By Brianna Flaherty
Taking care of yourself is no small feat, but so many of us still dismiss self-care as another fleeting wellness trend. To be fair, Etsy *does* sell self-care kits, but the World Health Organization has officially endorsed self-care as a legitimate factor in your overall health.
Even though it’s important for your wellbeing, defining the “right” kind of self-care can get tricky since it looks different for different people. After all, not all of us can Eat, Pray, Love, and self-care is still a very generational concept. Millennials, who research shows invest more than any previous generation in acts of self-care, are leaving Baby Boomers (recently and unaffectionately dubbed “The Gloomiest Generation” by Pew Research Center) in the self-care dust.
No matter your age, daily schedule, or buy-in for wellness trends, we can *all* benefit from some me-time, and having a regular self-care practice can yield very real mental and physical health benefits. Here are a few tips for starting a self-care practice that feels right for you:
It’s good to approach a new self-care practice the same way you’d approach a New Years Resolution (assuming it’s a resolution you actually want to see through to the next calendar year). For example, telling yourself you’ll go from staying up until 3 am to being in bed by 10 every night might not be as sustainable as, say, starting with a 1 am goal and a regular practice of winding down at the end of your day.
Picking achievable goals will set you up for long-term success because the short-term payoffs will keep you motivated to maintain your practice. No matter what, you should never push yourself to the point that your self-care practice becomes a source of stress instead of a destressor.
lean into what you love
If you’re at a loss for where to start, don’t go thinking too far outside the box. Start by asking yourself what makes you feel relaxed, at ease, and happy — especially after a stressful day. Personally, I’m a fan of putting on noise cancelling headphones and zoning out at my bedroom window — with my phone far, far away. Definitely not the same vibe as traveling the globe on a whim, but it’s realistic for me to lean on throughout my week.
Research shows that getting in the habit of something—whether it’s good or bad—can take a person anywhere from two to eight months. With that in mind, it’s important to give yourself room for “failure,” since there will inevitably be days or nights where you feel like you just can’t carve out time to tend to you.
On the flip side, it’s also a good idea to create a really consistent self-care ritual (i.e. same place, same time, same activity everyday), so your bod and your brain get on board with your positive habit formation. If you need some help getting started, one of these self-care apps might be able to help you out.
reevaluate over time
This one’s super important. What worked for you five years ago (or last month) might not be what works best for you today. Everything from career and relationship changes to the literal weather (as a Californian in New York I can confirm that seasonal depression is real) can affect how you cope with stress and maintain your wellbeing.
If going for a morning run isn’t helping you burn off residual stress anymore, it’s okay to reevaluate and try something completely different. Committing to a self-care practice also means being able to acknowledge if or when it’s not quite working for you anymore.
Do you believe the self-care hype? What’s your go-to form of self-care? Share in the comments below!