Self Care 101: A Step-by-Step Guide to Your Self Love Journey
Self care is the way in which we care for our mental, emotional and physical health. It’s activities we do to keep us as our best selves. Practicing self care is an action-oriented way that we can show ourselves self-love. Self-love is exactly what it sounds like, loving yourself. It means loving all aspects of yourself, by accepting your flaws, your weaknesses, the things you don’t always like and holding high standards for your own well-being and happiness. For many people, these concepts of self care and self-love can be new. After all we are often taught that prioritizing yourself or your needs is selfish and that you should focus your energies on other people. But practicing self-love doesn’t make you selfish, or a narcissist, it just means that you won’t settle for less than you deserve, because you understand and respect your own needs. Practicing self care and self-love often just means extending the same respect and care you have for others to yourself. As the saying goes, we are often our own worst critics. Practicing self-love means ditching that old adage and moving forward, by creating an environment for yourself in which you can make mistakes, grow and flourish. Working self care into your routine with small, achievable steps will increase your self-kindness, self-love and common humanity.
Steps to Practice Self-Love Everyday
1. Recognizing and accepting your emotional state:
No one is happy all the time. Nor are they positive or the best version of themselves each and every day. An important part of self-love is holding yourself to reasonable standards. You must acknowledge that some days will be better than others, and that it’s totally okay to have an off day, or week or slump period. It’s important to check in with your emotional state frequently, so that you can recognize your moods and learn to accept them. In practice, this means not acting like things are fine, when you know they aren’t. How frustrated do you feel when someone says “I’m fine” or “It’s nothing” when they clearly are NOT fine and it clearly IS something?? Don’t play those same games with yourself. Tune into your emotional state so that you can act and plan accordingly! Not only must you recognize your emotional state, but you need to accept it as well. And a key part of acceptance is tailoring your plans or your routine to your current state. Learning to check in with your emotional state is the basis of any good self care routine.
2. Take time for yourself
Attention all extroverts (and introverts as well)! As great as it is to be around people and to socialize, it’s super important to take time for yourself so that you can evaluate your emotional state (the importance of which we explained above) and dedicate some time to self care. A lot of people have the tendency to stretch themselves really thin between work, daily life and social obligations. And I get it, having a fun social event to look forward to is often what helps get me through the week. But it’s important that these social events don’t interfere with your much needed me-time. As someone with extreme FOMO, I have a very hard time turning down a fun night out or a movie with friends. But sometimes activities that I normally find fun are completely exhausting, because I really should have taken that free time to reflect inward and do some self care. I’m not suggesting that you flake on your social calendar, just that you should pencil in some time to do things that rejuvenate you. Once you carve out some alone time, don’t waste it scrolling through your phone or mindlessly watching TV! Take some time (even just a few minutes!) to do some mindfulness activities and whatever else helps you check in with your emotions. It’s not selfish to prioritize alone time so that you can focus on self-love, it’s a non-negotiable step of your self care routine.
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3. Get enough sleep
Sleep is SO important, and often SO overlooked in this day and age. I often find that when I’m super busy/stressed out that my sleep cycle takes the hit. When you have so many things on your plate, it can be easy to justify late nights and early mornings just so that you can squeeze everything in. Sometimes there just aren’t enough hours in the day, and cutting out a lazy morning in bed is the only option. But, when sacrificing your sleep becomes the norm, your mental and physical health will be negatively affected. When you’re on your journey to self love, it’s important to upkeep your physical and mental health so that you have the time and the energy to work on your emotional health, and self-love. Getting enough sleep is the foundation of all forms of health! In addition to getting enough sleep, make sure that you focus on the quality of your sleep. Creating a bedtime routine is a good first step towards improving the quantity and quality of your sleep.
Physical activity is so tied in to our moods as well as our physical and mental health. A key part of self care is maintaining your physical health so that your body is functioning properly and serving you. Another key part of self care is our mental health, and exercise helps with that too! Exercise can boost endorphins and help us relieve all the stress that builds up in day to day life. If you are really stressed out, adding one more thing (like going to the gym) to your to-do list might seem overwhelming. But exercise doesn’t have to mean sweating it out in the gym! It can be as simple as taking a walk on your lunch break, or doing 30 minutes of yoga (there are apps for that!), when you get home. Getting into a routine that incorporates exercise into your daily life will help maintain your mental and physical health and help you along on your journey to self-love.
