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  • aghinshaw

Tips for Personalizing Your Self-Care Routine

Updated: Jan 5, 2022

There is an abundance of wonderful advice on building and maintaining self-care routines. Lists that you can find online, detailed routines that you can find in books, and tips from friends on what works for them. Therapists often counsel on the importance of self-care, but putting it into practice can be a challenge. We might fall off the self-care wagon when life hits us with family obligations, work schedule changes, or emergencies. Below are a few simple tips on implementing a self-care routine that is more personalized to your unique wants and needs.

Identify what’s important for you

Ask yourself what you value in your life. Is it your health? Your job? Your family? Now hone in on those areas. Do you appreciate a good night’s rest? Is it important for you to be mentally focused at work? Do you need regular quality time with your family? Focusing on the areas of your life that are important to you will help you to stick with self-care strategies that improve upon these areas.

Start small

If self-care is something that you are not used to regularly implementing, experiment with baby steps. If getting more sleep is your goal, try going to bed 15 minutes earlier one night, 15 minutes earlier again the following night, and so on until you’ve established a bedtime that works for you. If taking two daily breaks at work is impossible, try scheduling 1-2 minute breaks to do something short like deep-breathing, mindfulness, or just not being near electronic screens. If more time with the family is important to you, try planning for a single family dinner once a week, or even once a month.

Make it a habit

In Charles Duhigg’s book The Power of Habit (which I highly recommend!), Duhigg discusses the habit loop as marked by three things: (1) the cue, (2) the routine, and (3) the reward. The cue triggers our minds to perform the routine, and the reward reinforces this routine. For example, if the self-care routine you want to implement is a specific bedtime routine, the cue might be an alarm you set, seeing your comfy pajamas, or even just feeling tired. The routine might include brushing your teeth, putting on comfortable clothes, turning off all screens, and journaling before bed. The reward might be you feeling relaxed in the evening, or more refreshed in the morning. Find the cues that work for you, and make sure that the routine itself is rewarding to make that habit stick.

Be flexible

Habits and routines might require some changes or breaks depending on what life throws at you. Perhaps a work break needs to be rescheduled due to a meeting, or a family dinner might need to be postponed due to an emergency. Remain flexible by being open to changes in your self-care routine. Try to implement other forms of self-care. For example, if family dinner night was rescheduled, aim to do something else that’s enjoyable like reading a book, journaling, or calling a friend. Even with changes to your routine, self-care can still be made a priority.

Reflect on what you appreciate

Gratitude can be practiced in a variety of ways. You can keep a list or a journal of what you appreciate: cups of coffee in the morning, the sound of your kids laughing, or the safety and coziness of your home. Gratitude can also be practiced by being mindful in the moment. While taking a break from work, appreciate being able to do things like walk outside or enjoy a cup of tea with a colleague. While spending quality time with children, acknowledge the moments and enjoy the feeling of being with them. Practicing gratitude as part of your self-care routine can help to put you in a state of appreciation and boost your mood.

Questions for readers:

  • What do you do for self-care? Why is self-care important to you?

  • Do you have any self-care tips to share?

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