What does self-care mean to you?  The very first thing that pops into your head.

If it sounds something like “bubble baths” or “meditation” or “having time for myself,” huzzah!  That’s exactly what self-care is.

On the other hand, that’s not all it is.

Self-care is more than just bubble baths (but those are nice, too). Here's how to create the perfect routine for YOU. (Plus a workbook to help you create your strategy!)

Put simply, self-care means doing things for yourself, body and soul, that make you feel cared for and rejuvenated.  It’s about finding ways to nourish yourself that are authentic to who you are and what you’ve got going on.

What do you mean by “authentic”?  Isn’t self-care just about eating well and doing yoga?

Yes and no.  We can fall into a trap of doing things that we think we should find relaxing, rather than what actually relaxes us.

Lots of articles, for example, will tout the virtues of having a hot, luscious bubble bath, surrounded by candles and elegant music.  Sarah Starrs wrote a fantastic piece about why this might not be self-care for you at all.  Maybe you’d rather knit and listen to the drizzling rain instead!

Whatever it is, we need to start challenging the concept of self-care practices as one size fits all–because it isn’t.

Self-care isn't one size fits all.Click To Tweet

What does it matter what’s going on for me at the time?  Can’t I just pick one thing and stick with it?

You could, but your self-care needs will shift on a regular basis.  Where you are in your menstrual cycle will even affect what you need and desire in order to feel cared for.  I’d highly recommend checking out Lisa Lister’s Code Red to read more on this topic.

Just having a stressful week may invite a shift in strategy.  When you’re stressed, you need to keep it simple, and you might focus your energies on giving yourself an outlet for the tension, whether that’s throwing some epsom salts into your bath, kickboxing, taking the right vitamins, getting a massage, or all of the above.

It’s about slowing down your overtaxed mind and body, relieving the tension, and then gently refreshing yourself. 

If you’re having a more relaxing week, however, and you’re feeling at ease, you might be in a better headspace to do some more reflective self-care, like some journaling or meditation.  You can experiment and branch out a little, too.  You might try a new recipe that’s easy and yummy and full of foods that make you feel good.

On a larger scale, consider how your self-care strategy might differ when you’re planning your wedding as opposed to grieving for a loved one.

When you’re planning a wedding, time is going to pass really quickly and you want to make sure you’re not completely frazzled by the time the wedding rolls around.  You’d want to make sure you built in some time for self-care, even if you can’t do as much of it.  As for grieving, everyone grieves in their own way, but you would likely need to be extra gentle with yourself.

Don’t try and force yourself into anything.  Stick to what you know feels good.  Make sure you’re not retreating too much, but give yourself time to process, too, maybe through journaling or making a photo album about your loved one.  Do things that make you feel present.

Is self-care really that important?

One of the reasons we often end up burning out is because we’re not prioritizing self-care.  Not only that, when we do try and make it happen, we don’t pay nearly as much attention to it as we do to our relationships, say, or our job, or even how often we stack the dishwasher.

It’s about time we gave ourselves as much love as we give our partner, our family, even (especially) our cat!  That’s why we’re going to talk about how to create a self-care strategy.

It's about time we love ourselves as much as we love other people.Click To Tweet

Victoria, that sounds complicated.  I thought self-care was supposed to be easy!

Oh, it will be!  The truth is, though, there are multiple components to self-care, and it’s important to address all of them, because a strong self-care strategy is your best defense against becoming a burnt-out shell.

A strong self-care strategy is your best defense against becoming a burnt-out shell.Click To Tweet

It can see you safely through a quarter-life crisis, help you be more efficient at work, and more present in your relationships, and provide a foundation when everything else seems topsy-turvy.


Free Self-Care Strategy Workbook.


Okay, okay. This strategy sounds like a good idea. Where do I start?

