A lot of us have to be reminded to put our own well-being first and take care of ourselves. Luckily, there are small activities we can easily incorporate into our day-to-day lives. In this post, I’m sharing 10 things you can do to benefit both your physical and mental well-being. You don’t have to start doing all 10 at once—adding just one activity to your self-care routine can help!
Please note: This is a contributed post, but all opinions are my own. View full disclosure policy.
Before I started making a conscious effort to look after my mental health, I had convinced myself that suffering was a kind of rite of passage. It was supposed to be the trial that transformed me into the better, more capable version of myself. But that was a lie my mental saboteurs told me to keep me in a negative mindset.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve developed a major interest in different self-care practices. Trial and error is key to figuring out not only what works best for you, but also what fits easiest into your lifestyle. Because when you’re not in a good place mentally, it’s harder to do self-care activities that require a lot of extra effort.
Self-care and mental wellness are broad topics I like to write about. A few of my previous posts include:
- 5 Simple Ways to Recharge Positive Mindset Energy
- 3 Common Mental Health Challenges in the Workplace
- Work-Life Balance: Leaving Work at Work
- 7 Apps to Support Mental Health
So, are you ready for some ideas for your own self-care routine?
10 Ways to Improve Your Self-Care Routine
Make Time for Yourself
I try to start my day with something fun just for me. While I drink my coffee and figure out what to make for breakfast, I’ll read a book, play a video game, or watch an episode or two of a show. After that, I do a few minutes of yoga stretches to prepare my body for working at my desk for several hours. Of course, it might not work for your schedule to have some you-time first thing in the morning. When you do have time for it, just be sure to spend at least 30 minutes each day on activities you enjoy or simply relax. You could even break it into three 10-minute blocks if you’ve got a busy day.
Regular exercise has been proven to help reduce stress, improve sleep, and boost mood. While you should aim to get at least 20 minutes of physical activity every day, even I struggle to do that consistently. Some days I don’t have time to do a whole yoga routine, or it’s raining and my dog doesn’t want to walk further than the end of the driveway. Plus, sometimes I get overeager in my exercise and end up pulling a muscle. The important thing is to do what you can when you can.
Connect with Others
Thanks to the pandemic, I think we’re all a bit more appreciative of the ways we connect with others. It can be as simple as texting or calling a friend or family member. If you work onsite somewhere, have a conversation with your favorite coworkers. For my fellow work-from-homers, talk to the people you live with. If that’s not an option, you can always find a group to join outside of your home, like a church, volunteer organization, or some kind of fitness class (if you want to double up on your self-care routine and do your socializing with your exercise).
The foods we eat play a big role in how we feel. Adding more nutrient-dense foods to your diet is always a good choice for your physical health, but it also helps your brain. Healthy, whole foods provide fuel for your brain to handle its many complex functions, including managing the mental and physical effects of stress.
Get Enough Sleep
Getting enough quality sleep does more than rest your body. Sleep helps maintain our cognitive skills—including attention, learning, and memory—as well as how our brains process daily events and regulate our emotions. Insufficient sleep does more harm than just making us a little crabby. It can make it harder to cope with even minor stressors, increasing our negative emotional responses and decreasing positive emotions. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends adults sleep between 7-9 hours on a regular basis for optimal health, while teens should get between 8-10 hours, and those 65 years and older get between 7-8 hours.
Practice Meditation or Mindfulness Techniques
Meditation has been proven to reduce stress levels, improve focus, and increase emotional awareness. Try taking a few minutes out of each day to practice mindfulness techniques like deep breathing exercises or guided meditations. For those who want to invest in learning techniques that actually help rewire your neural pathways, I highly recommend the Positive Intelligence Program. It’s made a huge difference in my daily habits, relationships, and overall response to stress.
Taking regular breaks throughout the day can help to reduce stress levels and improve overall mental health. If you feel overwhelmed, take some time out for yourself and do something that relaxes you. This helps reinforce that your own well-being should take precedence over the many things filling out your to-do list.
Manage Stress Levels
Stress is a normal part of life, but too much stress can have negative effects on your mental health. All of the activities in this post are healthy coping mechanisms for stress. But you can do more than just prepare for when you get stressed or overwhelmed. You can incorporate a supportive structure into your daily life. How? Well, maintaining a normal routine helps build a sense of stability. A strong sense of self-awareness can help you notice changes in your normal behavior that might signal more support is needed. Having trusting relationships with those you can express thoughts and feelings means you don’t have to process stressful events alone.
Practicing gratitude has been shown to increase happiness and well-being. It’s easy to keep a gratitude journal to build a daily practice of thinking about the positives in your life. Some people like to start their day with it while others like to do it before bed as part of their winding-down routine. Personally, I struggle to remember to keep up with gratitude journaling. It’s easier for me to text a friend a quick “hey, this is random, but I’m so grateful for X” whenever it occurs to me.
Connect with a Wilderness Therapy Program
Wilderness therapy programs are becoming increasingly popular as a way to improve mental health. These programs offer a unique combination of outdoor activities, counseling, and therapeutic support. All this comes together to build your self-confidence and work through any mental health issues. For example, the Second Nature Utah reviews have been incredibly positive, and many people have reported improved mental health after attending the program.
I recently got to write more about this for South Magazine in my article on North Carolina’s first certified forest therapy trail: Closer to Nature.
Final Thoughts on Your Self-Care Routine
At the end of the day, your self-care routine depends entirely on what’s comfortable and supports YOUR well-being. If you struggle to find effective, healthy ways to manage your stress, consider getting in touch with a therapist or mental health professional. They can work with you to identify your needs and what will help you live a more positive, balanced life. Which of these activities do you think you might incorporate into your daily self-care routine?