Drinking tea on the couch, with socks on

How to Create a Self-Care Routine that Actually Works

As many of us who have ever had social media (i.e. everyone) know, 2019 is all about self-care. And even though many try to disregard its importance, in this day and age, we truly need some time for ourselves, to take care of our physical, emotional and mental health.

We often go about our days just letting the stress accumulate without any regard for how it may impact our lives. When in fact, stress can have a major impact on both the body and the spirit.

That’s precisely where self-care comes in.

However, a lot of people struggle with implementing self-care into their daily lives. Rushing here and there, it remains forgotten among duties of the day. But, fear not, there are ways you can make sure you stick to your self-care routine.

What is Self-Care?

Most people find it tricky to truly take care of themselves. When we truly think about it, not many of us can find too many things that we do in that regard.

How long has it been since you dedicated a day, or even an evening, to yourself?

If you can’t remember, then it’s clear you’re in dire need of self-care.

Self-care includes activities that we do that help our physical, mental and emotional help. Its main purpose is to improve our mood and to reduce anxiety and the accumulated stress of the day. It is also the basis of a healthy relationship towards one’s self and even others.

It’s not selfish, as some may think. Self-care is extremely important if we are to help ourselves get through the stress of our day-to-day lives.

So don’t think you’re selfish if you’re dedicating your time to your well-being. It seems that we’re not doing enough of that as it is. Focus on yourself from time to time and this will lead to a much fuller, happier life.

It doesn’t have to be anything complicated – it can include a good book, reveling in the joy of bath bombs, or even playing music. But it is incredibly important to have that time devoted to doing what will make you feel better. 

There are various benefits to self-care, which are, frankly, too precious to count. Here’s what you can expect when you dedicate yourself to yourself:

  • Lowered stress
  • Improved wellbeing
  • Increase in productivity
  • Higher self-esteem and self-awareness
  • Improved health

So how do you create a reasonable self-care routine?

Many of us decide one day that we’ll start treating ourselves better, and that we’ll start our self-care routine this very day.

However, many of us also don’t follow through. Various commitments get in the way and we simply give up on what’s the easiest.

But, with these few tips, you can create your own self-care routine that you won’t abandon when the obstacles arise.

Do the Things You Love

One of the possibly worst things you can do when you’re trying to stick to your self-care routine is to do something you’ve heard is the best, but doesn’t quite cut it for you.

Yeah, yeah, we all know that yoga’s great (and it really is), but if you find that it doesn’t suit you, and you don’t feel too relaxed when you’re doing it, then that’s not something that should find its way into your routine.

Remember, everyone’s different. What works for someone else may not work for you.

And in that case, it’s most likely that you won’t commit to it.

Try to think of a few activities that you love, and some that bring you joy. For instance, you may feel happy when you’re playing the flute, or when you’re building a table. Make a list of activities that make you feel good.

If you’re not sure what you truly love, try a few different things. You may even find something that you’re good at. Why not? Try a dance or a cooking class, or listening to some podcasts, see what interests you and, more importantly, what leaves you feeling a little more content and a little less stressed.

Friends cooking together

Choose activities that are beneficial in various ways

There are truly plenty of self-care routines, but a lot of them do fall into some dimension of wellness. There are six dimensions of wellness: intellectual, spiritual, emotional, physical, social and occupational.

So, if you’re choosing to take care of yourself, choose activities that will be good for you in various ways.

For instance, if you enter a volleyball team, you get the bonus of physical and social wellness. On the other hand, if you join a book club, you’re getting both intellectual and social part of your being taken care of.

Of course, don’t go against yourself. If you feel like the social factor of the activity would not benefit you, choose something else. You can even read a book while you run on a treadmill, there’s nothing stopping you.

The important thing is to choose activities which will satisfy more needs, but that will also suit you.

Keep It Simple

One of the reasons why our self-care routines don’t always work is that they’re too complicated. And it’s not likely that we’ll stick to something too complicated.

In fact, we might just chuck it in the bin right on the first day precisely because of that, believing we can’t keep up with that.

And it’s true, if you go on thinking that it’s just another obligation, it’s probably not going to work. With so many other obligations pertaining to work, and our family/friends, we tend to put our needs on the backburner.

Self-care doesn’t have to be anything lengthy and it doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. The main point here is to fit it into your lifestyle, while also getting to the point where you’re recharged and relaxed.

Create A Plan

Now, when we say plan, we don’t mean a regimen that you simply have to stick to. This is about simply making the time for self-care.

