Self-care is arguably an overused word nowadays. More than ever before, people are investing in expensive skincare or scented candles, fitting in workouts, and taking days off, all in the name of self-care. And yes, this is a great thing. People should be focused more on their mental health and clarity. But have you ever been so overwhelmed by all the “self-care” trends you’re supposed to be doing, that you’re actually stressed out?
Let’s just state this from here on out— self-care is only defined by what actually cares for your self. So, we’ve put together a bucket list of activities you might want to try that could have major benefits for your health and happiness; however, self-care is not one size fits all. Do what feels best for you, and do it consistently, making sure to always be investing in your own wellbeing.
The point of this bucket list is not to keep up with the latest health trends or spend a lot of money on unnecessary indulgences. The point is to pay attention to yourself— to put your true self first (which means either turning off email when you are working too hard or turning off the TV when you’re being too lazy), and find out the self-care practices that really make you calm, healthy, and happy.
1. Try stepping up your bath game
Sure, baths are nothing new in the self-care world— a little bath bomb, some candles, a little jazz music (or The Bachelorette) in the background, and it’s like your own personal heaven. If you’re ready for a real self-care challenge, kick your baths up a notch (never thought I would ever write that sentence). Sure, baths are amazing for relaxation, but they can also be amazing for health, too, without much additional effort.
Adding 2 cups of epsom salts will relax joints and muscles, reduce inflammation, and flush toxins from the body (yes, really!). Or you can try adding 4 cups of baking soda, which also detoxes the body and alkalizes your system. You can also add 1-2 cups of raw apple cider vinegar, 5-10 green tea bags, or freshly grated ginger for a wide range of benefits. When submerged in heat, your body acts as a sponge and soaks up the nutrients, or toxins from your body gets flushed out. It’s one simple extra step, but you can feel all that more relaxed in your bath knowing you’re not only having me-time, but your body’s getting serious health benefits. Just don’t forget the candles or Bachelorette. If you don’t have a bath or baths aren’t your thing, you can use all of these ingredients to make DIY face masks to detoxify your skin, and step up your shower game.
2. Put essential oils to use
If you’re not on the essential oil bandwagon yet, you’re seriously missing out. There’s a wide range of ways to use essential oils that you might consider to be self-care, but perhaps the simplest, and most effective, is to diffuse them throughout the day. An oil diffuser is basically like a healthy, natural, insta-worthy version of Febreeze, and if you haven’t tried it, you need to.
The best part is these diffusers do not have to be so expensive. There are really nice ones worth investing in, but there’s also budget-friendly options that work perfectly fine and look chic AF on your countertop. In the morning, start diffusing an orange oil or cinnamon oil for a scent that will keep you focused, energized, and awake all day; at night, switch to a lavender or cedarwood oil for some serious relaxation. Not only will your space smell uh-mazing but your mental state will benefit, too. If you don’t want to add another gadget to your home space, you can also dab these oils on pulse points, like wrists or temples, for the same effect on your mood.
3. Try restorative yoga
Whether you’re a devoted yogi who has your own yoga mat towel (you know you’re legit if you have a yoga mat towel), or have never stepped foot into a yoga studio and much prefer Crossfit to downward dog, restorative yoga might be worth a try— not for a workout, but for calming downtime. In restorative yoga, you’re simultaneously stimulating and relaxing your body for optimal health in muscles and joints. It also stimulates the nervous system to slow your heart rate and regulate your blood pressure, so there’s a wide range of health benefits. Most important to your self-care agenda, you’ll feel so relaxed and restored, and your sleep quality might even instantly improve. Try a youtube video like here, here, or here.
4. Figure out your favorite cocktail (and make it for yourself)
Yes, self-care can be as fun as drinking! Where it becomes self-care, rather than a typical Friday night, is when you learn to make something (like a real, adult cocktail, not just a rum and coke), by yourself. Creating something, whether it’s your own french-pressed cup of coffee or a jalapeño margarita, can be a meditative act, and it boosts confidence when you can make something yourself that you’re proud of. It’s also self-care to know what you like and dislike.
