Self care has been a very hot topic in recent years, and for good reason. Most people could benefit from a little more focus on taking care of themselves to reduce stress and improve physical, emotional, and mental health. But the self care we see in the media—candle lit bubble baths or trips to the spa—may make self-care feel unapproachable or unachievable for you. And while a relaxing day at the spa is wonderful (we wouldn’t turn it down!), that’s not usually the type of self care that moves the needle in your health and how you feel on a daily basis. And it’s certainly not going to make a difference if you don’t have the basics covered.
There are actually three types of self-care you can build into your life: foundational self-care, supportive self-care, and nice-to-have self care. Below, we’ll break down each of these types and how you can implement them in your routine.
This is the most basic form of taking care of yourself, and the most essential. Without this, no other types of self-care will make a real difference in your physical or mental health. This includes:
- Getting adequate sleep. For most people this is 7 to 9 hours of quality, uninterrupted sleep per night
- Eating enough food and eating nourishing meals. This means eating adequate calories (aka energy) and a variety of foods to support physical, mental, and emotional health.
- Moving your body. Walking is a great form of movement. Chasing your kids around the park counts. Gardening or doing household chores does too. You don’t need HIIT classes to be healthy (but if you like them, we support that!), but most bodies can benefit from some kind of activity most days.
Other things that fall into this category include showering or bathing regularly, going to doctors and dentist appointments, and other things for personal hygiene and health.
These are the things that fill your cup, and where most of the self-care magic happens (assuming you have the basics covered). Supportive self-care can take many forms, so you’ll want to choose the ones that work for you. Below are some ideas to get you starts:
- Mindfulness activities: deep-breathing, meditation, journaling
- Hobbies: painting, coloring, puzzles, reading, hiking, participation in sports, playing music, cooking, etc.
- Social: Spending time with family and friends in real life (IRL)…not on the internet!
- Other: Spending time outside
Love to get a manicure, massage, or facial? Enjoy a candle-lit bubble bath with quiet music and a book? Other ideas might include a weekend away without the kids or a special night out. These things are all wonderful and can be part of a regular self-care routine if they fit into your life. They are nice to add on top of a regular self-care routine, but they also probably don’t happen daily. But they aren’t necessary in order to reap the benefits of self-care.
Ultimately the most effective self-care fits into your life. There may also be seasons of life where you’re able to participate in more self-care than others. Start with the basics and build from there.
Sarah Gold Anzlovar, MS, RDN, LDN is a registered dietitian, certified intuitive eating counselor, and the owner of Sarah Gold Nutrition, a virtual private practice and nutrition communications consulting business in the suburbs of Boston. She empowers busy women to ditch diets and learn to eat to feel their best without the stress.