This week, I heard that only 7-8% of Americans practice self-care. That statistic really surprised me at first. As I started to think about it more, though, it made sense.
We’re all busy, and self-care seems like a lot of extra work if you haven’t started practicing it. As someone who enjoys running, it reminds me of trying to get back into a running routine after I take a break. I can make excuses and come up with reasons why I don’t have time to go on a run or maintain a regular running schedule, but as soon as I start running again, I feel great.
As with any lifestyle change, you have to start small. When I get back into running, I can’t just start running 5Ks and 10Ks right away. I have to build up my mileage by training and practicing. I start small and work my way up from there. The same goes for self-care.
If you’ve always wanted to practice self-care but felt like you didn’t have the time or it was too overwhelming, start by practicing small acts of love for yourself. Wash your face before you go to bed and when you wake up in the morning. Put clean dishes away before you put more dirty ones in the sink. Better yet, go ahead and wash that dish after you use it. Take a moment to do that chore you’ve been putting off. Give yourself a few minutes to work on that project you’ve been meaning to do. Spend a few minutes on a hobby.
These are just examples of small ways to practice self-care, and they take barely any time out of your day. Pick one and go from there, or come up with your own. Whatever it is that you do, though, make sure it’s something you’re doing for you.
I know doing the dishes or taking the trash out or just taking basic care of yourself doesn’t seem like self-care, but it is. As you continue the practice of self-care, you’ll start to realize what you do for yourself and what you do for others. I live alone and don’t have anyone to help with chores, which means that everything I do around my apartment is for me. So, every morning, I try to get at least one small chore done and out of the way for the day. This morning, for example, I unloaded the dishwasher so that I can just put used dishes there instead of piling them up in my sink and having to spend a long time loading the dishwasher later. I count that as self-care because I’m doing something to take care of myself.
If you live in a shared space, taking the time to clean up your own space would also count as self-care. Maybe you really need to take your extra water glasses to the kitchen or empty your bedroom trash can. Maybe you need to change your bedding so you can have fresh, clean sheets to sleep in. Maybe you need to vacuum, fold laundry, dust, whatever it is that you’ve been putting off, take a few minutes to work on it or get it done. You’ll feel better about your space, and we all know our environment impacts the way we feel.
Self-care doesn’t just have to be chores, though. As you go through your day today, think about the intention behind the things you’re doing or the things you did. Think about whether you’re doing something for someone else or for yourself. As you notice the things you’re doing for yourself, try to be mindful about them. Think about how it feels. Maybe you went out to get a coffee for yourself. Maybe you read a book for pleasure, not as an assignment. Maybe you spent some time on a hobby. It doesn’t matter what it is that you do as long as you do it for yourself. Think about how it feels to take the time to do something just for you, not because someone told you you have to. That’s self-care.
As you continue going about your day-to-day life, keep trying to recognize those things you do for yourself and try to make a habit of it. In my practice of self-care, I’ve noticed that the more I take time and do something productive for myself, the more I value myself and my needs. I still did all these things before I knew what self-care was, but I didn’t feel the same level of accomplishment when I caught up on laundry as when I went for a run or finished learning a new song.
This week, I challenge you to be mindful of the little things you do for yourself every day. If you don’t know where to start, feel free to pick from the list at the beginning. How do you feel after washing your face or keeping the kitchen sink free from dirty dishes? If you feel better about yourself, great! Keep finding those small moments that make you feel accomplished. If not, keep working on recognizing when you’re doing the things you already do for yourself and try to incorporate more of those things into your routine.
As always, stay safe + stay healthy,