Self-care is at an all-time high level of importance, but not every strategy works for everyone. Some self-care tips don’t resonate with me (banning coffee? Not gonna happen) and some do (time outside, every day). Different strategies will work for different people, and there’s certainly no shortage of available self-care suggestions. Trying them all is simply, to quote my favorite movie, The Princess Bride, “Inconceivable!” Plus, it would be exhausting to even contemplate where to begin. My advice? Just remember to put the “self” in self-care, and don’t feel that you need to implement every strategy others recommend.
The following tips include those that I have personally implemented—or abandoned. I’m sure, especially after recent events, I could add several pages of suggestions, including exercise challenges, baking trends, and other viral sensations. But here are the ones that have stuck with me (or not).
1. Cutting Out Caffeine: Sorry, no. I know coffee and other caffeinated beverages aren’t for everyone. But they certainly are for me. I enjoy everything about coffee, from the making to the drinking. I grind locally roasted, fair-trade beans and take a mindful moment to inhale their scent deeply. I slowly take the time to spoon the coffee into my single-serve French press. I enjoy the new smells as hot water splashes over the grounds. I take my time—never rush a press! I pour the coffee slowly into the waiting mug. I wrap my hands around the warm mug and take a deliberate first sip as I sit and watch the morning sky. It’s one of my favorite things in life. It makes me feel good, so I ignore Instagram influencers’ recommendations to eliminate the java.
2. Digital Detox: I’m aware that too much screen time and social media use can have negative effects on our well-being. That’s why I’m scrupulous about who I follow on my feeds. I include only people and pages that make me feel hopeful, happy, and inspired. In the past, when I noticed that I was feeling frustrated after reading a post, I would pause to consider why, and then have no problem unfollowing that person to prevent future angst.
Now when I look at my search screen for Instagram, I can tell that I’ve done the right thing. I see inspiration from fellow yogis, beautiful trails from faraway hikers, gorgeous sustainable-design offerings, and an abundance of eco-friendly abodes. I glow when I see this collection of images from like-minded creators. This digital collection feeds my curiosity and knowledge base and motivates me to learn more, do more. Social media can be a positive thing if you use your discrimination, if you use it to nourish!
3. Fad Diets: This category is often disguised as a self-care tip, but should be carefully scrutinized by just about everyone, and certainly checked out by a healthcare professional for an expert analysis of safety and efficacy. I don’t like to ban entire food groups, unless there is a definitive health reason for doing so. I am a mom to two impressionable minds, and I don’t want them to grow up thinking certain foods are “evil.” I try to live by the motto “everything in moderation,” and certainly sing the praises of plants, local foods, and regenerative agriculture. I don’t personally subscribe to dieting, because I value food as nourishment. I don’t want my young kids to think that they should head off to school with empty tummies and not eat for hours. I also don’t really pontificate on good foods/bad foods, for myself or for others, but rather see all foods as possible in balance. I try to emphasize a variety of healthy options to use for essential fuel for mind and body.
4. Sitting Meditation: I know many yogis have the luxury of a meditation room, or at least a sit spot. I don’t. And I also don’t restrict my meditation to when I can be seated in an undisturbed location. As a parent and previously a busy corporate employee, there have been many times when the luxury of seated meditation time was simply unrealistic. So I have learned to meditate lying down, in bed, and as a passenger in a car (or train, bus, or airplane). I meditate while walking, doing the dishes, and even cooking. It may not be for everyone, but it has allowed me to maintain a meditation practice throughout turbulent times and distractions aplenty.
5. Hot Lemon Water and Golden Milk: Health benefits aside, I just don’t like them. And I’ve tried—repeatedly—until I asked myself what I was aiming to gain by subjecting myself to substances that, quite frankly, I abhor. Isn’t life too short to continue to spend our time on practices that just don’t make us feel better?
This particular point is less about the actual drinks and more about acceptance. Can we accept ourselves for not doing everything that’s supposed to be good for us? Will the world stop turning if I drink peppermint tea instead of golden milk? I don’t think so. Let’s stop beating ourselves up for failed self-care attempts and focus on the things that work instead.
1. Getting Outside Daily: I am a huge believer in vitamin N—nature therapy. It’s not always easy, but I try to get outside for a short walk or long hike every single day. Even in bad weather, if I can take a quick trip around the block, the benefits are huge. I also try to make it as nature-focused as possible. I allow my boots to squelch in mud, crunch leaves, or press into grass. If I can’t be directly in nature, I try to find a bit of it in my wander—looking at the sky, keeping a lone tree in my field of view for as long as possible, or noticing the birds, a flower, even a squirrel. This truly buoys my mental and physical health.
2. Going to Bed and Getting up at the Same Time Each Day: I know that this isn’t easy for everyone, nor is it popular for people who like nothing more than to indulge in a lie-in on a day off. Again—everyone should do what works for them. I was strongly motivated to try this self-care tip at the recommendation of my neurologist to try to prevent migraines. It does help with my headaches a bit, and it also helps with my overall health. I go to bed relatively early, and wake up early as well. I stray from the schedule on special occasions, but my circadian rhythms have really adapted to these set times, so I try to go with that regularity as much as possible.
3. Cultivating a Sense of Curiosity Through Learning: For me, curiosity is so important. I don’t feel truly connected to my best self unless I am considering new ideas, chasing novel pursuits, or generally exposing myself to the opportunity to learn and grow. Sometimes stoking the fires of wonder involves reading a fascinating book or article. Other times it could be a TED talk or a great chat with an expert in a subject I know nothing about. I’ve even recently enrolled in an online university credit course simply because I love learning, and I miss the process, especially in a more organized manner.
4. Diving Into Creative Endeavours: As we age, we often fall into ruts, even creative ones. I’m a writer, so I used to figure I was getting my creative fix through words. But the other day, I sat down with my kids and painted a picture. I hadn’t done that in years, and it was amazing in a completely different way from writing. Now I’m trying to take more photos, doodle, sketch, randomly color, and let creativity flow in a variety of ways. It feels so good to explore new avenues and to not really care about the results.
5. Pancakes: Seriously, I love pancakes. You take your Eggs Benny; if we’re having brunch, I’m hankering for blueberry pancakes with maple syrup. Forget about the whole carb thing. I am happy and blissful after a stack of pancakes and, from time to time, I can’t think of a better self-care tip for me. They’re a treat. I make it a mindful, multi-sensory experience and I enjoy it. Isn’t that what life is about?
Let’s make it a priority to find the tips and tricks that bring happiness, health, and wonder back into our lives, now when we need them more than ever. We’ve got enough stress without the added guilt of not adopting every self-care suggestion we’ve ever received—and if something doesn’t feel good, it probably doesn’t qualify as self-care. I hope you find the right self-care rituals for you, the ones that will keep both your body and your mind healthy and happy.