You can start off easy, with 15 minutes in the morning or the evening scheduled for exercise, or reading.

Make sure that you let your family and friends know you’re unavailable at that time.

If you prefer it that way, write a faux timetable and put it on your wall. Sometimes, when you plan ahead, it simply becomes much easier to fit it into your days, especially if you generally lead a hectic life. And, in general, some people simply like planning.

Unknown woman writing in her journal

A good way of doing that is making a plan a day in advance. We’re not often sure what our whole weeks will look like. That is why it is perhaps best to sit down in the evening and map out the next day. That way, there’ll be less chance of something changing and putting a wrench in your plan.

Know When to Be Flexible

Another thing that it’s important is that, while we all lead pretty organized lives, there are times when our routine changes and something unexpected pops up.

Things get in the way, that’s a given.

But the important thing is not to let your plan go completely.

However, you should remember that every day is a fresh start. If you were unable to do your self-care routine one day, do it the next. If you’re unable to do it in the morning, do it in the evening.

After all, this is about you and what you can do at that time. If you choose to do just one thing from your routine because you simply don’t have the time, well, then, you did that one thing. And that’s great. The important thing is not to give up. You can’t always do everything that you’ve envisioned, but you can do at least something.

No two days are the same, so it’s best if you try to adapt. Work around your schedule to see what works best at that particular day or moment.

Don’t Be Too Hard on Yourself

A self-care routine will certainly take time to become a way of life. And, more importantly, it’s a process of trial and error.

But it’s okay if your first attempt was not that successful. Through trial and error, you will find what works best.

Another thing to look out for is not to set goals that are too hard. Be realistic when you’re making your plan.

Let’s face it, none of us can go from zero to sixty, so to speak, in a week. Unattainable goals are not what self-care is about. It’s about finding the perfect routine for you and devoting yourself to it. If you want your routine to turn into a habit, being realistic is the best way to start.

Find a Buddy

If you have someone who can fulfil the role, you should find someone who will “hold you accountable,” so to speak. A friend, a family member or even a coworker who will check in from time to time to see how you’re doing.

Also, they can be the person you turn to when you feel like you can’t devote yourself to the routine.

Couple cycling together in the park

When we’re on our own, it’s sometimes too easy to let self-care fall to the background (and in that case, be forgotten), but if you have someone to help you along the way, it will be easier to stick to the commitment you made.

If your self-care routine includes making your diet more healthy, maybe some of your friends need encouragement for the same thing, as well. See if you can be each other’s helpers along this way to mutual wellbeing.

Get Back to Basics

Sometimes the simplest things will help you stick to your self-care routine. There are things that are so simple, yet do so much for our health, that we usually disregard. Here are some of the tips on how to get back to the basics for a much healthier day.

  • Get enough sleep. How often do you get enough hours of sleep? Sleep is incredibly beneficial, but because of our jobs and other reasons, we seem to disregard it as unimportant. But that is simply not true. Our bodies fill up on energy during sleep and they need it like the air we breathe. Even a power nap during the day can help you feel more rejuvenated and more alert. But it is important that you get at least seven hours a sleep a day to be able to go about your day.
  • Maintain a proper eating schedule. As with our sleeping schedule, there are various things that happen to our bodies when we mess up our eating schedule. Make sure to eat three meals and two small snacks every day. This will help stabilize your body, preparing it for the world. You can even implement food into your self-care routine. If you have an affinity for cooking, use that as me-time.
  • Use the free time you have the way you enjoy it. For instance, if you have 15 minutes in the morning before you have to go to work, why not solve a crossword puzzle? Or go to the store on foot. Use those fifteen minutes for something relaxing. If you have the weekend off, try to do some activity that you know will make you feel good – finish that show that you wanted to watch, ride a bike or just meet up with an old friend. It’s essential that your free time is spent the way you will enjoy it the most.
  • Focus on here and now. Many times, when we are doing one thing, our mind wanders, completely disconnecting us from the present. We think about the obligations that we have, or even something that we are planning to do in the distant future. However, self-care flies right out of the window if we do this. For it to work, we need to stay connected to the moment. The more we practice that, the less we will think about unrelated things. And the more mindful we are, the more we will actually enjoy the present and the more effect the self-care routine will have.
Happy optimistic woman

Optimism, Health, and Longevity

“There are only two things I love in this world: everybody and television.” This is a quote from Kenneth Parcell, the character played by Jack McBrayer on “30 Rock.” Every TV sitcom has its optimist. The against- the -odds type who insist on seeing the good side of every situation. On “Modern Family”, it’s Phil Dunphy, the lovable, if naive, father who says, “When life gives you lemonade, make lemons. Life will be all like ‘what?!'” Then there’s Ellie Kemper’s character who plays Erin on “The Office” who thinks disposable cameras are meant to be thrown out before the film is developed and throws the camera in the bin with a smile on her face. Laugh at them though we might, it seems like these charmingly oblivious characters may be on to something. A longer life.

