathing.

It has been shown that a combination of aerobic exercise and resistance training provides the greatest and sustained effects in terms of losing weight by boosting your metabolism, instead of dieting, as that has been shown to slow your metabolism down dramatically.

The Benefits of Exercise # 3: It Will Improve Memory and Brain Function

Earlier, we mentioned that exercise is directly correlated with our mental functions and we covered how it affects our moods. Another benefit that is important in any self-care routine is that it greatly improves your memory and brain function.  When we exercise, blood and oxygen are pumped throughout our bodies and to our brains, providing them with much-needed nutrition.

You should know that exercise actually promotes brain cell growth. So, if you’re looking to figure out how to be more productive in your day, exercise can only help you figure it out. It also helps the hippocampus to grow in size as well, which is responsible for memory and learning. If you want to be able to learn new things easier in your spare time and remember a lot more, remember to exercise!

Associated Studies and Research

According to an assessment performed by Karmel W. Choi, Ph.D., it is further reinforced that physical activity is essential for any self-care routine and for your mental health. In fact, it has shown that simply engaging in cardiovascular activity for 15 minutes can decrease the risk of depression by 26%. For more details on the study, visit the website here.

Learning to Eat the Right Foods

Since we just talked about incorporating exercise into our self-care routines, let’s talk about eating. This is something that for the most part, all of us do every day. If you don’t, then you have a problem, and that needs to be addressed immediately.

Eating is a form of self-care that is practiced on a daily basis. It is what provides fuel for our bodies to get us going throughout the day and in some circumstances, provides us with comfort. However, it is not just enough to eat as part of self-care. You need to know how to eat right. Self-care is all about treating yourself as best as you possibly can, and eating is no different.

Eating the Right Foods # 1: Increasing Performance and Energy Levels

Eating is essential for our bodies and minds to work at their peak performance. Have you ever gone a long time without eating? For most people, it affects their levels of energy and their ability to be productive. If you want to perform at your best, you need to eat.

When you go for a long period of time without eating during the time that you are awake, you will definitely start to feel its effects. You may begin to start having migraines or headaches due to your brain not receiving the appropriate amount of glucose that it needs to function properly.

If you decided to follow the previous tip of exercising, it would be in your best interest to make sure that you eat to ensure performance in the gym. Otherwise, you may feel a bit sluggish and not quite up to the task.

Food is what gives the cells of all living things the energy they need to perform tasks and ensure their survival. As a human working to improve your self-care habits and routines, you need to know that a balanced diet involving protein, carbohydrates, and fats throughout the course of the day is necessary to perform at peak levels to feel energized and keep your blood sugar properly regulated.

Eating the Right Foods #2: Food and its Impact on Our Mood

Have you ever felt “hangry”? It’s a combination of hungry and angry at the same time. Do you know why this happens? If you aren’t eating enough throughout the day or eating the appropriate balance of macronutrients, it is your body and mind’s way of telling you that you need to eat something. Proteins and carbohydrates to be specific.

Proteins and carbohydrates are the nutrients that are essential for our brains to create serotonin, also known as the “feel good” hormone. This is what keeps our moods in check, and not consuming enough proteins and carbohydrates will stunt the production of this hormone, leaving us with the “hangry feeling” that everyone knows a little too well.

Eating the Right Foods # 3: Food and its Ability to Provide Comfort When Stressed

Food clearly is necessary for us to live and exist. The very act of eating itself is an investment in your own health and life. But did you know that certain foods also operate as “comfort foods”? This means that they actually help with improving your current mood. That is why dark chocolates and cherries are so popular. They actually make you feel better.

Eating, in itself, is a pleasurable experience, especially if you are eating one of your favorite foods, but when it comes to self-care, you need to take some time to identify when it is that you are deciding to eat and why. Did you recently have a bad breakup or a hard day at work that stressed you to your core?

If you did and decided that you wanted a plate of lasagna to make yourself feel better, that’s ok. The problem is when this is constantly your go-to when something stresses you out. As important as food is and its ability to relieve stress, you need to make sure you have other avenues of working things out when stressed so that you can do more things to promote self-care in your life instead of self-harm.

Associated Studies and Research

In a study led by Felice N. Jacka in 2017 concerning depression, 67 people were assigned dieticians or placed in seven social support sessions.  Over the course of 12 weeks they were placed in random groups to assess how eating a balanced diet helped improve their mental health.

There was some notable success in this study, providing further evidence of what and how we eat affects our mental health. More information on the study and its results are here.