5. Eating right
How can you expect to be the best version of yourself if you feel terrible? Paying attention to your diet is an important part of self care, because it contributes to how you feel as well as your energy level. You can exercise as much as you want, but if all you eat is junk, there is no chance that you’re going to feel good or be in good physical health. Also, eating healthy can make it WAY easier to exercise, because it leads to higher amounts of energy. Eating right doesn’t mean that you need to be dieting all the time! It’s not about your weight, but more about how you feel. Pay attention to foods that upset your body (a lot of people have intolerances to food that they’re completely unaware of!), and try to get all your main food groups in. Eating right can also affect your mental health. Eating healthy foods can actually help your short-term memory, so, yah, brain foods totally do exist! Eating things like fatty fish, nuts, leafy greens and foods high in antioxidants (blueberries, acai berries) is great for your body, and can actually help your brain functioning.
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6. Using self-talk
A huge part of your self care journey is learning to engage in positive self-talk. Self-talk is the inner dialogue we have running through our heads most hours of the day. Self-talk is normally something that we do unconsciously and it is often indicative of our subconscious thoughts and feelings. Sometimes our self-talk can be very negative, leading to feelings of self-doubt, self-judgement and even self-loathing. If you find that your self-talk narrative is overwhelmingly negative, don’t fear!, there are mindfulness strategies you can use to shift your inner dialogue to be more positive. An easy and actionable way to do this is to give yourself positive affirmations. What are things you like about yourself? What are you proud of? Reminding yourself of these things on a daily basis (maybe as a part of your morning routine as you brush your teeth for example) can put you in a more positive frame of mind that will organically encourage positive self-talk. An important part of using self-talk to your benefit, is catching yourself when you engage in negative self-talk. If you notice this, try to pinpoint the cause, and move forward in a forgiving way that encourages positivity.
7. Challenging a negative story about yourself
Sometimes if negative self-talk goes unchecked for too long, we start to develop negative narratives about ourselves that can end up being really damaging to our self-esteem. We end up internalizing these negative narratives about ourselves, and all the sudden these stories end up changing our attitudes and even our behaviors. In order to get to the root of the problem, you need to identify the negative stories you’re telling yourself about yourself. Where do these negative stories come from? Are they rooted in a single incident? Next you need to figure out why you hold on to these negative stories. If you are able to identify why you are perpetuating these stories, you can help break the negative thought cycle that is perpetuating negative self-talk. To challenge these negative stories, you can engage in the same positive self-talk strategies listed above. Start highlighting the good things about yourself to yourself so that you can internalize a positive narrative.
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8. Forgiving yourself
This means embracing self-compassion. We all make mistakes – big and small– and while at the time they may seem earth-shattering, they probably aren’t. Life moves on and so should you. Embracing self-compassion will allow you to reflect on your actions with kindness, empathy and support, which will allow you to forgive yourself for whatever happened. Holding onto a grudge against yourself can be as damaging as holding onto a grudge against someone else. Grudges require holding on to a huge amount of negative energy, which can be absolutely exhausting. Letting go of the negative feelings you have about yourself or your actions through forgiveness will free up your energy and emotional capacity so that you can embrace more loving behavior.
9. Committing to self-love
Achieving self-love can be a long journey, not something that just happens overnight. It can take a long time to undo the bad habits we pick up along the way that cause us to be unkind to ourselves. It is important to remember that this is a process that can take time and commitment. Self-love is not about instant gratification. Most of us know how to give ourselves a little pick-me-up, whether it’s treating yourself to ice cream, buying a cute new top, or bingeing a couple episodes of your favorite show. And while these things are fun, and you should totally continue to indulge in them, they are not long-term avenues to self-kindness and self-love. While you’re on your journey, don’t forget about the little things that bring you joy, but remember that mindfulness and dedication are the keys to success.
10. Continue to learning more
Words like self care and mindfulness seem to be all over the place these days, which is such a win as we all learn to become more introspective and accepting of who we are. This is a noticeably new trend, which means that more research and techniques are coming out all the time. An important part of your self care journey should be committing to trying new avenues for self care, and continuing to learn as these ideas advance. We can always learn to show ourselves more compassion and love. Keeping up on the most recent literature on the subject can help you find creative new ways to care for yourself! Read a book or download a new mindfulness app or even seek out online forums that discuss self care techniques. Engaging with new materials will teach you more and more about how to take care of your mental, physical and emotional state.
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