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Last Updated on January 12, 2021

How to Customize a Self-Care Plan That Works For You

How to Customize a Self-Care Plan That Works For You

With all that’s going on in the world right now, we have to take care of ourselves and those close to us more than ever. Most importantly, we have to learn proper self-care if we want to stay mentally and physically healthy.

What is Self-Care?

Let’s start with the basics. What exactly is self-care?

Really, it’s anything that we do that takes care of our emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual health. Because it is such a broad term, it gives us some liberty as to how we want to implement it into our life.

We can also think of it in terms of this question: “how do you take care of yourself?”

When asked this, we can start to think of how we tend to our most primal needs. In essence, self-care is a habitual, conscious routine that we do to take care of our wholesome self. It brings us back into balance with ourselves, as we ebb and flow with the ups and downs of life.

Our self-care plan acts as an anchor when things get too one-sided and reminds us that we have a routine in place that can bring us back to homeostasis.[1]

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What Are the Benefits of Self-Care?

Think back on a time when you really treated yourself. How did it feel? Did you feel lighter, more joyful, more present with the world?

These are some of those butterfly feelings that you can expect when you tune into your self-care plan. When we do good by our wholesome health, we feel good! Sticking to a self-care routine reduces our anxiety, curtails depression, and brings us back to present-moment awareness.

These mental and emotional improvements significantly affect our physical health: lower blood pressure, improved sleep, focused concentration, and a clearer path to exercise and proper nutrition.

A self-care plan also allows us to better take care of our immune system. To paint this in a clearer picture, imagine your immune system as the master dashboard screen on a highly-technical computer. It governs everything. When we take care of this dashboard system, we know everything that feeds off of it is running smoothly.

The same can be said of our physical immune system. When we take care of ourselves in every way, our immune system can be stronger to fight off pathogens and diseases, thus keeping us healthier for longer. In this day and age, that is more important than ever![2]

Customizing Your Plan

Now that you’re ready to get started creating your own routine, here are a few suggestions on how to begin.

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1. Observe What Is Out of Balance Today

It may be your physical health or your emotional state of being. Perhaps you’ve been under a lot of stress at work and your mind just needs a reset. Observe what feels out of alignment and where you tend to struggle. This will give you a clearer picture of where you need to prioritize your self-care.

2. Make a Clear Outline of Prioritizing Your Health

When you know what needs more care, you can create a roadmap for yourself. This may look like a simple outline on a piece of paper, or you may want to draw it out or use this template as a creative starting point.

This allows you to get all of your ideas out of your head and into something tangible that you can hold on to. For accountability, stick it on your fridge or your mirror![3]

3. Keep It Simple

Before you get into the nitty-gritty, remind yourself to keep it simple. There is so much information online and in self-help books that it can be overwhelming to take it all in.

Sometimes, it may feel as if we need to completely revamp our entire life to feel like we’re truly taking care of ourselves. In reality, when we come back to simplicity, this is where our health truly blossoms. When we can cut ties with too much work, involvement, stress, and over-doing, we can return to the basics of a happy life.

Keep this in mind as you attract what brings you peace and health and what (and who) keeps you from it.

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4. Choose Categories That You’d Like to Give More Attention To

These may be relationships, work, intimacy, money, exercise, or anything else that is important to you. Think back again on areas where you feel like you could use some more love and attention. From there, categories may naturally arise.

On the other hand, if it’s easier, feel free to simply list out categories that are broad and general, such as mental health, physical health, spiritual health, and emotional health.

5. Creatively Ask Yourself How You’d Like to Take Care of Yourself

For each of the categories above (or any that you created), think about ways that you’d like to take care of yourself. This question really gets into the marrow of self-care. It’s all about what you want.

If you’re a caretaker or someone who gives a lot to others, this may be a hard question to answer. Stick with it! It is teaching you how to prioritize yourself, perhaps for the first time! Some of your answers may be super simple, like taking more walks during lunch rather than sitting in your office. Perhaps they’re more complex and grandiose, like finally taking that dream vacation.

There are no right and wrong answers here; only what brings you joy!

