09 Jul 99 Ideas For Self-Care
Many of my clients are struggling to find the time and energy for self-care. Nevertheless, it’s one of the most important things we can do for ourselves. Self-care doesn’t have to be expensive or time consuming, and works best when you regularly practice it, making it a habit that becomes part of your day or week.
Ideas For Self-Care You Can Start Today
However, self-care is more than just a bubble bath or luxury candle. I’ve put together a list of fun, interesting and pampering things you can do for yourself – ideas for self-care. Some are cheap (or free!), others not so, but all will give you some ideas on how to up-level your own self-care. You may love some, hate some, or just feel meh about others, but they are worth trying, especially when it’s hard to come up with things on your own. Self-care can also help us address our needs in many different ways so it’s still important, even when things are going well.
This can be done anywhere. It can ease anxiety, promote relaxation and clear-thinking. One minute of relaxing breathing every day is something everyone can fit in. Here are some easy techniques to start with…
2. Your own tea ceremony
The Japanese knew what they were doing when they created the tea ceremony. You can do the same with your morning tea or coffee, using it as an exercise in mindfulness and drinking it slowly and with intention. No radio or news in the background, no phone. Just you, your beverage and pure enjoyment. This is a lovely piece about making it more formal.
3. Doing puzzles
Puzzles can include sudoku, futoshiki, and crosswords, both quick & cryptic. There is a sense of achievement when you succeed, as well as being distracted from negative thoughts. You can find crosswords online here, but there’s nothing like curling up with a newspaper and a pen.
It sounds pretty simple, yes, but how many of us regularly take time out to read without feeling guilty? This means reading for enjoyment, not to keep up with work or news.
5. Join a book group
Joining a book group encourages reading as there’s nothing like a deadline. It also has a social element to it which is great for staving off feelings of isolation.
Laughter produces a cathartic physical response that can expel a lot of the stress curled up in our bodies. It also increases endorphins and reduces stress hormones such as cortisol and epinephrine. While you may love catching up with the latest dark TV thriller box-set, bringing some humour into your TV favourites is an easy way to bring more laughter into your life. My own favourites are Frasier and the IT crowd. If you’re stuck for ideas this article will get you started.
8. Join a choir
This will encourage you to sing regularly and add the social element of companionship into the mix. I know many people who say singing in a choir has transformed their life. One of them, productivity coach Jo Dodds says of her own choir “We’ve done the Verdi Requiem just this evening! Good for self-care on so many levels! Mindfulness, diaphragmatic breathing, teamwork, achievement, dopamine, oxytocin, positivity, delight in the music, etc etc!!”
9. Yoga or Pilates
This can be anything from a retreat to a class to a video (or YouTube workout) at home. Or just add in a few asanas as you get dressed in the morning or unwind before bed. The benefits of Yoga and Pilates are huge and widely accepted. They include lowering stress and anxiety as well as reducing inflammation and depression and strengthening muscles and improving posture. I know from my own point of view I feel stiffer when I don’t do my yoga stretches. Here is a roundup of YouTube yoga Channels
10. Spending time with your pets
Pets lower blood pressure and make our life richer. Instead of looking upon the dog walk as a chore, think of it as a time to nourish yourself with quality time. I often work with a cat on my desk, just letting its purring soothe me. Here’s my cat Bamboo! If you haven’t got a cat you can ask Alexa to play you cat purring sounds.
11. Get a pet
If you don’t already have one, adopting a pet from a rescue centre will bring many benefits into your life, not to mention someone else to love and be loved by. It may sound counter-intuitive, after all, this will be more work, but the rewards can be well worth it. If you don’t want to go that far offer to walk someone else’s dog.
12. Get up early
Just that extra half hour or even hour can make a big difference to your day. It means you can create a nourishing routine like journaling, yoga or meditation. Alternatively, you can use the time as a breath or pause before the day, perhaps visioning what you would like to happen or achieve in the coming hours. It also means you are less likely to be rushed and stressed getting out of the house. One of my favourite blogs, Zen Habits, has this advice for getting in the habit.
13.Uplevel your habits
Think of a habit you would like to adopt and focus on integrating that into your life. The feeling of achievement from doing that is a lovely boost and hopefully you’ll also have an additional healthy habit as part of your lifestyle.