If you’re like me, you might still be in the post-college phase where you’re used to ordering whatever the cheapest glass of wine is and living off vodka sodas. But taking the time to figure out what kind of alcohol you like, and what flavors you enjoy best, can be extremely rewarding and make you feel like you’re truly #adulting, which can boost your self confidence. Try cocktails with fresh ingredients like basil, jalapeños, raspberries, or cucumber for a healthy kick, or update your standard gin and tonic. Try some of our favorite summer cocktails and pay attention to the flavors or ingredients you really enjoy.
5. Gratitude journal on a regular basis
I know you’ve heard enough how much gratitude coincides with happiness and well-being, and that’s because it’s SO true. In fact, it’s psychologically proven to be the number one factor that coincides with happiness. And, luckily, gratitude isn’t a trait we’re inherently born with, but it’s a skill that can be learned. In other words, you actually can train your mind to be happier. You do that by, in the words of my favorite mantra, trading your expectation in for appreciation.
Writing down what you feel grateful for not only requires you to reflect on the things in your life that are good (because there’s always more than you think!), but re-wires your brain by going through the day, seeking out the good things in order to write about them later. In that way, you literally start to become used to seeing the good in your life, rather than the bad, and in turn are much happier. Consider doing this daily, or at least a longer reflection on what you’re grateful for at the end of each week.
6. Take a solo mini vacation
Doing anything alone is an act of self-care. So often, we don’t feel able to be alone— eating alone, living alone, being alone. Solitude can make people feel insecure and lonely. But being alone is empowering, builds confidence, and will give you the peace and quiet you need to restore your mind. Instead of just “being alone,” do something alone that’s enjoyable, like giving yourself a staycation. Be a tourist in your own city, or even just give yourself a stay-at-home spa day. You can get all the excitement of a vacation while staying in your own hometown, saving travel time and money, so why not do it solo and enjoy time alone?
Take the staycation a step further and go on a mini vacation, solo. Find a city, beach town, or site nearby that you’ve always wanted to visit (or maybe enjoy going to often). Spend your day shopping, going to museums, taking yourself to nice restaurants, and enjoy the fact that you can do whatever you want. You can go to whatever stores you want, take however long you need to go through the exhibits, or order absolutely anything off the menu. Take your mini-vacay to indulge in your favorite foods and do your favorite things. Stay overnight at a hotel for a night or two, and get ready for the best sleep of your life, since no one else is there to snore, roll around in their sleep, or hog the TV remote (and consider indulging in spa treatments and room service–after all, for once, this vacation is all about you.)
7. Splurge on an alternative treatment
Cyrotherapy is all the rage right now— you might’ve heard about it watching Real Housewives or from your favorite fitness blogger, but it’s essentially going into a booth that’s below 0 degrees and burning your a** off for a few minutes. Sounds bizarre, but the benefits include decreasing inflammation, cell rejuvenation, improve skin tone, and reduce signs of aging. On the flip side, infrared saunas are like going into steam rooms post-gym time, but is proven to detoxify your body, assist in weight loss, improve circulation, and purify skin, to name a few benefits.
If you’d rather invest in natural healing practices, look into treatments like acupuncture or reiki, or systems of eating and healing like Ayurveda, (who knows, you might just find the practice that changes your life!). Even if you don’t find a treatment or ritual you want to stick to, or particularly enjoy, you’ll feel more confident taking your health into your own hands, rather than just doing what your doctor recommends. The more things you try, the more you begin to understand your body and what makes you feel healthy, happy, and at peace.
8. Use a sheet mask with an ingredient you’ve never tried before
Sure, face masks are a quintessential part in basic bitch self-care, but don’t always stick to the same one you’ve used a thousand times before. Branch out and sample some different sheet masks that don’t have your typical ingredients, like bee pollen or pearl extract. You could find the superpower ingredient that could change your skin (and life!) for the better, and you’ll have a fun time trying out different kinds, gaining knowledge about the ingredients. Knowing exactly what you’re putting on your skin, instead of blindly following trends, is incredibly empowering.
