8 Simple Tips for Starting a Lasting Self-Care Routine

You’ve heard it all before – self-care is important for maintaining your emotional well-being and physical and mental health.

The concept has caught on like wildfire in the last several years, and for good reason. In our increasingly wired world, it’s harder than ever to disconnect. This means the lines delineating the work-life balance get blurry, and more of our social interactions take place in the competitive sphere of social media. It’s easy to forget to take care of yourself when you’re moving at the speed of “like.”

Enter self-care: the simple art of intentionally checking in with yourself and ensuring your mental, emotional, physical, and social needs are met. We know self-care is good for us, and we know we should do it! But like so many other no-brainer “good for us” activities (think exercise, flossing, sticking to New Year’s resolutions), building self-care practices into our routines is easier said than done.

But never fear! We’ve got your back. Just use these 8 self-care tips to create a routine that's simple to stick to.

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1. Figure out what you love

There’s no right or wrong way to self-care. Take meditation: it works wonders for some people and puts others straight to sleep. So start by throwing out any prescriptive lists of what you think self-care is supposed to be. Your self-care routine all about you – treating yourself the way you want and need so you can be at your best.

Brainstorm the things that make you happy, with an emphasis on self-care activities that may be:

  • Personal or private (for that needed “me time”)
  • With trusted loved ones (if you’re an extrovert who recharges best with others)
  • In a judgment-free zone
  • Low- or no-stakes
  • Not time sensitive

Above all, focus on what brings you happiness. For guidance, check out the therapist-curated, self-care exercises from MindWander (including bath and beauty goodies, cute gifts, and science-based strategies for anxiety- and stress relief), or the life coach-curated, woman-centric Go Love Yourself Box for personal growth books, exercises, and self-care items.

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2. Take a look at your schedule

All right, busy bee – you’ve identified what brings you joy. Now how to build it into your routine?

Start by taking a look at your schedule. If you’ve got a calendar already, great – jump to the next step. If you haven’t yet, sit down with a planner, like these adorable ones from Planning World, and map out your week. When do you have free time? Which of your commitments are firm, and where can you find flexibility?

Once you’ve identified your hard commitments and responsibilities, assess the free time you’ve got left and how you’re spending it. Even when we feel like we’re wringing each spare minute out of every hour, chances are, we’re losing little drips and drabs of our days to things that don’t support us or bring us joy – like wasting time on social media, getting pulled into work drama, being angry about things outside our control, and more.

It can be hard to say no, especially when these activities feel like harmless time wasters. But it’s not just free time – those moments add up to your entire life. So make them count. Take back the time you’re spending in those not-so-proud, not-so-productive ways and commit those blocks of time to self-care. Even if they’re only in five-minute increments, they’ll add up to amazing change. And starting small (like five minutes, as opposed to an hour) is a great way to gradually adopt a lasting lifestyle.

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3. Set the intention

Now that you’ve identified time in your schedule when you can practice self-care, it’s time to commit. Self-care is a regular, ongoing practice that deserves attention and requires intention – no “set it and forget it” here. So take a few moments to set a clear intention. Consider these helpful questions:

  • What is it that you want to achieve with your self-care routine? (i.e., get better sleep, relieve anxiety, increase physical health, be a better and more present friend and partner, etc)

  • Besides you, who in your life will benefit from your commitment to your self-care routine? (i.e., family members, co-workers, friends, your fellow commuters, etc.)

Fix these answers clearly in your mind as you embark on this journey, and stay focused on them when you’re tempted to work all weekend and fall off the self-care wagon. If you’re new to intention-setting, check out the tools from the therapist-curated, happiness-focused TheraBox. Or, seal the deal spiritually with an herb-infused ritual from Tamed Wild Apothecary, a gorgeous “earth magic” box stocked with crystals, teas, essential oils and more.

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4. Find an accountability buddy

Even for hardcore introverts, the power of public accountability is a balm when it comes to making goals and sticking with them. After all, it’s a lot harder to skip an exercise class when you know your best friend is waiting for you to show up.

So create a practice of checking in with a friend and keeping each other accountable for completing self-care activities. If you aren’t doing them together, your check-in can be as simple as sending a quick text saying, “Hey, I made myself get off Facebook and have a mini spa day! How are you going to treat yo’self today?” Or look for self-care activities you and a friend can do together, like baking, having regular Netflix binge-fests, book-clubbing a podcast, or starting a home yoga practice. When someone else is invested in your self-care, it helps you stay on track.

5. Set reminders

We know push notifications are the last thing you think of when you think about self-care. But for those of us who are married to our to-do lists (trust us, we’ve been there), putting self-care on our calendars can be an amazing lifehack.

Set up daily notifications for simple activities like meditation, “take hot bath,” or even just “me time!” It’s a great reminder to slow your roll – think of it as your present, mindful self giving permission to your busy future self to take a necessary break.

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6. Get offline

Especially for those of us whose jobs require a lot of screen time, it can be hard to strike a work-life balance without putting down the phone. And even if we aren’t working, our online leisure activities, particularly social media, can actually make us feel more lonely and wound up – even when we’re using them to connect and unwind.

As in all things self-care, you’ll have an easier time sticking with your routine if you choose an activity you love, so come up with a list of screen-free alternatives that light your fire. Some simple suggestions to unplug: get outside, write a letter to a loved one, do a puzzle, volunteer, or pick up a great book. The Unplugged Book Box, which includes a new adult or YA hardcover as well as self-care goodies and gratitude exercises, is a great place to start – but follow your own bliss to build a solid routine.

7. Incorporate movement

Love it or loathe it, exercise is essential for releasing feel-good endorphins, clearing toxins, and contributing to full-body wellness that helps you feel better, sleep more soundly, and feel less stressed. Make movement part of your self-care routine for a holistic mind-body boost, whether it’s gentle walking in the evenings, or a more intense cardio or sports activity. Gear up with the fashion-forward athleisure wear from Her Fit Club for additional monthly reminders to help you stay motivated.

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8. Check back in

As we continue to grow and evolve, our needs change, and our self-care routines will, too. Schedule a time every few months to check back in and assess: What’s working really well for me in my self-care routine? What am I having trouble committing to? Are any of my activities feeling like chores and draining my energy?

These are all great and valid questions, and most importantly, your answers should be totally guilt-free. If something’s not working for you, it doesn’t mean you’re bad at self-care – it just means you’re free to change it! There is no right or wrong here. It’s all about building a routine that best serves you.