14. Do what you’ve always wanted to
My friend David Bailey, a tango teacher, has often shared that he’s always being told by people that “they would love to learn tango”, but only a small percentage ever get around to it. How sad is that? What is it that you’ve always wanted to do or learn? Can you make it happen? Even planning for it will boost your self-esteem as you are taking action rather than feel resentful that it’s not happening.
15. Get Crafty
Crafts such as knitting, stitching, making quilts etc. are very self-nourishing and you have something to show for it at the end. You can do this alone for some quality me-time, or join a group and benefit from the social aspect.
16. Wandering around an exhibition
This is a great idea for self-care. You’ll get visual and maybe social input if you’re with a companion, but it’s also a little different and time out of the normal routine. The Welcome Collection in London is one of my favourite exhibition spaces and often has free shows that are very thought-provoking.
If you are sleep deprived, more sleep is a huge self-care activity. It has been shown to have a big impact on our longevity so worth tackling if you have an issue. Get a sleep tracker if you want to see how yours measures up.
18. Treat yourself.
Shopping has been linked with increasing our feel-good hormones. Even the anticipation of shopping can raise them. As long as you don’t have a spending habit and can afford it, why not treat yourself to something? If you’re short on cash, this doesn’t have to be a blow out. A new bubble bath, PlayStation game, or nice notebook can sometimes be enough.
Pure and simple rest. Are you getting enough of it? You don’t have to do anything at all. Just be.
20. Express your creativity
Get lost in the flow when you paint and get messy while you do it. It is inked with a positive mindset, among many other health benefits. The trick is not to let it become a source of pressure. It’s about the process rather than the end result. Starter art kits are very reasonable on Amazon or, better still, have a potter around an art shop.
21. The local pub quiz
Great for knowledge, training your memory and creating strong bonds with your team. What’s more it gets you out in the local community which helps give you a sense of belonging.
22. Drink more water
We all know we should be doing this but very people actually manage it. A nice little tip is to fill two litre bottles first thing in the morning and use them as your water source during the day, that way you can keep tabs and see how far you have to go. You will feel more hydrated, refreshed, and your brain will be better able to do its work. It should be evident in your skin too. Here are some hacks to help you drink more.
This book by by Sarah Ban Breathnach has some lovely ideas to indulge and pamper yourself following the rhythm of the seasons.
As well as being a fantastic all-round exercise, swimming is wonderful for getting into a meditative state, or just fun if you splash about with friends and family.
25. Phone a friend
Whilst self-care is often focused on doing things alone, reaching out to others can bring huge benefits too. Chatting with an old friend, or a friend that you know will make you feel good, is much more personal and rewarding than a text or Facebook comment. For both of you.
Even though the craze seems to have quietened down a little, colouring is still a relaxing and calming pastime (and one that you can do even while the kids are around). It’s long been one of the tools of art therapists, partly because it’s good for getting the creative right-hand side of the brain working.
27. Set boundaries
Self-care means saying no to people at times, even if you feel a little guilty for doing so.
28. Lean on your faith
If you have a faith that matters to you, learning more about it, or re-connecting with others in the community, will help you focus on your spiritual life, something it’s so easy to ignore. What would up-levelling your faith mean for you? Going to Church a little more often, reinstating the Shabbat, reading The Koran or just chatting with people who share your faith?
29. Explore faith
Perhaps you don’t really have a faith but are feeling that something is missing. Exploring different faiths and beliefs can provoke pivotal questions you may never have imagined previously. This isn’t to say that everyone needs to have a faith but being part of a religious community – any religious community – is linked to a longer life and increased immune system. If it’s something you’ve been wondering about, it could be time to start exploring for yourself.
30. Start a bedtime routine
This will not only encourage you to get more sleep, but also provide a nourishing ritual that you’ll look forward to. Think soft lighting, fluffy dressing gown, silk pyjamas, a warm milky drink, deliciously soft bed socks, cosy blankets…whatever works for you.
31. Discover Audible
On a related note – for me a least – discover the delights of Audible Personally, I love drifting off to sleep to the sound of someone reading to me. It’s also a great way to listen to those hefty and heavy (literally) novels that you wouldn’t want to carry around. Last year my son and I listened to Anna Karenina and this year it’s Crime and Punishment. These are huge books that I would never pick up in a bookshop but having someone read it to me is a different thing altogether and such a treat. But it doesn’t have to be anything worthy or literary, just being read to is enough. This is an interesting piece on what happens to your brain when you listen to a story.
32. Get your health sorted
If there’s anything that’s an issue, even just a niggle, get it sorted. This could mean getting that mammogram, booking that dental appointment or signing up for health insurance. So many people look after our cars better than their own health, let’s not be one of them.