9. Replace your morning coffee with a healthy alternative
Okay, to be clear, I would NEVER recommend banishing your daily cup of coffee— that’s not self-care, that’s torture. But maybe for one day, try to make one of those really healthy, warm drinks that are in all of your favorite Instagram bloggers’ morning routines, like a turmeric latte, collagen matcha latte, or a superfood latte. You’ll get some major health benefits in a comforting little cup of warm goodness.
Plus, you’ll feel like a health-blogging superstar for making your own amazing concoction instead of rolling through the Starbucks drive-through or pressing the button on your Keurig again. If you like it, you might even add it into your daily or weekly routine for some delicious health benefits.
10. Cook a healthy alternative to your favorite meal
The occasional indulgence of the dishes you really love— mac n’ cheese, chicken BBQ pizza, a croissant, chocolate cake, is just as crucial to your self-care as eating healthy. And that includes the full-fat, full-grease, artery-clogging goodness of the meal, as is. Key word is occasional, of course. But you can find healthy and alternative ways to more regularly indulge in your favorite options, and be empowered understanding how to cook healthy (and delicious!) meals. Make pizzas with cauliflower crusts, ice cream out of frozen bananas and peanut butter, and fries by roasting sweet potatoes with avocado oil and sea salt. Try these recipes for healthy mac n’ cheese, blueberry pancakes, or avocado sushi.
11. Reflect on the way you speak
Even the way you talk on a daily basis can be contributed to either self-care or self-destruction. For example, are you able to say no? If someone asks you to do something you don’t want to do, do you feel comfortable saying, “no, thank you,” or do you avoid the topic, give an unnecessary excuse, or just do it anyways? Learn to say, “no.” Feel confident in your decisions and don’t feel the need to make excuses. Not only will saying “no” give you the time to do the things you do want to do, but you’ll become more confident in your decision making.
Likewise, instead of saying “sorry,” say “thank you.” Saying “sorry” is just another way that we keep up with the narrative that we’re not good enough. Changing your external language will subconsciously change what you think about yourself, and our goal is to appreciate others, not be down on ourselves. So say, “thank you for waiting,” instead of “I’m sorry I’m late,” or “thank you for being patient with me adjusting to the new role,” instead of “sorry I messed up in that meeting.” Ridding “sorry” from your regular vocabulary could possibly be the most powerful thing you do for your self.
12. Make a meal completely from food you buy that day at the Farmer’s Market
Don’t you just feel so healthy, clean, and Barefoot Contessa-y when you go to the Farmer’s Market? There’s nothing more refreshing than picking out produce for the week or sampling some artisanal marinara sauce. Take that excitement one step further by picking out enough ingredients to create an entire meal at home— you’re literally creating your own farm-to-table dining experience. Not only will it be a delicious meal, but you’ll feel good knowing nothing came packaged or even from a grocery store, and you made it all yourself. Roast up some kale, and enjoy (don’t forget the local wine!).
13. Wake up really early (and that means go to bed really early)
Have you ever waken up with the sun? And I mean the crack of dawn, when the rooster crows— where it feels like the rest of the world is still asleep. A lot of successful people and wellness practitioners prefer to get up this early as a means of getting a lot done and having time before their day starts. While this is by no means realistic for most lifestyles (girl’s gotta stay at the bar ’til closing, sometimes!), getting up extra early every once in a while can be therapeutic and put you in a good, productive mood for the entire day. Go to a 6 am yoga or spin class, or make yourself an extra delicious breakfast and read for an extra hour. Whatever you choose to do, you’ll love having so much extra you-time before your day has to starts (even if it won’t happen often).
