25 Ways to Make Your Self-Care a Priority in 2021
When was the last time you put yourself first, in any given situation?
For many of you, it may have been a while. There’s no shame in it, because all of us (including me) get caught up in the day-to-day rush of everyday life which leaves very little time to focus on our own self-care. You’ve got work and family, and it seems like there’s barely a moment to breathe, let alone do anything simply to make yourself feel good.
When you always make time for everything and everyone else, but don’t make time for yourself, eventually you’ll end up feeling depleted and empty. Self-care is an important component to your overall health both mental and physical so it’s important for you to find ways to make it a priority, no matter how busy you are.
But don’t despair, there are a million ways that you can adopt healthier habits and start putting yourself first for once (and it doesn’t have to take up a lot of your time). Read on for 25 super simple ways that you can begin putting yourself first and make self-care a top priority. After all, self-care is the best way to manage your stress before your stress manages you.
1. Make Time To Self-Reflect: Getting in touch with who you really are (your true self) and what you want is a good way to begin making self-care a priority. Self-reflection gives you the opportunity to evaluate your life – your thoughts, choices, attitudes and behaviors that have brought you to your current situation.
To stop putting your self-care on the backburner, start asking yourself questions such as, “What is a choice I can make this week based on my needs alone,” or “How can I be more intentional with my time today?” You don’t have to spend a lot of time on this – 5 to 10 minutes a day is all you need to start. Once you start reflecting on what’s truly important to you, making yourself a priority will be much easier.
2. Learn To Say No (And Mean It): Setting boundaries is something that’s so important to self-care and it’s something that many people have a hard time with. But learning to say no more often is probably one of the best things you could ever do for yourself. Saying no allows you to get back in the driver’s seat and have more control over your own life.
A lot of us say we don’t have time for self-care because we’re so busy, however, the busyness exists only because we’ve said yes to everyone else’s demands. Instead of filling up your time this way, start saying no to mundane tasks so that you can leave more time for what you really want to do. You’ll start to see that you do have time to read that book, see that movie or take a much needed bubble bath. Remember that “No” is a full sentence and it will work wonders in helping you make self-care a priority in your life.
3. Take A Time Out: When life gets overwhelming it’s okay to give yourself permission to take a break. When you’re facing a difficult time, allow yourself a breather so you can collect your thoughts and work through the problem in a reasonable way.
If you’re at work, take 5 minutes to walk away from your desk. Step outside to breathe some fresh air. At home, lock yourself in the bathroom. Put your headphones on and blare your music or find an empty room in the house and sit in silence. If you have difficulty making time for breaks, there are plenty of free apps you can use to help you schedule in a “time out” session or two every day.
4. Connect To Your Inner Artist: Feeling stressed? Have fun with your inner child and connect to your inner artist. Many people as they become adults, sometimes stray away from the things we loved most as a child as adult responsibilities get in the way. Think back to when you were little. What creative activities did you enjoy? Writing, painting, sketching, acting, reading, scrapbooking? Get back some of that magic and make time to play. Download that movie you’ve been wanting to watch. Pick up a book and read. Try that new yoga class. Get yourself a canvas and some paint and create a masterpiece. Do what it takes to tap into your creative side and allow yourself the time necessary to reconnect with the things you really love.
5. Take a 15-minute walk: Making the time to take a walk every single day is one of the simplest ways to prioritize self-care. Walking is a great way to reduce stress, lighten your mood and helps you feel better overall. One of the things that makes walking so wonderful is that it’s a natural energy booster – no caffeine needed!
It’s important to take 10-15 minutes out of your day to step outside and breathe some fresh air. Without your phone. Having a tech disconnect during your daily walk allows you to be more in touch with your thoughts. This allows you to give yourself the gift of being fully present and connect to nature allowing you to notice those things you would have otherwise missed while scrolling mindlessly through your phone.
