How To Start A Self Care Routine And Stick To It
(Plus 30 Examples Of Real Self Care)
Interested in self-care? Good news, you’re in the right place!
In this post, I’m going to show you what is self-care, how to start a self-care routine, and how to maintain it for the long-term. Of course, I’ll also be sharing 30 awesome ideas to help you start your self-care journey on the right track!
First, let us talk about what, exactly, is self-care?
What Exactly Is Self-Care?
A lot of people I know, especially men (sorry guys), get a little weird around the concept of self-care because they equate it to bubble baths, scented candles, and wine flowing all night. Some might even call it “self-indulgence” or “selfish”.
But what they don’t understand is that true self-care is not about endlessly pampering yourself at the expense of everything and everyone else. True self-care is about taking care of our physical, mental, and emotional health so that we’re able to live and work in a more fulfilling, productive way, as well as enjoy a better relationship with ourselves and others.
Self-care, when done right, isn’t selfish at all.
Why Real Self-Care Isn’t Selfish
Have you ever felt bad for taking a day to yourself or putting your own needs before those of others?
I don’t know…am I being too selfish?
That thought ever crossed your mind?
Rest easy. Because real self-care has nothing to do with selfishness. In fact, it’s the opposite.
What if I told you that by taking care of yourself, you’re showing thoughtfulness and care to those around you?
Think about it, if you have a friend or family member who looks disheveled, sounds tired and gives off a “stressed-out” vibe all the time, wouldn’t you worry about them?
“Of course!” You say.
But what if you’re that stressed and tired friend or family member to someone else?
If you truly want those who care about you to enjoy their time with you and not have to worry about your wellbeing, you’ll spend the time and energy on taking care of yourself. It’s an act of kindness towards them as well as towards yourself.
Now the question is—how can we start (and stick to) a self-care routine?
How to Start Self-Care
I have 30 awesome ideas to help you start a self-care routine. But before I get into them I want to say that if you’re completely new to self-care, my advice is to start small and pick no more than a couple of items from this list to focus on at first. Then after you get in the groove of practicing self-care, you can add more items to your routine. But remember to always go at a pace that you’re comfortable with.
At the end of this post, I’ll also share a few simple tips to help you stay on track in your self-care journey.
Now, are you ready to start self-care?
Here we go!
This post contains affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. Read the full (warning: it’s boring) disclosure here.
Health Self-Care Routine Ideas
1. Incorporate Exercise Into Your Day
Exercise is essential to both physical and mental health. And you don’t have to dedicate hours to exercising per day either. Here are some cool ways to “sneak in” exercise throughout your busy day.
2. Invest in a Standing Desk
Did you know that if you sit at your desk all day long, the risk of you getting cardiovascular disease increases by 64%? Not to mention it can contribute to chronic pain. After suffering a bout of back pain (so not normal for my age) recently, I requested a standing desk at work and I couldn’t be happier. I feel it’s the best thing I’ve done for myself in a long time.
So if you have a desk job, the best thing you can do for yourself is to either convince your boss to get standing desks for the office, or if that’s not an option, see if you can get one yourself. It’s not that expensive for the return in health you’ll get out of it.
3. Stick to a Balanced, Whole-Foods Diet
If you don’t put the proper fuel in your car, do you expect it to go far? It’s the same thing with your body. If you want to live a long and healthy life, skip the drive-through or the processed-foods aisle and stick to a balanced, whole-foods diet. It’s one of the best, if not the best choice you could ever make in your life.
4. Get at Least 7 Hours of Sleep Every Night
Ensuring that you get a good night’s sleep is a crucial first step in true self-care.
Sleep has many benefits that we can’t live without—such as maintaining healthy brain function, protecting our emotional wellbeing, and even affecting our productivity and safety during the day.
Just how much sleep do you really need? The National Sleep Foundation recommends 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night for people between the ages of 18-64.
5. Practice Belly Breathing
Would you believe me if I said the easiest way to start taking better care of yourself is to change the way you breathe?
I didn’t realize, until the past couple of years, that my way of breathing was completely wrong. I was a chest-breather who not only took shallow breaths, but would hold my breath for a long time when I’m focused or feeling stressed.
I didn’t start paying attention to my breath until I was diagnosed with a serious lung condition. It was eye-opening. Changing the way I breathe has changed my entire life—from the way my body feels to how my mind works. I sleep better. I’m no longer anxious. And I feel more at peace with myself.
And here’s the book that helped me transform the way I breathe. If you don’t have the time to do anything else self-care related at this time, focus on changing the way you breathe.
6. Drink More Water
If you’re going to drink a beverage, make water your first choice. Not coffee. Not soda. Definitely not alcohol. And here’s a free and fun app to help you drink more water throughout the day.
7. Pamper Yourself With a Hot Foot Bath Every Night
A hot foot bath helps improve blood circulation and fights fatigue, and it’s an easier (and more eco-friendly) alternative to a full sit-down bath.
This is something I started doing every night before I sleep. For 15 minutes I’ll unwind by soaking my feet in a hot foot bath and just breathe. It relaxes me for bed and makes me feel all cozy. I find that I fall asleep faster and wake up feeling more rejuvenated.