33. Try Qoya.
Quoya free dancing is a fantastic way to tune in with your body and release tension. There are some great and free videos that you can try at home here
34. Free dancing taken further
If you like Qoya you might like to look for a Five Rhythms class (sometimes called Ecstatic Dancing). Here you’ll experience a similar thing, but alongside others. It may feel weird at first, especially for those that like a bit of structure, but it’s an amazing way to really unwind and tap into your wild side!
35. Experiment in the kitchen
It’s easy to get into the habit of cooking the same old thing – functional cooking. Try out some new recipes (even better, treat yourself to a beautiful new cookbook) and let your creativity flow.
36. Cooking with someone else
Some may find this stressful but for some people it’s a great way to bond and have fun. Put on a great playlist and boogie away while you chop or learn new methods or cuisines.
37. Audit your friends
Look at who you spend time with and ask yourself if they drain or energise you? Do they soothe you, or stress you with their dramas? Whilst it’s good to help a friend in need and offer a shoulder to cry on now and again, if you are doing this all the time, it can be tiring. Make a choice to spend more time with those than fill you up, rather than deplete.
38. Force yourself to get out
Whilst some of us need to retreat to find our self-care, some people already feel isolated and self-care for them is about getting out and about and seeing people. Sometimes, that’s easier said than done if you’re short on cash or in the habit of staying at home and just can’t be bothered. For you, it’s choosing habits and treats that will get you out: a walk with a friend costs nothing.
39.Book a day trip!
Get it in the diary.
40. Invest in some supplements
I know there are mixed thoughts on this one but many swear by certain supplements. Floradix is great when you’re feeling tired or run down), for instance. Do a little research to find what might be useful for you.
41. Go sailing
The wind in your hair, the sun on your face, just feeling the balance of the boat with and knowing there is nowhere else you should be right now.
42.Take yourself on an artist’s date
An artist’s date is a phrase coined by Julia Cameron in her book The Artist’s Way. It’s about setting a regular date to take yourself off, on your own, and try something new, open yourself to new experiences and take some time out to let your creativity percolate.
43. Play board games
Whether it’s traditional Monopoly or Scrabble or something more modern, board games are fun, stress-relieving and bonding (well, as long as you don’t argue!) It also gets everyone off their phones!
44. Cold water swimming
Many people find it invigorating. I‘ve been doing this for almst a year since moving to Folkestone, and can say that I have definitely noticed the benefits.
45. Watch your favourite film
If you have a go-to film that you know always puts you in a great mood then put it on. For me it’s Under The Tuscan Sun, Lawrence of Arabia and The Godfather.
We’ve already mentioned sleep, but napping is really treating yourself. Keep it to either 15 or 90 minutes so you don’t wake up in the middle of a sleep cycle and feel groggy.
47. Put your phone away
Cut out that ongoing drama with your phone and set yourself times when you will check it. It might be a hard habit to break but it will make you feel less anxious in the long run.
48. Have a clean up
Not for all, as for some people this feels like a punishment, but for some, self-care involves having the environment clean, tidy and organised and they actually enjoy doing this themselves! Here’s a look at the positive psychology behind this.
49. Find a way of exercising that suits you
It’s true that until you don’t find an exercise that you enjoy for its own sake, and have that intrinsic motivation, that you are less likely to keep it up. You need to cover the three main bases: stamina, strength and suppleness, but you don’t have to do them all at the same time. Finding an exercise you love turns it from a chore into something that nourishes you.
50. Join an online supportive community
Whilst I encourage people to get offline as much as possible, having an online community of people who have your back is a good thing for many.
51. Light a candle
Again, sometimes the simplest things can add such depth to our lives. Perhaps it’s that soft light that signals our brain that it’s safe to calm down, perhaps it’s the connotation of sacredness, or maybe it’s the scent itself if you are using a scented candle, but candlelight does have relaxing qualities.
52. Add rituals to your life
You can light a candle when you finish work (or arrive home from work) to signal that it’s time to unwind. Another self-loving ritual is to adopt Sun Salutations first thing in the morning and welcome in the day. But use them as rituals to mark a transition or point in time and bring another layer into your life.
53. Self massage hands and feet
You can do this with a sweet smelling body lotion or hand cream or ready made massage oil. It’s very soothing and we still get the benefits of touch even if we are touching ourselves. Here are some suggestions for self-massage
54. Have a massage
There are so many to choose from, from aromatherapy to shiatsu to hot stones.