6. Spoil Yourself: Have you ever neglected your own needs, because you’re too busy saying yes to everyone else? Probably too often. Remember #2 on this list – saying “no” to create boundaries? Well, now it’s time to start saying yes to yourself. It’s important to have a little indulgence once in a while. After all, if you don’t take care of yourself, who will? Your indulgence doesn’t have to be anything that breaks the bank – just take a little time out for YOU. Treat yourself to a good book or a relaxing massage. Buy yourself your favorite snack and eat it with zero guilt. Take a short road trip and explore someplace you’ve always wanted to go. Try a bold new lipstick. Blast your favorite music and have a dance party in the kitchen. Put your needs first for once and make spoiling yourself a priority.
7. Learn Something New: Never stop learning. There’s no reason for it at this point in time because we have an unlimited number of resources at our fingertips. Giving yourself the gift of knowledge is one of the best things you can do for yourself when engaging in self-care. It helps your mind to grow, which can help protect yourself from stress long term.
Think about something that you’ve always wanted to learn. Write out a list of things that interest you and research online courses, books, videos, etc., that will allow you to expand your knowledge on those topics. Maybe you want to learn more about the Civil Rights movement, how to begin hand-lettering so that you can open up an Etsy shop, how to meditate or the best way to begin a journaling practice. Whatever it is, you can find a course out there and start learning something new right now.
8. Tech Disconnect: In 2021, technology has for many of us, become our lifeline to the world. It’s quite common to rarely spend a moment without a phone, scrolling mindlessly through social media to fill up time. In fact, a great deal of us spend more time scrolling through the highlights of other people’s lives than we do on our own self-care. It’s time to turn that around. Take a break from social media and allow yourself to be fully present in the here and now.
Notice how much time you spend on social media each day. Set boundaries by checking social media only at certain times during the day. Turn off your notifications. Consider using apps that will help limit your access to social media, so you won’t be tempted to peek. Social media addiction is a very real thing and can negatively affect your mental and physical wellbeing if you don’t use it judiciously.
9. Connect With Others: Now when I say connect, I don’t just mean via the digital world with your social media “friends” on Instagram or Facebook; I mean live, in the flesh, real people. You can do it in a safe, socially distanced, masked manner. As human beings, we need connection in our lives and sometimes that takes being very intentional with our time.
Try to get out of the house and do something that makes you feel good. Allow yourself the time to laugh, explore and have fun with others outside of normal daily life. Try volunteering at an animal shelter or soup kitchen or re-connect with someone you haven’t talked to in a while. Go on a date night with your spouse or get together for a girl’s night out (or in via Zoom) and catch up with old friends. You’ll be giving yourself some much needed time away and a chance to recharge your batteries.
10. Spend Time Alone: As important as it is to connect with those around you, on the flip side of the coin, spending time alone is important when prioritizing self-care in your life. We all alone time. Life is hectic and we rarely give ourselves a moment to slow down and recharge, let alone be by ourselves when doing so. If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, on edge and anxious, it may be that you need some time to yourself. Spending even a small amount of time alone each day can help clear your head and relax your mind. It allows you to be present with your own thoughts so you can tune in to what you want and need. If you live in a busy household, or aren’t used to having a lot of time to yourself, start small, just 15 – 20 minutes a day will do.
11. Journal Those Thoughts: Pick up a notebook or journal and pen and start getting real with yourself and your thoughts. Many people don’t spend nearly enough time doing this. Because the pace of modern life is so hectic, having a mind cluttered with the chaos of daily life means that sometimes individuals lose touch with themselves in the process. Don’t let that happen to you. If you have a morning routine, consider starting your day with a quick journal entry which is sometimes called morning pages. Just put down whatever comes to your mind and let go of the idea that it has to be perfect. Write down your wins, your worries, your mess ups and everything in between. This helps you start each day with a clear head and will help you take on the rest of your day.
12. Plan Your Meals: Meal planning helps with you kitchen organization and takes the stress out of wondering what’s for dinner and can also save you big bucks on your grocery bill. Pick one day a week to plan out your meals, make a grocery list and go shopping.
When you a list in hand, you won’t be as tempted to buy the random things you find in the grocery store aisles. Also, planning ahead means that you’ll be more likely to make healthier choices and won’t have to wander around aimlessly trying to figure out what’s for dinner as you’ll know exactly what you’re going for. Prep takes the guesswork out of mealtime and gives you much more control over your health and nutrition. Which is a long term form of self-care.
