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How To Start Self-Care If You've Never Done It Before

By Carley Schweet

In this article:

Self-care is a popular topic these days, especially during the incredibly stressful time of a global pandemic and a cultural movement. You might even hear that practicing self-care is critical to your health and wellness, but what does caring for oneself look like, and how do you get started?

To create a supportive and sustainable self-care practice, it's essential to first know that self-care looks different for everyone who practices it. What works for your friend might not be the best fit for your current needs, and that's okay! 

One of the primary understandings of getting started with self-care is knowing that it is a unique practice and can take some trial and error when getting started. Don't let temporary discomfort be the catalyst for throwing in the towel on self-care; keep experimenting until you find what works best for you and your unique needs. More on that below!

‌‌‌‌What Is Self-Care, Anyway?

By definition, self-care is any intentional act completed to improve our physical, emotional, or mental health or wellness. 

Notice how this definition didn't include any mention of a long day at the spa or a luxurious bubble bath? That's because self-care doesn't have to be expensive or time-consuming, which can often be a barrier to practicing it in the first place for many individuals. Also, self-care isn't self-indulgent. Instead, it's an essential piece of caring for our overall requirements for happiness.

‌‌‌‌The Different Types of Self-Care

Due to the personal nature of self-care, there are many different thoughts and ideas around what self-care actually encompasses.

In general, there are three different types of self-care: physical, emotional, and mental.

Let's take a close look at what each type entails.

  • Physical self-care is the practice of caring for your physical self. This can include eating nourishing food, moving your body daily, taking supportive supplements, and using high-quality skincare products with multi-beneficial ingredients, such as treatments and serums that contain revitalizing vitamin C or are packed with glow-inducing antioxidants. My favorites are the Mad Hippie Vitamin C Serum and Triple C Night Cream.
    When thinking about physical self-care, it’s essential to remember that we choose to put on and inside of our body can impact our overall health.

  • Emotional self-care means tending to your needs by identifying what specific feelings you're experiencing. Then, once armed with that knowledge, moving forward in a way that prioritizes the nurturing of those feelings. This could look like setting boundaries, communicating feelings, being vulnerable with others, and learning how to say No.

  • Spiritual self-care encourages a relationship with your higher self to help you get back in touch with who you are, what values you hold, and what you desire most out of life. Active spiritual self-care could look like attending services with a like-minded community, having a meditation practice, or reflecting on the bigger picture of life.

When you start your self-care, consider the three types of care and how they can positively impact your new practice of caring for yourself.

‌‌‌‌How to Practice Self-Care

When you think about practicing self-care (especially for the first time!), it's critical to consider your current needs and construct a genuinely supportive and worthwhile practice. Without this crucial consideration, self-care can feel overwhelming and like another thing to add to your to-do list.

Once you have your general needs in mind, begin to take a realistic look at your day and see where you can carve out some time for yourself. If you feel this is an impossible task, I challenge you to consider what in your life you can de-prioritize to help prioritize self-care. This can include:

  • Less scrolling through social media
  • Delegating tasks to family members
  • Waking up an hour earlier
  • Shutting off the TV at night
  • Making use of alone time in the car

 Below are two examples to help you get started.

1. The problem I'm facing is that I feel stressed at the end of the day, which affects how I sleep at night. I need to find a way to relax to help me get better quality sleep. I'm currently watching TV until 10:00pm and drinking a glass of wine (or two) to help me unwind and destress. Instead of watching TV, I could try taking a hot bath and swapping wine for calming chamomile tea or reading a book on the couch—both options limit screen time before bed.

2. The problem I'm facing is that with two little kids in the house, I have no time to myself, and I feel out of control. I need to find a way to help me regain a sense of balance. I'm currently wearing multiple hats and doing everything the best I can, but I forget a lot of small details and feel burned out. Instead of trying to do it all, I could ask my partner or a trusted person for specific help and use that free time to take care of my basic needs.

As I mentioned earlier, self-care doesn't have to take a lot of time or money to have a high impact on our health and happiness. Also, to maximize the positive effects of self-care, think about it as a proactive approach to your well-being instead of a reaction to an issue or problem.

‌‌‌‌Easy Tips to Get Started on Self-Care

If you're feeling excited and inspired to create more moments for yourself, check out some simple tips to solidify your intentions with self-care. Hopefully, they will help you feel more confident about putting your needs before the wants and requests of others.

As with trying anything new, make sure to keep in mind your end goal and edit these tips to fit your current needs, budget, and availability. Self-care is about adding clarity and happiness to your life, not creating more stress and frustration!

Tip #1: Assess Your Current Schedule

With your current self-care needs in mind, assess your availability. How much time can you realistically commit to caring for yourself on a given day? There's no time too short or too long—every moment counts!

Have only five minutes? Great! Do some simple stretches and take one minute to close your eyes and breathe.

Have an hour? Awesome! Head outside for a walk and leave your phone tucked away in your pocket.

Tip #2: Work on Acknowledging Discomfort

For some, the idea of taking time for yourself can feel guilt-inducing or selfish. Instead of expecting these feelings to completely disappear, work to find acceptance and choose to move forward with caring for yourself anyway.

Try repeating this affirmation aloud: Even though it can make me feel uncomfortable, I am worthy of caring for my happiness requirements.

Tip #3: Consider What Could Change

When you begin to care for yourself, you create an opportunity to show up as a happier, more grounded parent, sibling, friend, partner, and human being. Putting your needs first will allow you to fill up your own cup and then serve others from your overflow lovingly and kindly. It's like putting on your oxygen mask first on the plane before assisting those around you with their masks.

‌‌‌‌Simple Self-Care Ideas for First-Timers

Ready to get started? Check out these five self-care ideas that you can do today to help create a moment or two for yourself.

  1. Take a digital break. Put your phone face-down on the table for ten minutes while enjoying a glass of water or a mug of tea. Endlessly scrolling through social media or multi-tasking through emails can be a brain-drain and leave you feeling anxious and overwhelmed.
  2. Add some greens to your life. Adding in more vegetables to mealtime can help protect your body against inflammatory diseases. They're also high in fiber and antioxidants! Eating well is a powerful form of physical self-care.
  3. Make your bed and do a quick clean-up. Making your bed each morning can be a powerful way to set a positive intention for the day. Plus, you'll feel like you instantly crossed something off of your to-do list! If you're up to it, set a timer for five minutes and spend that time cleaning a small section of your home. There's something about organizing physical clutter than invites a sense of calm to the mind.
  4. Take an epsom salt bath. Epsom salts are a simple yet powerful addition to any bath. Add in a 1/2 cup to hot water to ease achy muscles and soak up the naturally-occurring magnesium. Allow your mind and body to relax and disconnect from the busyness of your day. My favorite is the White Egret Epsom Salts in Lavender, which also comes in CitrusEucalyptus and Unscented.
  5. Connect with a friend. Ideally, a friend that makes you laugh! Pick up the phone and call someone who brings a smile to your face. This act of mental self-care can encourage connection and bring a sense of togetherness, plus it's entirely free.

‌‌‌‌Final Thoughts on Self-Care

Ultimately, how you decide to move forward with practicing self-care is a personal choice. There is no right or wrong way, as long as you choose to encourage the improvement of your own health and well-being. Keep in mind that self-care is a daily practice that doesn't have to be extravagant or intense. Instead, it's small mindful activities that support you moment-to-moment throughout your day.

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