55. Have a massage at home
Find a mobile massage therapist who will come to the house in the evening. This means that you can slip into your PJs post massage and go straight to bed in a gorgeous state of dreamy bliss and get a great night’s sleep.
56. Monitor your thoughts
If you start feeling negative about someone, or hear your inner critic nagging on again, choose to distract yourself with something positive. Some people find wearing an elastic band and snapping it every time they have a negative thought helps them move to something more positive. Here’s an interesting article on some ways to distract yourself from negative thoughts
Journalling has long been recognised as a way to spot our negative thought patterns, think through issues and just reflect on our lives and where we are with them. Some people keep their journal and look back to observe what’s changed. I tend to fill mine and then chuck once they’ve done their work. Some people have a journal writing time or ritual, some just write when they have a spare few minutes. The truth is there is no way you can do this wrong!
58. Get a personal trainer (or yoga instructor) to come to you.
If they’re coming to your house you have no excuse not to show up!
59. Leave a bad relationship
Probably one of the most important self-care actions you could ever do for yourself. It may be hard but there is support out there if you ask. Here’s something I came across that might help unravel a little of the self-blame that goes with it.
60. Get therapy
Unresolved issues can trap you in patterns of behaviour that keep you stuck. I believe everyone can benefit from having therapy at some point in their lives. You can get therapy free via your GP, although you may have to go on a waiting list. If you’d like to discuss working with me, you can book a free consultation here.
61. Organising a drawer, shelf or cupboard
Starting small and just re-organising one drawer or cupboard is enough to make us feel more in control of our surroundings and give us a sense of achievement.
62. Have a party to celebrate something
It may be a bit of work, but celebrating something can be a splendid way to express gratitude and celebrate your achievements. Indeed, why not get your friends to help with the work while you at it!
63. Feel Gratitude
On a related note, keeping a gratitude list is also very self-empowering. Whilst popular belief is that we should be doing it every day, studies suggest that we should actually do it no more than once or twice a week so that it doesn’t become another thing on our to do list. Just make a list of 3/5 or how many things for which you are grateful right now.
64. Get a camera
If you like taking photos of what’s around you, a proper camera will cut that umbilical cord between you and your phone.
65.Monitor your social media
Be aware of how it makes you feel. Does a rant on Twitter make you angry? A picture on Instagram trigger feelings of inadequacy? Be curious about how social media impacts on you and your feelings.
66. Choose right
Get in the habit of choosing the most beneficial option. Chocolate or strawberries? If your rule is to choose the healthiest, then you don’t need to angst over little decisions like these. You almost always know which is the right option.
67. Have a sauna or steam
Let the heat soothe you into blissful oblivion.
68. Open a fresh bar of scented soap
69. A full declutter.
For some this is an obvious form of self-care and they will feel invigorated and energised as they do it. Others will feel as though it’s a chore but, nevertheless, the benefits are tremendous. Not only is your environment cleared, but you will probably be able to think a lot clearer too and may feel lighter and liberated after a big clear out. Those of the more woo woo persuasion also talk about making space energetically for new ideas and opportunities to come into your life.
Enjoy a drink of your choice and a magazine or newspaper for half an hour.
71. Make a pilgrimage.
It could be a religious pilgrimage, a visit to a favourite author’s home, or a journey back to the place where you grew up. Make space for a visit that means more than just a holiday or day out.
72. Eat chocolate
One lovely self-care chocolate related tip is to go into a posh chocolate shop or counter and pick one, just one, divine hand-made or boutique chocolate. That way you get all the delicious sweetness and a sense of luxury. It could be a regular treat, trying out all the different options, tastes and varieties.
73. Travel solo
Take a trip alone. Solo travelling is a wonderful chance to think about your life, refresh yourself and enjoy some space and solitude. If you’re not used to being alone you may find this challenging at first, but it can become addictive.
74. Forgive someone
We have all heard that harbouring resentment is harmful for you. A positive self-nurturing step is to make a decision to forgive someone. You can create a little ritual out of this such as writing a letter and burning it (don’t send it). The important thing is that you forgive and move on.
75. Forgive yourself
Likewise, forgive yourself. If there’s something you wish you had done, or not done, accept that it’s gone. Perhaps you can make restitution and turn your guilt into something positive? Or perhaps that’s not applicable. But forgiving yourself is important.
