I’ll take a day off after I finish this project. I’ll relax when life goes back to normal. I’ll take some time for myself when people don’t need me.
Any of these statements sound familiar? It’s hard to prioritize our own well-being when there is always another project to work on. Kids who have grown used to being fed and nurtured. And life that, instead of calming down, keeps finding new ways to throw obstacles our way.
But here’s the reality: if you wait for the right time to take care of yourself, it won’t happen. In fact, it’s during the times you’re making the most excuses—however legitimate they are!—that you likely need to practice self-care the most. Self-care isn’t just a luxury anymore; it’s a life skill that’s necessary for a healthy, well-balanced life.
And here’s a little secret: self-care isn’t always something you have to make time for. Sometimes it’s just a change of mindset, or a habit that, when practiced consistently, will become part of your routine.
Let’s discuss a few of those self-care skills, shall we?
Self-Care Skill #1: Stop comparing yourself to others (including your past self)
We’re all different. We all have our own set of strengths and weaknesses. We need this variety and diversity to live in a vibrant, productive society.
Still, it’s all too easy to get caught in a trap of comparisons. Comparing our weaknesses with someone else’s strengths. Comparing what we’re capable of doing now to what we used to be able to do. Wondering why our friend’s grass always seems to be greener than ours.
If you find yourself thinking like this, repeat after me these words: stop it. One of the kindest things you can do for yourself is to stop putting others on a pedestal above you. Celebrate your own victories, no matter how small—and leave others out of it.
Self-Care Skill #2: Practice gratitude
You can’t deny the science. People who express gratitude are happier, healthier, and live longer. Whether you’ve had a banner day or one you’d rather forget, try to think of three things you’re grateful for each day. Simply taking a few moments to acknowledge the good in your life can help you find peace and calm—and you can never have too much of that.
A gratitude journal can help you get in the habit of finding things to be thankful for. If you’re looking for inspiration, here are some fun ways to keep a gratitude journal.
Self-Care Skill #3: Ask for help—and accept it when it’s offered
This might be the hardest skill of them all. But everyone needs help sometimes. Nobody can do everything, all the time. Letting others help you not only takes some of the burden off you, but it gives you a chance to connect with them in a way you might not have had the opportunity to before. You might even make a new friend in the process.
If asking for help seems impossible, start by accepting help when it’s offered, even if you don’t feel like you need it. Take the baby steps now so you’ll be more prepared for the big steps later.
Self-Care Skill #4: Say no
Another one that can be surprisingly difficult. But let’s face it—there are too many things in this world to do. Too many obligations and responsibilities. Too many activities and opportunities.
So pick your battles. Say no to the battles you don’t have the capacity to fight so you can focus on the ones that truly matter.
4 Self-Care Activities
Each of these self-care skills can help lighten some of your burdens and improve your sense of well-being. But never underestimate the importance of taking time to do something fun and fulfilling, too. Sometimes you just need a break from it all, which is where these self-care activities can come to your rescue.
1. Take care of yourself physically
Take a minute to evaluate your daily habits. Are you getting enough sleep? Are you eating a nutritious diet? Are you exercising regularly?
If you answered no to any of these, then that’ll give you a clue where to start. Figure out what adjustments you need to make to ensure you’re getting to bed on time, eating the right foods, and exercising at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week.
When you feel better physically, chances are you’ll feel better mentally, as well. Often people find that they are happier and less stressed when they’re engaged in healthy physical habits.
2. Make time for something you enjoy each day
If we let it, life can become little more than a checklist of uninspiring tasks. It’s true that a lot of our time goes to the boring to-do items that simply have to be done.
This is why it’s so important to make sure you’re doing something you enjoy each day, no matter how busy you are. Maybe that’s reading a book or watching your favorite TV show. It could be gardening, or baking, or spending time with friends. Whatever it is that recharges you, make time for it, every day.
3. Plan a trip or outing
Having something to look forward to can help you get through a dull or stressful period. It doesn’t have to be a fancy vacation to a foreign country (although if that’s something you’re able to do, go for it!). It could be as simple as going for a walk or hike in an area that’s new to you, seeing a play, or visiting a friend you haven’t seen for a long time.
Plan the experiences you want to look back on fondly when you’re 80—and then make them happen.
4. Spend time around positive people
You are who you hang out with. Whether you want them to or not, the people you spend your time with will rub off on you—so make your friend choices count. Pick friends who buoy you up, encourage you to be your best self, and are fun to be around. Anyone who can help you relax, unwind, and get out of your own head is a friend well worth having.
There will be times that self-care feels like more trouble than it’s worth. But if you make the effort to develop these self-care skills, it’ll improve your quality of life—and give you the strength you need to keep carrying on.