6. Implement Your Answers

Make an appointment in your calendar or set an alarm to remind you to take that walk or drink more water. Plans without action just collect dust on pieces of paper. When you implement your ideas, they slowly begin to create your new healthful habits.

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Over time, this will become second-nature. For the time being, if it helps, think about an accountability buddy with whom you can share this experience. They can help you stick to your self-care plan and maybe even join in!

7. Give Yourself a Break

Life happens, and we don’t always stick to our self-care routine. Practice forgiveness! This is also just as much a part of your self-care plan as anything else. Forgiveness reminds us that we are human and that we have off days. It removes the guilt and grief that we carry when we’re subconsciously striving for perfection.

Final Thoughts

Self-care is any practice that brings us back to our physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual health. When we align with what brings us joy, we take better care of ourselves! Not only do we directly benefit from this, but so do the people and the world around us.

While the overload of self-care information is available to us in large dosages, it’s helpful to know that our self-care plan is entirely up to us to create. There is great liberty in knowing that we can craft the kind of routine that speaks to us in simplicity and authenticity.

More Tips on Having a Self-Care Plan

Featured photo credit: Amanda Lins via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] PsychCentral: What Self-Care Is and What It Isn’t
[2] Community Partnerships: The Importance of Self-Care
[3] Social Work Tech: Making a Self-Care Plan

More by this author

Aleksandra Slijepcevic

Accredited and Certified Vinyasa Yoga Teacher writing for Health & Fitness

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Last Updated on January 21, 2021

5 Powerful Self-Care Ideas for When Life Is Stressful

5 Powerful Self-Care Ideas for When Life Is Stressful

Stress affects everyone, invariably in different ways. Regardless of how stress shows up in your life, when it does, it takes over, making it difficult to stay in the present moment or show gratitude for what and who we have in our life. In the eye of the stress storm, everything is tossed around into oblivion, and self-care ideas go out the window.

However, this is the moment when self-care is the most important. When you notice that you’re struggling with stress, anxiety, or powerful emotions, it’s time to get back to a sense of balance by showing yourself love and compassion.

How Does Stress Show Up?

On a physical scale, stress tends to be behind many of our typical ailments, such as headaches, insomnia, muscle tension, or body aches and pain.[1] When we’re in stressful situations, our body activates our fight-or-flight response through the stress hormone, cortisol.

According to the American Institute of Stress, when the body is in this mode due to stress, “the body’s sympathetic nervous system is activated due to the sudden release of hormones. The sympathetic nervous system stimulates the adrenal glands, triggering the release of catecholamines, which include adrenaline and noradrenaline. This results in an increase in heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing rate.”[2]

While our fight-or-flight response is extremely helpful when we’re in situations that risk our survival, not every situation is that dire. However, the body doesn’t know how to differentiate between such scenarios.

Rather, we become accustomed to seeing every stressful situation as life-threatening, and we become locked into this fight-or-flight response automatically. This causes us to burn out because our body is constantly fighting or fleeing from threats that are not causing us any real harm.

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On a mental and emotional scale, stress affects your thoughts, feelings, and ultimately your behavior. Everything is interconnected. When stress takes a toll on our bodies, this has a domino effect on how we process our thoughts and feelings. Therefore, it is not uncommon to see correlations between depression and anxiety when it comes to dealing with stress.

Self-Care Ideas to Combat Stress

Below are five self-care ideas for combating stress in your life. Consider implementing them into your daily routine for the best results.

1. Start a Brain Dump Writing Exercise

When you’re overwhelmed with thoughts, it can become very difficult to stay present and focused. This could affect you at work, in school, or in your relationships. It’s as if your mind were filled to the brim with thoughts that are constantly competing for your attention. If left unattended, this can affect your performance or your state of being, so it’s important to turn to self-care ideas in these moments.

One exercise to get this under control is called a brain dump, and it’s exactly what it sounds like. Start by getting comfortable with a pen and paper or your favorite journal. Without any special formatting or introduction, just start writing any and all thoughts that come up.

Consider your paper a blank canvas onto which you’re going to spill every thought, no matter how small or unimportant. This can look like a laundry list, a jumble of words, or a paragraph.

Don’t focus on how it looks or how well it’s organized. The idea is to give your thoughts an exit. Once they’re on paper, they’re no longer swimming in your head for attention.