76. Ask for help
Struggling on alone is something I see my clients do on a regular basis. Sometimes,I am the only person that knows that they are feeling like this. Talking to people around you and asking for help, even if it is as simple as asking your teenager to cook dinner once a week, can help give you a chink of breathing space that makes all the difference.
77. Address addictions
We don’t have to live with an addiction, even though you may feel like you are doomed to carry it around for life. The 12 step process popularised by Alcoholics Anonymous has been adopted and adapted by many other areas, and you may be able to find help via a group that uses this. As a therapist, I also work both with addictive addictions and those who are concerned about relapse.
We often forget about plating but studies show it has huge benefits. Go back to when you were a child and play a little. Head to the local park for some swing time or hit the fairground. Jump in puddles or play about with some play doh. Nurture your inner child a little.
79. Learn something
It doesn’t have to be a language or anything worthy. You can take a class in anything from making macarons to bird watching. Or just learn how to play the guitar via Youtube. Get your head into the growth mindset, interact with others and give yourself some time out of the normal routine. As with crafting, you will have something tangible at the end, whether that’s new knowledge or something you’ve made or done.
80. Decide to change your job or career.
If you’ve been mulling over this for years, just remember that the indecision will never stop. Why not just do it and put the process into action?
81. Give your bedroom a makeover
A new duvet, exotic smelling candle, meaningful picture on your bedside cabinet, fluffy rug for when you step out of bed first thing in the morning. Little upgrades to your bedroom will make you feel pampered and looked after.
82. Get yourself a Fitbit
Or Apple watch. Or start using the app on your phone. Tracking your steps and heart rate helps keep you focused on your health goals.
83. Listen to your favourite music
Create a Spotify playlist of your favourite songs. In fact, you could even make one than one for your different moods: uplifting, cosy, sleepy.
84. Do your taxes!
We all have those jobs we hate that sit around and bug us. Get them done and out of the way and you will feel better.
85. Read life stories
If you’re going through a hard time at the moment, search out biographies of people who have overcome difficult situations. You will find them inspiring, motivational and may even get some concrete ideas from them.
86. Get the little things done
Something small like getting a bulb for that bedside lamp that you haven’t been able to use for three months can still bring a great sense of achievement. Do it today and enjoy the sense of accomplishment at last!
87. Make your bed
Get in the habit of making your bed if you don’t already. Here’s a great little book on what a difference it can make to your life.
88. Get some love
Ask some friends to tell you why they like you. A bit of a self-love fest this one but it can really perk you up and give you an insight into your strengths and attractive qualities.
89. Let it out
Let yourself cry if you need to as it’s a great way to release all that stress and tension as this article shows. Watch a bit of a weepy film if you need a catalyst.
90. Reduce your to-do list
Setting yourself up with too much to do every day is cruel and self-sabotaging. Put less on your to-do list and let yourself feel that sense of accomplishment rather than frustration.
Practise smiling at yourself in the mirror and telling yourself how beautiful you are every time you find yourself in front of one. If you find this difficult, just chose one feature, like your mouth or eyes, and start with that.
92. Experiment with affirmations
Tell yourself “I am strong”, “I am brave” or whatever appeals to you. They may not work for everyone, but some people find them extremely helpful. Check out this article for more on affirmations.
93. Get outside
Get out in the fresh air every day. This could mean walking or cycling or it could equally be sitting in the garden with your morning tea, or hitting the park in your lunch hour. Wrap up warm so you’ve no excuses, and let nature help you unwind.
94. Roll it out
95. Visit the market
Potter around a farmers’ market and indulge in some high-quality local produce. Taste, chat to the producers and try something new.
96. Do some gardening
If you don’t have a garden, consider getting an allotment or just helping out a friend or relative with theirs. You don’t have to go great guns and get the mower out, unless you want to. Pottering about and doing a little trimming here, a little watering there, can be relaxing and calming. There are many other health benefits as you can find out here.
97. Use oils
Burn essential oils in an oil diffuser and use the power of smell to calm and permeate your surroundings. Good calming oils are Lavender, Rose, Ylang Ylang and Frankincense.
Give someone a hug, and be hugged in return. You can even hug yourself. This isn’t as ridiculous as it sounds. Hugging yourself has been shown to reduce physical pain
99. Create your own list
Sit down and work out what works for you. List the self-care activities you know help you and keep it somewhere handy to inspire when you need help.
Phew! That should keep you occupied.