13. Get Organized: Another way to fully immerse yourself into the self-care zone, is to organize your physical space. Many people don’t think of clutter as influencing their mental or physical health. But organization is a form of self-care because it gives you peace of mind, decreases stress and allows you to spend time on things OTHER than more organizing.
What’s a simple way to clear the clutter?
Start by prioritizing what really deserves a place on your overall to-do list. Do a mental brain dump. Clean out junk drawers. Purge your closets. Toss out broken toys or donate unused household items. Unsubscribe from email lists. Start a budget. Make your bed. Set out your clothing the night before. By getting organized now, you allow yourself more time for self-care and less time to get distracted by random clutter.
14. Create A Playlist: Music has a huge impact on our emotional, mental and physical health which makes it one of the most valuable forms of self-care. Have you ever heard a song that makes you feel better after you’ve had a rough day? It’s all about the music. The lyrics, the sound, the tempo – it affects you on the deepest level and melts the stress away even if it’s for a brief moment. Find the type of music that speaks to your soul and create a playlist. It doesn’t have to be an hour-long music fest, but just 5-10 minutes of music each morning can get you pumped and ready to start the day.
15. Create A Vision Board: Engaging in self-care is not just about caring for your current self, it’s also about caring for your future self. With a vision board, it’s all in the title. They allow you to ‘envision’ what you want out of life both personally and professionally. Creating a vision board is an active way of creating your future life – today.
A vision board helps you to think about and keep your mind on the things you can do to improve yourself and steps necessary to get from A to B. It’s about bringing those wants, needs, hopes and dreams to the surface and putting out an intentional affirmation that you believe in yourself enough to achieve them. It links back to idea number 7 – never stop learning. Make sure to put your vision board somewhere you’ll see it every day.
16. Take A Road Trip: For many of us, overseas travel ground to a halt in 2020 as people looked for alternatives to their traditional vacations. Think - when was the last time you took a short break from your day-to-day life to get away from the familiar and see some new sights? So why not do it now? Sometimes you just need to get in a car and go with nothing but an open road and a playlist of your favorite songs to keep you company. A road trip can be just the thing you need to relax, unwind and get away from the daily stressors of life. It gives you the chance to be alone with your thoughts and reflect on who you are and what you really want – something we lose sight of in the chaos of daily life. A road trip doesn’t have to be elaborate; it can be something as simple as a day trip.
17. Let Go Of Perfection: We’re bombarded by fake perfection everywhere we turn – social media, movies, magazines etc. It’s hard to get away from it and even harder to measure up to these unattainable examples. Because none of us are perfect. For this reason, it’s so important to let go of the idea that you need to be perfect. When you allow yourself to get caught up with having the most ‘perfect’ life, your mental, physical and emotional health can suffer. Take care of yourself, do what is right for you and your family and be intentional about the choices you make. Life is a unique journey for all of us – stop trying to measure up to something that isn’t even part of your story.
18. Have A Weekly GYST Day: GYST means Get Your Shit Together. It’s easy to get overwhelmed and frustrated when you have a list of tedious to-dos piling up. A GYST day allows you to Eat that Frog and take care of all those things in one swoop so you can be more focused and organized for the coming week. Pick a day that works with your schedule and do all the things that make you feel better about your life. Maybe you need to pamper yourself more, so you take time for a face mask and a relaxing bubble bath. Maybe you need a day to clean and organize your space or pay some nagging bills. Setting aside a dedicated day to get your life together (or at least feel like it) will give you the boost you need to get through the rest of the week.
19. Get Enough Sleep: Sleep is so important for your overall health and wellness. Studies have shown that sleep deprivation impacts your physical, mental and emotional health and has been linked to depression, anxiety, weight gain and so many more negative side effects. It’s much harder to cope with the daily stress of life when you’re walking around in a groggy daze and you can’t possibly operate at 100%. Think about it. When you have a night where you don’t sleep, and you have to perform the next day how hard is it to do what you need to do? I’ve been there, it can be really difficult.
How can you improve your sleep?
