The Ultimate Guide To Self Care

Art by Vicky Webb. Buy her art here.

Self care: it's something we hear about a lot. But...what actually is it?

Contrary to popular belief, self care isn't just lavender-scented bubble baths, brisk fall walks and diving into a really good book. Self care is different for every person.

For an introverted person, self care might mean locking yourself in the house and hibernating all weekend. For an extroverted person, self care might mean hitting every party known to man until you can't stand up anymore. Different things inspire us and different things help us relax, so it only makes sense that our self care is very...well, different.

For me, self care is letting my mind, body and soul take a break from hard work and societal expectations.

I can only be "on" for so long. After only a few hours of socializing, I start to feel drained. A couple more hours later, I feel like death. Because of this, I'm constantly giving myself permission to miss not-so-important events and avoid social contact. It might sound wrong, but it makes me comfortable.

Honestly, sometimes all self care is for me is a large bag of hot cheetos and a Disney movie. It's really that simple. It makes me feel good and it takes me away from reality for a bit.  

But at the same time, self care isn't always the feel-good, relaxing things. In order to live your best life, your environment should be clean, your body should be healthy, and your work should be done so your stress level is kept low. A lot of people think self care means procrastination and laziness but that's usually not the case.

For example, if dirty laundry is overflowing in my hamper and dust is accumulating on the floor, I have a hard time thinking straight. A cluttered workspace (or home space) will only clutter your mind. If my to-do list is full, I start to feel anxious. I can't even watch a movie without having all the things I need to do in the back of my mind. Because of this, a huge part of my self care routine is making sure I get those little things done so I can just relax and indulge in the finer things in life!


While our ideal night of self care might include gourmet Belgian chocolates, a bath sponsored by Lush, Kardashian-approved face masks and the finest organic teas, I feel like that's a romanticized version of self care. I firmly believe that we should practice self care everyday. It doesn't have to be this day long, ethereal experience. It can simply be making a scary phone call, treating yourself to ice cream or giving a stranger a compliment.

But before we get into the ways to practice self care, I'd like to give you some general tips that I think will come in handy in everyday life. Self care should be a huge part of your lifestyle, so it's important you do it right!

Off we goooooooo!

1. Give yourself a break from the news.
Back in the good 'ol days, we would only hear about news if we were watching TV or reading a magazine. Sometimes it would come from word of mouth. But now...every single news story is presented to us online. You literally can't escape it. I think we all need to give ourselves a break from the news, politics, and social justice every now and then for the sake of our own health. We went from hearing about maybe a few news stories a day to hearing hundreds. I just don't think that's human.

2. Remember the things that gave you joy as a child and do those things.
Dancing? Coloring? Snacking? Reading? Think about what really made you tick as a child and explore that side of you again. Don't get too caught up in the adult world's expectations of you.

3. Stop reading emails after 5, 7, or another appropriate time.
I'm guilty of checking my email all day. As a freelance writer, this is absolutely terrible for me to do. I don't have an actual clock in or clock out time, so when I check my email all day, that puts me in "work mode" from dawn to dusk. Not a good idea, friends.

4. When waking up in the morning, do 3-5 things before going on social media.
Okay...let's just be real here. If Twitter is the first thing you see when you wake up every morning, are you actually even living? Believe me, I'm addicted to social media, but it's probably a good idea to prioritize the real world. I realize checking social media is important, and it would be ridiculous for me to suggest otherwise. But before scrolling down your feed, do something else. Brush your teeth. Make a cup of tea. Something!


5. Let yourself indulge financially.
Okay, this is coming from a VERY frugal person. If you're already spending hundreds (or thousands) of dollars a month on unnecessary nonsense, this doesn't apply to you. But if you find yourself saving every penny you get like me, allow yourself to treat yourself to a weekend vacation or fun date night every once in a while.

6. Know your triggers.
It can be easy to get caught up in your everyday responsibilities, causing you to put off self care. This is why it's important to know your triggers! For me, I know it's time for me to give myself some care when I no longer feel like myself. If I'm feeling like a robot with no inner compass, passion or motivation, I know I gotta get down to business and self care it up.

7. Make to-do lists and get that sh*t done.
To-do lists can be quite overwhelming at first. In the long run however, they pay off. When you don't have all the things you need to do written down somewhere (whether that be in your iPhone or in a journal), it constantly lives within the back of your mind. When you actually take time to write it down, you realize you don't have that much to do after all. A lot of the things on my to-do list end up being quick, (almost) painless tasks, like making a 2 minute phone call or remembering to pay my student loan. To-do lists will keep your mind in a good place, I promise!

8. Don't let anyone tell you you're "selfish" or "lazy."
I grew up in a household where I was considered lazy or selfish for wanting some me time. As I transitioned into adulthood, I realized it's not just a parent thing. Self-care-shaming can come from your friends, employers, colleagues, or even random strangers. As an introverted, hard working individual with mental illness, I find myself needing some extra time to breathe, which can be hard for others to understand. But you know what? They don't have to understand.


9. Allow yourself to half-ass sometimes.
This is going to come off wrong, but I promise, I have a good point! One of my more controversial opinions is that humans aren't hardwired to work as much as we're expected. 40+ hour work weeks, exhausting commutes, with limited pay and benefits? No thank you. I consider myself a very hard worker, but that's because I allow myself to chill sometimes. If I gave my 110% everyday, I would've burned out years ago. You don't have to be a hardworking overachiever like Dwight Schrute every single day. Sometimes, you can be a Jim Halpert that half asses and jokes around, but still ends up being one of the top salesmen because he ends up getting his work done. Be the Dwight Schrute about things you're passionate about and be the Jim Halpert about things you have to get done anyways.

10. Make sure your sanctuary represents you and keep it clean.
This is something that I lived by my entire life. If I don't feel like my space is expressive, I feel trapped. My apartment has to represent me and be my general aesthetic or else I'm uninspired. Whether it be your room, dorm, or apartment, decorate it with art you like! Get trinkets you think are cute! Clean it often (as you can) so you stay fresh and motivated! Make sure it's cozy and radiates the energy you're craving! Too often, I've lived in spaces that were dark, dirty, and full of negativity energy. While it may seem like NBD, it was one of the most depressing eras of my life. Remember, it's not a space, it's a sanctuary!

Now that we've went over general self care lifestyle tips, let's get down to business and talk about how you can practice self care! As I said earlier, self care is different for everyone. However, these suggestions will help you get things going!

Take a walk, alone or with someone you love.
Stay hydrated. With water. Not soda, not gatorade, not tea. Water!
Watch a mindless feel-good movie...or a stimulating feel-sad movie. We need both!
Create a self-care playlist, filled with songs that inspire you. 
Put a journal to use. You can use it for anything: to do lists, poetry, or just diary entries. 
Take a bath with a fancy bath bomb and a fancy green tea.
Clean and do laundry because your place is starting to look trashed and you've been wearing those pants for waaaay too long.
Indulge in each and every season by eating seasonally, practicing traditions and celebrating holidays.
Call or text someone that calms you down. Whether it be your bestie, your boo, your mom, or your therapist. 
Go out in the sun and get some vitamin D, even just for a few minutes.
Reflect by a body of water. 
Go to the library and check out an interesting book. 

There are HUNDREDS of ways to practice self-care, but those are just some basic, generally universally relatable ways to do so. If you have more personal or unconventional ways to practice self care, please let me know! I'm always looking for ways to get my care on.

In the meantime, stay cozy and healthy.


Maria Elena

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