Where to Start with Your Self-Care Routine

“I don’t have time for self-care.”

“I don’t need self-care.”

“That’s not for me.”

“I tried self-care once, and it did not work.”

These are some of the lies we tell ourselves. Stop making excuses. Here is the bottom line: self-care is not optional. We must properly care for our well-being if we want a shot at a long, healthy, and happy life. But how? We are always feeling the pressure of time and not ever feeling like we have enough of it especially for tasks that we don’t recognize as critical. Self-care is about taking care of the number one thing you love to neglect…YOU.

You wouldn’t dream of driving your car with no gas but when it comes to our bodies, we run on empty all the time.

So, what is a self-care routine, anyway?

The definition of self-care stresses that self-care is a daily, foundational practice of attending to our needs. This foundational work is required for physical, emotional, and mental well-being.

What you do regularly to take care of yourself becomes your routine over time. Frequency and lifestyle choices also play a part in this. When you practice various self-care approaches consistently, you get to experience the immense benefits. Your routine may include yoga, exercise, journaling, cooking a healthy dinner, hydrating, stretching, reading, crafting, and more. A robust, constant routine is associated with many positive outcomes in life.

There are a few domains of self-care to think about when designing your routine such as:

  1. Nutrition/hydration
  2. Exercise
  3. Soothing strategies
  4. Self-awareness/mindfulness
  5. Rest
  6. Relationships
  7. Physical and medical practices
  8. Environmental factors
  9. Self-compassion
  10. Spiritual practices

Keep in mind that you do not have to tackle ALL the domains right now.

Tips for Starting a Self-Care Routine:

  • If you started a practice once and it did not work out, it is ok to start again.
  • Figure out what works for you – a self-care routine is 100% individualized.
  • Start slow.
  • Start as small as necessary.
  • Abandon any practices that do not feel good.
  • Don’t be afraid to try new things.
  • No judgment.
  • Be kind to yourself.
  • Bend the rules to accommodate yourself.
  • Be consistent.
  • It doesn’t have to cost any money.
  • Keep it fun!

Here is an example of starting small: let’s say, you want to try meditation (which I recommend), but the thoughts of sitting still for 20 minutes is nauseating to you…start with 2 minutes, 5 minutes, then build yourself up to 7 minutes, etc. Also, if you are not one to sit on the floor with the soles of your feet together, sit in a chair to meditate or do it in bed.

I have been revamping my routine for nearly ten years at this point and practices that worked for me at the start, don’t necessarily work for me now. You are constantly evolving, and your routine should evolve as well.

I will admit that there have been times that I have abandoned my self-care altogether, and I will tell you that when I have practiced self-care routinely, I have experienced the immense benefits as opposed to the times I have neglected it.

For me, here is how I currently tackle some of the domains in my everyday life to get you thinking about your routine…

Nutrition/hydration

I try to limit the amount that I eat out by planning and cooking meals at home. Bonus points if I cook something that lasts more than one meal. I really try to practice Intuitive Eating which encourages me to listen to my body and honor my hunger and fullness cues without restricting. I have done the extreme dieting thing before and it backfired. With obesity present in my family (both sides, all around), this is an area I struggle with. Also, I try to keep my water intake at 64 ounces a day. If I am truthful, right now, I only average about 40-50 ounces of water a day, but I carry around a water bottle and I try to drink a full one during the workday and the rest I drink when I get home.

Exercise

I love exercise fitness classes! Zumba all the way! However, these days I am finding it hard to get out to a class. Maybe it is the winter blues? Whatever it is, it is not happening for me right now. Instead of beating myself up about it or just not exercising, I have started exercising at home. With a goal of 2-3 times a week for 30 minutes each, I have found this to be manageable. Remember, I said it is ok to start small. I just put on music to dance, stretch, do weightlifting exercises, etc. Just move! YouTube is great for this…Fitness Marshall, anyone? There are so many great videos you can dance along with for free if you need a little structure. See my blog post, “Joyful Movement,” for more thoughts on exercise.

Soothing strategies

For this domain, I write in my journal (I am enjoying the Michele Obama “Becoming” journal). I also use an essential oil diffuser, light candles, and use other aromatherapy techniques around the house. I also listen to inspirational books during my commute or driving to and from meetings. Lastly, I utilized quick and easy deep breathing techniques to calm my nerves and attend regular Reiki appointments.

Rest

I never skimp on sleep! At least 8 hours a night. If you have trouble sleeping, you should consult with your doctor. Sleep is so very important. If you are interested in trying a weighted blanket to improve your sleep, see my blog post on weighted blankets and determine if one is right for you. I feel much more rested since using it. Furthermore, I take breaks when I need to, and I listen to my body when I need to stop. Yes, even if that means canceling plans or saying no when asked to do something.

Relationships

I am very grateful for the supportive people in my life. My husband, my mother, and my friends are all very supportive. Spending time with them in person or on the phone always brightens my mood. Now, if you do not have supportive people in your life, it is time to seek some out. This is very important. I have also had to remove toxic people from my life for my sanity. It is hard to do, but sometimes it is necessary, even when the toxic person is a close family member. I recommend a therapist or a mental health counselor as well if you need additional support.

Comment below and tell me what you do as part of your self-care routine?

What regular self-care practices do you participate in?

Or what do you want to start doing to practice better self-care?

How can you start today?

Best,

Dr. MC

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7 thoughts on “Where to Start with Your Self-Care Routine

  1. I started Weight Watchers in September as my first step in Self care. Then added working out and stretching a few weeks ago, as another step. I was really sick last week and it was my daughter who pointed out that I was resisting going to the doctor. She made me realize I was denying myself medical care and it was hypocritical. I finally went to urgent care and have a very severe.. and painful kidney infection. I’m grateful my daughter sternly encouraged me to seek care. I’ve now added another step to self care by finally ( after about 5years) chosen a primary care physician and scheduled a physical. It is such a process, as you say, and I appreciate your tips and guidance!

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    1. My goodness, I am so glad you went to Urgent Care. Sometimes we need some “nudging” from those who love us to get started. Taking care of our physical/medical domain is very important and going to regular doctor/dentist appointments is a key aspect of practicing good self-care in that area. I am so glad to hear you now have a PCP and a physical scheduled. Way to go! Don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself and your needs. As for the WW piece, please look into Intuitive Eating and the research supporting it. The gist is listening to your fullness and hunger cues and not restricting your intake. Just something to think about to help support your journey. – Dr. MC

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