Just make sure to get a deep foot soaking tub that you can put your whole feet and ankles in.
8. Make Time for Puzzles
You didn’t think solving puzzles could be a form of self-care, did you? Actually, solving puzzles is an excellent way to boost our brainpower—it can enhance our memory, increase our IQ, delay dementia, and improve our mood.
So immerse yourself in some puzzle games. Your brain will thank you!
9. Give Yourself a Quick, Relaxing Acupressure Massage Every Day
Acupressure is a holistic healing practice that stems from Traditional Chinese Medicine. It can help ease symptoms of many ailments and promote better health and wellbeing. It’s simple, safe, and free since you can administer acupressure on yourself anytime and anywhere.
Interested in learning more about acupressure and how it can help you unwind after a long day? Start with this article here.
10. Enjoy Your Food
Paying attention to your food and taking the time to savour the eating experience is also another form of self-care. Not only will it slow down your eating, thus improving digestion, but it will also help you consume less calories and make better food choices.
Mental Health Self-Care Routine Ideas
11. Learn to Say No
You may be strong, but you’re not made of steel. If you take on more burden than you can handle, you will break. Maybe not right away, but over time, you will feel the strain. And that’s when your body, mind, and spirit will suffer and cry out for help.
This is why learning to say no is such an important element of real self-care. It’s also a way to show our love to those who are most important to us.
Think about it, if we give ourselves to everyone and everything that demands our energy, how much of us can we really devote to each? Will that be fair to the people and things that are the most important to us?
12. Make Mindfulness a Priority
Mindfulness, at its core, is about centering your mind on the present moment, experiencing your surroundings through your senses, and being aware of all your feelings and emotions in that moment. It’s a simple form of self-care, and yet it is so powerful—people who practice mindfulness report that they’re more relaxed, more enthusiastic towards life, and they feel better about themselves. So make it a habit to practice mindfulness every day.
13. Track Your Mood
Tracking your mood is a great way to keep an eye on your mental wellbeing. It helps you identify patterns that you can then reflect on and take actions to address early on. You can either track your mood through smartphone apps like Daylio, or you can get a mood journal like the one below:
14. Take Your Vacation
As someone who works in human resources, one thing that I notice time and time again about people who burn out is that they don’t like to take their vacation days. And even if they’re on vacation (usually at the insistence of their managers), they would check their emails frequently and respond to non-urgent matters.
This “all work and no play” lifestyle may be fine for a while, but eventually it does take a toll on people’s health, on their mental wellbeing, and even on their relationships. Their work, which they so love to do, ends up suffering too.
So no matter who you are and what you do for a living (even if you’re a superhero), you need to take your vacation days. It’s good for work productivity and it’s good for your body and soul. Hey, even a robot needs to recharge, let alone a human like you.
15. Don’t Take Things Too Personally
Life is too short to spend it feeling hurt all the time. Here are some practical tips to help you stop taking things so personally.
16. Keep a Gratitude Journal
An attitude of gratitude can benefit us in so many ways, including improving our physical health, increasing our life satisfaction, and enhancing the quality of our relationships.
I like to note down a few things I’m grateful for in a day using this free app that allows you to “grow” a garden with your gratitude (hence the name “Gratitude Garden”). But if you’re the type who likes to write things down on paper, I recommend this lovely gratitude journal that prompts you to record 3 happy thoughts a day.
17. Check-in With Yourself Often
We check-in with our family, with our friends, and even with our colleagues, but when was the last time you checked-in with yourself? When was the last time you asked yourself how you’re doing, if you have everything you need, or if you’re happy?
If you can’t remember or it’s been a long time, it’s time to check-in with yourself more often.
18. Practice Positive Self-Affirmation
Research shows that positive self-affirmations can reduce stress and improve our problem-solving abilities.
I don’t know about you, but that sounds pretty darn good. Here’s a cool, free app that allows you to record your own self-affirmations so you can listen to them any time you need.
19. Take Magnesium and Vitamin D
Magnesium and vitamin D are both crucial to a healthy body and a healthy mind. Deficiencies in either have been linked to depression, amongst other health conditions. Since many of us are deficient in both, it’s a good idea to include foods that are rich in vitamin D and magnesium such as dark leafy vegetables, salmon, and eggs.
It’s a small thing you can do for yourself, but it can make a big difference in how you feel.
20. Unplug After Work
I get that some professions require people to standby their phones in case of an emergency, and I applaud you for making that kind of sacrifice if you’re in one of those professions. But if you’re not in a role that demands that level of responsiveness after work hours, don’t take it upon yourself to be THAT available.
Remember to leave some room for yourself, your loved ones, and other things that bring you joy. It’s one of the best self-care gifts you can give to yourself.
Beauty Self-Care Routine Ideas
Here are some self-care ideas to keep you glowing from inside out!
21. Relax Your Eyes With Warm Compress
A warm compress will not only soothe tired eyes, but it will also help keep eye problems such as dryness, swelling, and styes at bay.