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Once you have them written down, leave them as they are. We have a tendency to want to fix our thoughts. Instead, allow them to simply exist as they are—they’re not right or wrong. Consider coming back to this exercise daily or whenever you feel like you have a lot on your mind.

2. Sweat It out

There is nothing more therapeutic than moving the physical body when it feels the weight of stress. Energetically, we carry our day in our body, mostly in our neck, shoulders, and hips. If we’ve had a particularly difficult day, that energy is going to feel tense and unsettling. This is why it’s so important to move and really break a sweat!

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America[3]:

“Scientists have found that regular participation in aerobic exercise has been shown to decrease overall levels of tension, elevate and stabilize mood, improve sleep, and improve self-esteem.”

Find what exercise regimen works for you, and commit to it for a few days per week for your mental and physical health. Scientists have also found that even 10-15 minutes of aerobic exercise can have a tremendous effect on your body. Go for a run, take a spin class or a power yoga class, or dance the stress away in Zumba. Whatever gets your heart rate up and breaks a sweat is one of the perfect self-care ideas to keep the stress away.

3. Seek the Care of a Therapist

Sometimes writing out our thoughts and feelings doesn’t seem quite enough. This is common and to be expected. After all, we are complex human beings who want to understand and process our emotions on a deeper level. This is why spending time in a regular therapy session is so beneficial!

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In the presence of a professional, we can open up about what stressful situations we’re going through. We don’t have to keep our emotions bottled up, and we know that our honesty will be protected and safeguarded.

Additionally, when we’re feeling stressed, we often want to simply vent and get things off of our chest. Having someone on the receiving end who will simply listen and hold space is a truly healing gift. We can often leave the session feeling more empowered, seen, and offloaded of the stress we brought in.

Lastly, we may be able to receive guidance from our therapist on a particular situation we’re struggling with. Having someone else’s perspective on something we’re too emotionally close to can be just the right solution and a great addition to our self-care routine.

Here are more self-care ideas from a therapist: Self Care Tips During Difficult Times (A Therapist’s Advice)

4. Interrupt Your Day

When it comes to self-care ideas, this may seem like a derailing technique, but give it a shot! Interrupting your day means introducing something entirely new or random into a routine that is very monotonous or typical.

If your work or school day is the same sequence of events every single day, bringing in an interruption can be quite conducive to your productivity and creativity. This can look like pausing in the middle of the day for a yoga stretch at your desk or in your office. It could be playing your favorite playlist in-between meetings or taking a walk outside for lunch. Not only does this stir up new energy for your day, but it can also help you de-stress

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As I said above, when we’re too close to a situation or conflict, we have a harder time breaking away. We’re so emotionally and mentally invested that we don’t see how that proximity is affecting our health. So, interrupt yourself when you’re feeling stress coming on, and do something fun, random, and refreshing to feel good.

5. Get Some Energy Work Done

Energy work is anything that is being done to improve the circulation and energetic flow of the body. This could be a massage, a Reiki session, chiropractic adjustment, or acupuncture[4].

Moving the body helps move the energy that is blocked or stuck. This is why exercise is so important. However, sometimes we need a session where that work is done for us by a licensed professional.

In such treatments, we have the luxury to relax and receive the benefits of the treatment, making it a beautiful way to squeeze in self-care!

You can find even more stress management techniques in the following video:

Final Thoughts

Stress is, unfortunately, a common part of every life. It affects everyone, but to what extent it affects you is personal. One thing is for sure, and that is that stress has a tremendous effect on our physical, mental, and emotional state.

This is why regular exercise is so important, as well as mental stimulation and emotional release. These self-care ideas won’t necessarily guard you from ever feeling stressed again, but they will certainly help you manage it better and offer amazing health benefits along the way.

More Self-Care Ideas

Featured photo credit: Alisa Anton via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Mayo Clinic: Stress Management
[2] The American Institute of Stress: How the Fight or Flight Response Works
[3] Anxiety and Depression Association of America: Physical Activity Reduces Stress
[4] Medical Acupuncture: Does Acupuncture Reduce Stress Over Time? A Clinical Heart Rate Variability Study in Hypertensive Patients

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