Consider starting an evening routine for yourself. Try going to bed at the same time every night and turn off all electronic devices an hour before so your brain has some downtime. Use that time to read, meditate or journal. Sleep is vital and a great place to begin on your self-care journey.
20. Ask For Help: When you need help, ask for it. It’s as simple as that. Too often, we don’t want to burden anyone with our problems, so we attempt to handle things on our own. This can lead feeling overwhelmed and unhappiness. You could waste so much time and energy trying to find your own solutions when could easily just reach out to someone else for a little assistance; especially if they’ve faced the same issues. As humans, we need connection. We desire to contribute and make a difference in someone else’s life. Asking for help gives you a two-fer – you get the assistance you need and allow the other person to give you support.
21. Eliminate Toxic People: If you really want to put yourself first, one way that you can do that is by eliminating those who bring your down. Take a look at the people in your life – friends, family, co-workers. Then ask yourself, do they support you and push you to be the best version of yourself? Or do they discourage you from success and drain you with their negativity?
Let go of anyone who spends more time putting you down instead of building you up. Establish firm boundaries or cut ties with any relationship that makes you feel less than. You don’t need people in your life that distract you or direct you away from who you are truly meant to be.
22. Watch Your Words: Pay attention to the words you use when you speak to yourself. Are those words encouraging and positive or negative and spiteful? Mostly everyone suffers from negative self-talk from time to time. However, when your inner voice constantly criticizes your every flaw and makes you feel unworthy, that’s a problem. Negative self-talk damages your health and self-esteem long before you even realize what’s happening. Awareness is the first step. Start by challenging each negative thought as it happens and replacing it with a positive one. It’s time to talk that positive self-talk.
23. Feed Your Mind: One of the most important things you can do for your mental health is to feed your mind with daily inspiration and positivity. Affirmations are a great way to do this. With all the resources at your fingertips, the options are limitless when it comes to choosing a medium for pursuing positivity. Find a favorite podcast or choose an uplifting Ted Talk. Read (or listen to) a book, seek out inspirational YouTube Videos or watch a documentary. Review positive quotes or read my post on how to use affirmations.
Set aside a little time each day to give yourself this boost of positivity. Not only will you feel better, but it will open your mind to all the possibilities life has to offer and inspire you to become an even better version of yourself.
24. Practice Gratitude: There is something powerful about appreciating what you already have. Developing a gratitude practice will help you love your life and all the things in it, resulting in a life-changing shift in perspective about what is truly important. Practicing gratitude is one of the most basic forms of self-care. It doesn’t have to cost a lot and you can easily get started with just a journal and a pen. Each morning take the time to write down a few things you’re thankful for. You should do this at night as well. The more you practice gratitude, the more it becomes second nature. When gratitude gets to the point of being second nature, you’ll start to notice more – the joy, the beauty and all the miracles in life that surround you.
25. Let Go Of Guilt: Putting yourself first is 100% necessary for you to show up in the world as the best possible version of YOU. It’s not selfish, contrary to what we’ve told ourselves, yet there is so much guilt surrounding the idea of routine self-care.
The first step to letting go of this guilt is to understand what it means (or doesn’t mean) to put yourself first. This doesn’t mean that you disregard everyone else and only care about yourself from this moment on. It doesn’t mean that you need to stop helping others. It only means that you prioritize your needs first and then move down the line in order of importance. You can’t be of service to others when you are depleted and empty. The whole world benefits when you set aside your guilt and begin making yourself a priority.
So there you have it. Self-care is vital for your overall health and happiness. It doesn’t take a lot of time or effort, just a commitment that you are going to start showing yourself more love, simply because you deserve it. 😊 It’s important to be patient with yourself as you go through the process. With small, simple steps each day, you can transform into the best possible version of yourself and begin changing the course of your life.
Let’s talk, what are you going to incorporate into your self-care routine? Let me know in the comments section.
Cassandra Martin-Himmons is a trainer, wellness coach and consultant who believes in empowering her clients and providing the tools that they need to make positive changes in their lives to manage their stress and increase their self-care. In her spare time, she enjoys papercrafting, volunteering and travel. Connect with her on Instagram or Linked/In