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 and the things you don’t always like about yourself. It is also about holding high standards for your own well-being and happiness.
For many people, 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. We have all heard the saying treat others how you want to be treated. But when thinking about self love and self care it is often important to consider the opposite. Treat yourself with the same kindness and grace you extend to friends, families and loved ones in your life. We are often much kinder to our loved ones than we are to ourselves.
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. Self love is a great goal to have, but in practice it may seem a bit abstract to try and achieve, especially if you are not in the habit of practicing self care.
Self care is a practice that can lead you to more self love over time. Self love is not something that will happen for you overnight, especially if you are coming from a place of self-hate, harsh criticism, perfectionism, etc. etc., but it can be slowly incorporated into your life through consistent acts of self care. Working self care into your routine with small, achievable steps will increase your self-kindness, self love and common humanity.
Here are ten tips you can follow when you are on your journey to self love.
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 even a 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. A key part of accepting your emotional state as it is, 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. It is also important to recognize when a slump period has gone on for too long. While it is important to cut yourself some slack, take some downtime, or totally give into a bad mood every once in a while, it is also important to understand that our actions, habits and routines can really effect our moods! If you are having a major slump, consider how you can change your routine in a positive way to try to get back in the swing of things. Self care is often a balance of showing yourself kindness and forgiveness and maintaining good habits that work to actively improve your mood.
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 we get it, having a fun social event to look forward to is often what helps get people through the week.
Afterall, who doesn’t love a good Wednesday evening plan to get them through hump day? But it’s important that these social events don’t interfere with your much-needed me-time. For people with extreme FOMO, it can be very difficult to turn down a fun night out or a movie with friends. But sometimes activities that you normally find fun are completely exhausting, because you really should have taken that free time to reflect inward and do some self care. We are not suggesting that you flake on your social calendar, just that you should pencil in some time to do things that rejuvenate you. This can mean literally scheduling time on your calendar that allows you to recuperate! Though finding this alone time in your busy life might seem like the hardest part, once you do carve out some alone time, it’s important not to waste it!
Don’t spend time reserved for self care 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. This can mean scheduling a weekly yoga class, planning on taking a walk after work, downloading a meditation app, or taking up journaling. There is no wrong way to practice self care as long as you're doing activities that help you destress and feel grounded. 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. People often find that when they’re super busy and stressed out that their sleep cycle takes a 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 may feel like 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. There are tons of sleep apps out on the market that can help you track your sleep and can help you fall asleep.
Physical activity is super 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.
If you are not in the habit of exercising it can be intimidating to go on a mile-long run, or sign up for a yoga class. Remember to hold yourself to reasonable standards and allow yourself to ease into a more active lifestyle. If you push yourself too hard in the beginning, you will probably get discouraged and give up on exercise altogether. Instead, try to slowly incorporate more movement into your lifestyle and work up towards more vigorous activity. This can mean taking the stairs instead of the elevator, parking at the farthest spot in the parking lot, or hopping off the train or bus a couple stops earlier than you need to to get a walk in.
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 function.
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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 before we know it, 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. Commit 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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