14. Download a meditation app
Have yet to try meditation? Seeing as everyone from Miranda Kerr to Oprah Winfrey to your pilates teacher swears by it, it’s definitely worthy of your self-care bucket list. Full disclosure: meditation can be hard. The goal is to totally empty your mind and focus on one thing, in order to get the full benefits, but that can be challenging when you have school lunches to pack or meetings to present or a workout to get to. There’s a lot of lists and schedules and ideas going on in our head at all times, so meditation may be exactly what we need, but it also may be hard to accomplish. Try an app like HappyNotPerfect or Headspace, which walk you through guided meditations for any emotion/situation, and any amount of time so it’s easy to squeeze in anywhere (like on your morning commute— just don’t miss your train stop!).
15. Take yourself on a date
You expect potential suitors to take you on a date, so why not take yourself on one? You deserve to go out, have a good meal, and maybe even look good, even if there’s no one to look good for. Having a full-on loving relationship with yourself is what self care is all about, so might as well treat it like any other relationship! Go to breakfast with the Sunday newspaper, or grab a glass of wine and a cheese board on a weeknight, bringing that new mystery novel you’ve been waiting to get into.
Being alone can feel uncomfortable, and you might feel self-conscious at first, but outsiders will never think about it as much as you worry about it. Enjoying alone time is incredibly empowering, and helps you to actually like yourself (remember forming that relationship?). Oh, and don’t forget, absolutely NO sitting there scrolling through Instagram out of discomfort. You wouldn’t do that on a date with another person, would you? Don’t do it on a date with yourself.
16. Go technology free
Guess what the potentially worst thing is for self-care? You guessed it— technology. More specifically, social media and being with our phones at all times, to the point that we never have uninterrupted time without it. Spend at least three whole hours without your phone (I promise, you can do it!), enjoying something you love like taking a bath, reading, or having a meal with a loved one. Try to do this technology cleanse as often as you can, but a minimum of once a week. If you’re ready for a real self-care challenge, try to go a whole day without any technology at all. Your thumbs may be itching to scroll, but I promise, you will feel entirely emancipated.
17. Nail a nighttime routine
I know you’re super busy, and it’s hard to turn off the day. While it may be tempting to quickly wash your face, brush your teeth, and slump into bed with a melatonin and a Friends episode on in the background, resist the urge to rush through your nighttime. Find and perfect a nighttime routine that not only works with you and your needs, but makes you feel calm and at peace, gently easing you into sleep.
If you have time, draw yourself a bath (and see point #1), or do a face mask. Try to make a warm drink thats good for your body and helps you chill out, like CALM tea or reishi hot cacao. Have a multi-step skincare routine that not only makes your skin look and feel great, but is a meditative process that helps you get into night mode. Turn on your oil diffuser (see point #2) with lavender oil, and put on some silk pajamas. Read a book that makes you happy, or meditate (see point #17). Whatever works for you, turn it into a routine and stick to it. Not only will you sleep better, but you’ll actually look forward to your nighttime ritual.
18. And perfect your morning routine
Similar to a nighttime routine, having a morning routine will energize your body and let you know it’s time to get up, in a way that makes you happy and energized for the rest of the day. Firstly, do NOT hit snooze, and get light right away (open the blinds and turn on the lights!). Start moving your body as soon as possible— whether it’s stretching, taking your dog for a walk, or going through a few sun salutations. Drink warm lemon water before your first cup of coffee, and have a skincare routine that’s hydrating and protects your skin for the day (aka sunscreen!). Finally, have a plan for breakfast that’s easy, so you don’t have to think too hard about it, (a green smoothie or eggs and avocado are good go-to’s for busy mornings).
Most importantly, make time to do something you enjoy. This way, even on the mornings where you groggily shut off your alarm and feel exhausted already, you’ll look forward to something that will help you get out of bed. This could be everything from a morning workout to sitting in silence with your turmeric latte or cup of coffee and reading a magazine for 20 minutes. Find a routine that works for you, and stick to it.