Optimism and Longevity
Researchers at Harvard University have found that a having a highly optimistic outlook may lead to a reduced risk of an early death from heart disease, stroke, and cancer. According to co-author Eric Kim, there are three possible explanations for the connection. ‘The first is that optimistic people just tend to act in healthier ways and there are a lot of studies showing that optimists eat healthier, they exercise more,” said Kim.

Another theory has to do with coping abilities. Optimists tend to accept disagreeable circumstances more easily and adapt accordingly. They are also more likely to seek support from friends and family.

The third, and perhaps most interesting, reason is that optimism has a direct impact on biological function and is associated with more antioxidants and less inflammation. The 2004 Nurses’ Health study measured the optimism level of 70,000 women by asking them questions about subjects including expectations, relaxation, and social activities. They found that the more optimistic ladies had an almost 30% lower risk of death from major diseases than the other women.

Can We Control It?
Researchers say that about 25% of our optimism is genetic and the rest is up to us. Kim says, “Some of it is within our control; some is not…” and, “some people just don’t want to be more optimistic-its a preference and I think we should respect that. I don’t think we should push it upon people.”

Increasing Optimism
If you are sworn to cynicism, you are not alone. After all, we all identified with Garbage singer Shirley Manson when she crooned about only being “happy when it rains.” However, if you want to take a page from the books of the Phil Dunphys among us, here are some ways to keep optimism in the forefront.

  1. Take some time before going to bed to think about everything you have to be grateful for.
  2. Keep a list of the kind acts you’ve performed.
  3. Separate the different aspects of your life; friends, family, job, relationship and jot down your version of the best expectations you have from each of them.
  4. Spend 20 minutes a day imagining what your life would look like if all these aspects lived up to those expectations.

If you are a real life optimist, we would love to know how you do it. Please send input and advice! We love to hear from you!

Woman stretching on the beach

The Connection Between Happiness and Health

Can happiness ever be unhealthy? When R and B artist Pherell Williams felt his song “Happy” needed a visual, he and his team created “24 Hours of Happy,” the world’s first all day music video. The groundbreaking project featured a cast of hundreds of Angelenos dancing to the song round the clock, with Pherell appearing at the top of each hour to lend his support. The New York Times referred to this as “punishment level glee.” Leave it to the Times to add a touch of cynicism to a celebration of bliss. While staying awake for 24 hours may take its toll, it is generally believed that happiness may be a major component in maintaining physical health. Not convinced? Read on!

Why You Should Be Happy
So what’s so great about being happy? A 2012 review of over 200 studies found a correlation between optimism and a lowered risk of heart disease. This is not to say that happiness directly prevents heart attacks, rather that happy people are more likely to maintain good habits, like exercising, eating well, and getting a good night’s sleep. However, some research seems to suggest that there are direct health benefits to a positive mental state. Studies published in the Psychological Bulletin show that optimism may help decrease levels of inflammation and a study in the Canadian Medical Association Journal found that unhappy people 60 and older were more likely to develop disabilities, suggesting that merely being cheerful can lead to an improved physical state.

Genes and Environment
So, when it comes to happiness, is it nature or nurture? Research shows that identical twins have similar levels of happiness and that one twin’s happiness can be used to predicts the current and future happiness of the other with more accuracy than income and achievement. This would offer substantial evidence that genetics play a big role in happiness. However, if you were not lucky enough to hit the genetic jackpot, there are alternatives. Your environment can also have a lot of impact on your mental state.

Ways to Get Happy
Susan Albers, a psychologist at Cleveland Clinic suggest practicing a technique she calls mindfulness, or being present in the moment. Activities like keeping a diary of gratitude or helping others are known to increase happiness and there are also smartphone apps available to help you monitor your moods.

Are you insanely happy or insanely healthy or just insane? If so, or if not, tell us how you manage to be all or none. We love to hear it.