Focusing on Your Mental Wellbeing and Removing Negativity

woman with hand in the air - self-care 101

One of the best things you can do to make sure that you’re on the right track to becoming the best version of yourself you can possibly be is to focus on your own mental health and remove any negative influences in your life. This may include a bit of self-talk, finding new friends, and getting rid of naysayers.

When it comes to focusing on your own mental wellbeing and what you are looking to accomplish in your self-care journey, you need to know that no one’s opinion or perspective of you matters but your own. Here’s how to get rid of the negativity to focus on your own mental health.

Focusing on Your Mental Health #1: Changing Your Friends

There is a saying: “Look at the top 5 people you spend your time with. When you look at how your friends are, that’s how you are too.” What this is essentially saying is that we tend to take on the qualities of the people that we hang out with. At times, that can be a great thing. Other times, however, it can be detrimental to our mental health and make us negative, depending on who we spend time with.

There are several types of negative people: The Know It All, the Needy Victim, the person who’s always looking for an issue, the list goes on. If the people that you spend your time with fit into one of these categories, it’s time to find some more friends.

This may sound difficult, especially if you have been friends with someone for a long time, but in the end, it will work better for you and your mental health. If your friends aren’t supportive and trying to help you become better, they aren’t your friends, and it is time to let that “friendship” go.

Focusing on Your Mental Health # 2: Practice Positive Self Talk

As a person, we all have self-doubts, fears, and insecurities. That is normal and nothing to be ashamed of. However, with that in mind, have you ever tried to tell yourself something positive instead of putting yourself down, or telling yourself that you can’t do something? This is where positive self-talk comes in.

Positive self-talk is exactly what it sounds like. It doesn’t matter if someone thinks you’re crazy. You need to tell yourself positive things every once in a while. Doing this will assist with positive thinking and also help you keep your eyes fixated on the goal that you have in mind.

Positive thinking and self-talk also provides a plethora of mental and physical health benefits:

  • Increased Life Span
  • Decreased rates of depression
  • Lower distress levels
  • Greater resistance to illnesses such as the common cold and the flu
  • Improved psychological and physiological well being
  • Improved cardiovascular health and reduced risk of cardiovascular disease
  • Better coping skills in times of stress

Focusing on Your Mental Health # 3: Recognizing the Importance of Self Reflection

Self-reflection is another way of improving your mental health and should be part of every self-care routine. Self-reflection is important because it helps you to build emotional and mental awareness. By taking the time to reflect on certain aspects of your day and life, you can get a “big picture” of everything and put things into perspective.

Self-reflection is important for understanding important aspects of yourself. Once you have a better understanding of yourself, you will be better prepared to face situations that are stressful and emotional in manner and maintain a clear state of mind.

Lastly, self-reflection allows you to think of alternatives to the current processes in your life. Since we as people are always on the go and constantly running around, we don’t often take the time to think about whether or not there is a better way to do something. When you take a second to stop and reflect on something that you did, you may realize that there was an easier way to go about it.

“If your friends aren’t supportive and trying to help you become better, they aren’t your friends, and it is time to let that “friendship” go.” ~ Simple Minded

Associated Studies and Research

In a study that began in July 1961, Yale Psychologist Stanley Milgram conducted an experiment depicting group behavior and conformity around the world with consistent results.

Essentially, what he discovered was depending on what is considered ok or acceptable within a particular environment, and among one’s peers, people would join in or conform to that particular action.

This brings a lot of truth to the idea of rubbing off on someone. When you are exposed to certain influences, you begin to emulate them. It doesn’t matter if they are good or bad. This study provides further evidence as to why taking an inventory of yourself and your friends to determine what needs to change is essential for your self-care.

In Conclusion:

Self-care is important. Regardless of what you may think or what anyone tells you, it is important to take some time out of your day for yourself. Go play with your dog, exercise, whatever your heart really enjoys doing. It’s up to you.

Remember that it is important to eat right and exercise as part of your self-care routine. Your mind will function best when your body is functioning properly. Also, make sure to rid your life of negative influences and take some time to reflect on yourself as well.

While this guide doesn’t provide everything you can possibly know on self-care, it can be a great resource for getting started. I encourage you use these ideas and practical tips to start taking “Me time” and making small adjustments in your daily routines to care for yourself.

I hope the information provided moves you forward to better living and remember: You always have time to take care of yourself.

Need some additional “Me time” ideas? Check out my other article on avoiding burnout. It has several suggestions for fitting in time for your self regardless if you have 5 minutes or an hour.

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Jodie Locklear
Jodie is a former art teacher turned Graphic/UX Designer and QA Manager. She's applied her knowledge of visual design and software testing on many projects over the years, ranging from small businesses to large well known brands and organizations. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, blogging, and travel. View About Page

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