Fantastic!  Let’s start by looking over the various components that will make up your self-care strategy.  You can add or subtract to this list, if you like, but at its core it might look like this:

– How you rest

– What you eat and drink

– Things that make you smile

– Time to reflect

– Physical activity

– Spirituality

– Being social

Part of the reason that self-care doesn’t have to be overwhelmingly complicated is because so much of it relates to your day-to-day life.  We all have to eat, right?  Putting a little more thought into what you’re putting into your body can elevate this to being an act of self-care.

We also don’t have to do something in each of these categories every single day.  We can space them out in a way that works for us and our current schedule (so long as it does happen at some point).  Some of them will be daily, some weekly, some monthly.

Here, let’s look at some examples of how to approach each component:

How you rest:

– Adhere to a regular sleep schedule.

– Tuck a lavender sachet under your pillow.

– Have a mug of cocoa made with (coconut!) milk before going to sleep.

What you eat and drink:

– Slowly phase out the things that make you feel icky (processed sugar?  coffee?  white bread?) and incorporate the things that make you feel extraordinary.

– Make a batch of soup to have in the freezer for those days when you can’t abide the thought of cooking.

– Buy ingredients for, prepare, and savor a food dish that brings back fond memories.

Things that make you smile:

– Work on a passion project that has no external deadline and brings you joy.

– Have a bubble bath.

– Play a video game.

Time to reflect:

– Assess your commitments; decide which are still serving you and which ones you need to let go of.

– Morning pages and/or evening pages.

– Meditate on the beach/a mountain/your bed.

Physical activity:

– Go for a hike or a walk in the park.

– Do yoga.

– Go swing dancing.

Spirituality:

– Pray.

– Create and spend time at your altar.

– Read a book that expands your spiritual horizons, like The Tao of Pooh.

Being social:

– Write to your grandma.

– Knit a toy for your niece.

– Cuddle with your significant other.

Whichever acts of self-care you decide to perform, make sure they’re authentic to you, and not just what a magazine or your best friend or even this article makes you think you should do.

Self-care is an act of self-love: only you know what’s best.  And if you’re not sure at first, give something a try, and see if you like it.  Nothing’s stopping you from changing your mind a week or two down the road!

Self-care is an act of self-love: only you know what’s best.Click To Tweet

Free Self-Care Strategy Workbook In-page


Now I know what to do; I’m just not sure when to do it.

I completely understand.  Making a list of self-care practices you want to start up can actually be kind of addicting, so I know what it’s like to look at a lengthy list and feel the panicky butterflies swirl in your stomach. That’s the opposite effect we want, so the first order of business is to take a deep breath in, and then out.  Once more.  Aaaand again.

Okay.  Now we’ve calmed the swirl, let’s look at the list carefully:

Which of these things do you want to do daily?  Weekly?  Monthly?  Jot that down next to each one.

Which practices overlap or replace ones you already have?  Note this down, too.

Are any of them relatively passive?  Using the lavender sachet example I mentioned above, this is a case where you just have to buy (or make) the sachet and stick it under your pillow, and you’re good to go until it starts to lose its scent.  In the meantime, you’ll feel the mellow, calming effect as you go to sleep every night.  Now that’s some low-key self-care!

Pace yourself. If this is all relatively new to you, it can be tempting to try and incorporate everything at once, but you’re better off adding one or two at a time.  When you’ve successfully incorporated those practices for a week or two, you can move on to the next portion of your self-care strategy.

Don’t forget, too, to reassess your self-care strategy on a regular basis.  You can set aside a time for this every month, and even add an alert to the calendar on your phone or get one by email through Google Calendar to remind you.  When review time rolls around, look at the practices you’ve been using, how they’ve been fitting (or not fitting) into your life, and whether anything is coming up in the next month that would necessitate a change.

And there you have it, the basics on creating a self-care strategy to serve you both now and in the future.

We’d love to know, what are some self-care practices that you incorporate into your life?

Thanks @gen_twenty for the free Self-Care Strategy Workbook! I can't wait to start. Get yours here: Click To Tweet

Free Self-Care Strategy Workbook.