51 Ways to Add Self-Care to Your To-Do List

Crystal Jackson

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Even if I don’t know you personally, I’m still pretty sure you deserve to treat yourself today. After all, it’s 2020, and most of us have been dealing with one stressor after another since the pandemic began. These stressors were added to the top of whatever we were already dealing with.

Self-care isn’t actually about indulgence. Self-care is about taking better care of ourselves. It just so happens that we matter, too. Previous generations have often painted self-care as selfishness, and we often have to un-learn what we’ve been taught. There is nothing selfish about making sure our needs are met and that what we want matters, too.

While many of us have a tendency to put what we want and need last, we are better humans in every way when we prioritize our own care. We can’t help other people when we can’t even help ourselves.

We know now that self-care is important. In fact, we probably have some kind of self-care practice whether or not we call it that. There are so many ways to practice self-care that it’s possible to fit a whole lot of self-care into a day when we need it. Here’s how:

  • Set an alarm to wake up to a song you love.
  • Stretch before you get out of bed.
  • Start the day with gratitude.
  • Moisturize your skin.
  • Drink a full glass of water in the morning.
  • Schedule at least 5 minutes in the day to meditate.
  • Sing- in the car, in the shower, or anywhere else that feels good.
  • Add aromatherapy to your shower or bath.
  • Wear something that makes you feel good.
  • Tell someone you love them. It’ll make you feel good.
  • Do a random act of kindness for someone else. It’s good for your soul.
  • Buy yourself flowers.
  • Indulge in a delicious cup of coffee or tea.
  • Light a candle and relax.
  • Drink more water.
  • Laugh.
  • Phone a friend.
  • Take a walk.
  • Draw or color a picture—or just doodle while you’re taking notes or waiting on hold.
  • Spend a few minutes reading—a book, a magazine, an article, or anything that makes you happier or gives you more knowledge.
  • Go to bed early—even if it’s only by a few minutes.
  • Make time to take one step toward your goals, no matter how small.
  • Take 10 minutes to exercise — stretch, do yoga, take a walk, whatever you can do to be active.
  • Remember to breathe deeply.
  • Speak kindly to yourself.
  • Tell negative self-talk to hush today.
  • Treat yourself to something sweet.
  • Make a healthy choice.
  • Say yes to something you want to do.
  • Say no to something that doesn’t resonate with you.
  • Say no, but do it without offering an explanation.
  • Prioritize intimacy—with yourself or someone else.
  • Avoid the news for a change.
  • Look for kindness in others.
  • Keep an eye out for beauty in the world around you.
  • Stop and smell the roses — and gardenias and lavender and rosemary and whatever else the world offers.
  • Slow down.
  • Take it one task at a time to give it your full attention.
  • Don’t take yourself so seriously.
  • Avoid the office (or family) gossip.
  • Find the humor in everything. Being able to laugh at yourself is a gift.
  • Don’t take everything personally. It helps to remember that other people react to their own journey, and it’s probably not about you at all (even if it feels that way).
  • Expect good things and nice people. You’ll be more likely to encounter them.
  • Jump in mud puddles, weather-permitting.
  • Heat towels in the dryer to enjoy after a shower or bath.
  • Heat your blanket in the dryer for a cozy bedtime experience.
  • Give yourself a break for whatever you didn’t manage to get done today.
  • Save a little for something that means a lot to you.
  • Hug someone you love and hold on for an extra Mississippi or two. (One-Mississippi, Two-Mississippi, etc)
  • Plan an evening activity you'll look forward to all day.
  • Enjoy memes and share them because we could all use more laughter in our lives.

Treating ourselves doesn’t have to cost a dime, and it doesn’t have to be yet another thing we add to our to-do list that leaves us feeling pressured and overwhelmed. It’s just the opposite actually. Self-care should be something we look forward to because it helps us feel better about ourselves, our relationships, and the world around us.

When we make self-care a daily practice, the stressors we feel don’t go away. We just become better able to cope with them. We have more energetic resources available because we are trying to be the healthiest version of ourselves.

Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that the healthiest version of ourselves isn’t going to look the same for everyone. For those with mental illness or chronic pain, the healthiest version of yourself may vary from day-to-day. In fact, that might be true of all of us in some respects.

Instead of holding everyone to our own standards, self-care is about focusing on what we want and need each day. It’s doing a check-in—not just once a day but throughout it. What do I need right now? How can I take care of myself?

Self-care can be incredibly empowering. Instead of waiting for someone else to appear to magically meet our needs, we’re busy meeting them ourselves. We know we need rest, and so we go to bed a little early, or we add another fruit or vegetable to our plate because we know we’ll feel better. Or we drink a glass of water. Or we reach out and connect with someone because we feel lonely. We figure out what we need and then do that.

And we do it every single day. It’s not about the occasional luxury experience to treat ourselves. It’s about the work of taking care so that we even have a chance to be the best version of ourselves we can be.

This is my list. What would you add?

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Crystal Jackson is a former therapist turned writer. She is the author of the Heart of Madison series and a volume of poetry entitled My Words Are Whiskey. Her work has been featured on Medium, Elite Daily, Thought Catalog, The Good Men Project, and Elephant Journal. When she's not writing, you can find her traveling, paddle boarding, cycling, throwing axes badly but with terrifying enthusiasm, hiking, or curled up with her nose in a book in Madison, Georgia, where she lives with one puppy and two wild and wonderful children. Crystal writes about relationships, mental health, parenting, social justice, and more. Never miss an update. Subscribe to emails: https://crystaljacksonwriter.substack.com/

Madison, GA
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