Plain warm water and a clean face towel are all the supplies you’ll need. Just soak the towel with warm water, wring excess water from the towel, and place the warm towel over your eyes for a couple of minutes or until the towel loses its warmth. This is something I do every morning and evening. It’s easy, it takes no time at all to do, and it makes me (not just my eyes) feel so good. Give it a try!
22. Exfoliate Your Skin Every Week
If you don’t already have a habit of exfoliating your skin regularly, start now.
Exfoliation clears away dead cells on top of your skin and reveals healthier, younger skin from beneath the surface. This is why exfoliation, in my opinion, is a “must-have” beauty self-care activity.
But be careful not to overdo it. When you exfoliate more than your skin can tolerate, you can end up with red and irritated skin.
I’ve tried many ways of exfoliating my skin before, such as sugar scrubs and glycolic acid, but my favourite method of exfoliating my skin now is using a gentle microdermabrasion device once or twice a week at home.
23. Freshen Your Breath With Oil Pulling
Have you heard of oil pulling? It’s ancient Ayurvedic practice of swishing oil inside your mouth for various dental and health benefits. I’m not totally convinced that oil-pulling is as “life-changing” as people claim it is, but I have to agree that it is great for freshening the breath and giving your teeth that camera-ready shine. For that reason, I recommend that you consider including it in your beauty self-care routine.
One of my favourite oils to use is organic, extra-virgin coconut oil. Not only does it taste good, it’ll also give your breath a tropical, fresh scent!
24. If You Haven’t Already, Start Using Retinol
Retinol, a milder type of retinoid which you can get without a prescription, is one of the best anti-aging ingredients for your skin. It also has the added benefit of preventing breakouts and improving the appearance of scarring or discolouration from acne.
I’ve been using retinol-based products for a while now, and I can’t stop raving about the benefits retinol has brought to my greasy, acne-prone, and yet starting-to-show-signs-of-aging skin. Ooh, lucky me!
I’m currently using A313, which is a very affordable retinol product recommended by many beauty bloggers and vloggers, and I’m loving it! It’s not the most effective retinol product you can get over the counter, but it doesn’t come with the hefty price tag those other products come with either. And a little bit goes a LONG way. All in all, it’s an excellent product for those interested in adding retinol to their beauty self-care routine. Just remember to start with a little bit at a time and only start with one application a week so that your skin can adjust to retinol.
25. Give Yourself a Quick, Daily Facial Massage
Want that healthy glow? Give yourself a daily facial massage! It’s the perfect way to relax the muscles in your face and neck, as well as give your skin a refreshed look and feel.
Here’s a quick and simple 2-minute massage from celebrity facialist and skincare expert Su-Man, enjoy!
Self-Care Ideas for Men
The following self-care ideas are specifically for men. Why? Because I know self-care can seem a little intimidating to men so I wanted to give a few simple ideas that are easy entry points for guys to dabble in self-care. If you know a guy who could use a little self-care, I encourage you to share this information with him!
26. Follow These 3 Basic Skincare Rules
One, cleanse. Two, moisturize. Three, apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen every day. You don’t need to do anything fancy to have good skin. Follow the basics and you’ll look as good as you feel inside!
27. Take a Technology Break
Too much screen time can lead to a variety of health issues ranging from bad posture to depression. So make it a habit to break your technology habit at least once in a while. Some people do a “tech detox” by switching off their devices for an entire weekend, but if that’s too big of a leap for you, try switching off your devices at least an hour before you sleep.
28. Stretch Throughout the Day
We often don’t appreciate the importance of muscle flexibility until we lose it. To keep our muscles strong, flexible, and healthy, make it a habit to stretch throughout the day, especially before and after exercising.
Here’s a great 5-minute stretching routine that you can do anywhere, anytime:
29. Unwind With Steam Room and Sauna
A hot bath after a long day of work is awesome, but it’s not the only way to relax your muscles and your mind. Steam rooms and saunas, for example, are great options for you to consider as activities to help you unwind after a stressful day. They’re both great for loosening stiff joints, improving circulation, and help you recover from strenuous workouts.
30. Talk to Someone
‘No Man is an Island’ — John Donne
Keeping your emotions bottled up puts you at 35% higher risk for premature death, according to a U.S. study.
So if you truly want to take care of yourself, don’t clam up. Talk to someone. Ask for help. Show how you really feel. It’s not a sign of weakness, but a display of real courage.
Final Tips to Help You Maintain a Self-Care Routine
Woot, you made it! Hopefully, this post has given you tons of ideas on how to start self-care. But before you go, I wanted to leave you with a few simple tips on how to maintain your newfound self-care routine:
- Make It a Priority: You have to decide that self-care is important enough for you to carve out time for it. And believe me, it is.
- Set Reminders: Put self-care activities in your calendar. You’re more likely to do them when you “book them in”.
- Gather Support: You’re going to be setting boundaries and paying more attention to your own needs. If you’re not used to doing that, you’re going to need support from the ones you love.
- Surround Yourself With Words of Motivation: Here’s a great collection of quotes to help motivate you to take care of yourself.
- Remember Your Why: If you lose steam, remind yourself why you’re doing this. Self-care isn’t just for yourself, it’s for the ones you love too.
Which self-care idea are you going to try? Let me know in the comments below!