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How to take care of yourself (without spending lots of time or money)

November 4, 2021 - 17 min read

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Why self-care matters

The next steps toward taking good care of yourself

15 ideas for how to take care of yourself better

How to take care of yourself: why not start today?

When you’re juggling a demanding career or business, family responsibilities, and a social life, self-care can feel like a luxury.

You already know that prioritizing self-care is essential for your well-being and overall health. Too often, we think of self-care as pampering, something that requires a day off, money, the ability to disappear to an exotic retreat.

Those types of self-care really are luxuries for many.

But if you think about self-care less as a luxury and more as the maintenance needed to sustain performance, you'll realize how essential it is. And, how many opportunities you have to proactively take care of yourself throughout the day and week — without retreating to a mountaintop (but if you can, go for it).

You might already block out time in your schedule for more day-to-day self-care: meditation, healthy food preparation, or a spin or yoga class.

But, more often than not, this daily self-care gets bumped down your to-do list.

The result? A tired, cranky, perhaps languishing version of you — not quite well, but not unwell, either. Worse still, your physical and mental fitness may deteriorate.

Fortunately, there are simple ways to incorporate a self-care routine into your life, which is why we’ve created this self-care guide to help you.

Let’s take a look at how to take care of yourself so you can start feeling better today.

Why self-care matters

Let’s get one thing clear: self-care is not selfish. Quite the opposite, in fact.

Self-care has a range of health benefits, including boosting your immune system and energy levels.

It also strengthens your emotional health, reduces the risk of burnout, and makes you more resilient in the face of setbacks.

This means that when you start taking care of yourself, you’re better able to take care of others. You can also give the best of yourself in any situation at work or in any other area of your life.

Therefore, self-care isn’t a luxury or a nice-to-have. It’s an essential component of a healthy, happy, and successful life.

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The next steps toward taking good care of yourself

If you’re ready to commit to a self-care routine, follow these three steps to lay the foundation and set yourself up for success.

1. Set realistic goals

Now that you’ve made the decision to take better care of yourself, you might be unsure how to start.

This is why setting goals can be helpful, as they point you in the direction of the first steps you need to take.

Examples of self-care might include stopping smoking, reducing your stress levels, reversing a health issue such as diabetes, or recovering your mental health.

Whatever it is, define what success would look like and set a realistic timeframe within which to achieve those goals.

You might want to consider setting milestone goals along the way. For example, your first milestone goal could be one week without smoking, then one month, then two months. This makes it easier to stay motivated as you work toward your long-term goal.

2. Connect with yourself and others

One of the most powerful healing tools we have is self-awareness. Checking in on yourself regularly can help you identify harmful thought patterns or notice when you start to spiral out of control.

One way to do this is to use the technique described in the book “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron. The exercise is called Morning Pages.

Each morning when you wake up, journal for three pages on whatever comes to mind. Review these notes periodically to identify and overcome blocks and challenges.

Connecting with others through a community can also help you stay motivated on your self-care journey.

It gives you a sense of belonging to something greater than yourself and can help you see your own value and reignite joy in your life.

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3. Follow your joy

There’s no right or wrong when it comes to self-care practices, but it’s easy to fall into the trap of “shoulds.” This defeats the point of self-care by turning it into another task to check off your to-do list.

Some people swear that getting up at 5 am to meditate brings them joy, but if that’s not your cup of tea, find something that works for you.

Following your joy will lead to greater satisfaction with your self-care practices, as well as making them more effective.

15 ideas for how to take care of yourself better

Now that you’ve laid the foundation to take good care of yourself, choose a few of the following self-care tips to start implementing today.

Consider starting with just two or three, and then gradually incorporate more into your routine.

How to take care of yourself physically

First, let’s look at some ways you can take care of yourself physically.

1. Eat for body-mind wellness

Did you know your diet affects your mood and emotions as well as your physical health?

Aim to incorporate more fruits and veggies while reducing refined sugars, caffeine, alcohol, and highly processed foods. You might also want to consider learning intuitive eating.

2. Drink plenty of water

Dehydration can weaken your immune system and heart health, slow your metabolism, and affect your mood and concentration levels.

Adults should drink roughly 2/3 of their weight in pounds in ounces of water each day. For example, someone who weighs 200 pounds should drink 130 ounces.

3. Get enough (quality) sleep

How many hours of sleep you need varies from person to person. However, the average adult needs somewhere between seven and nine hours per night.

If you struggle with insomnia, try creating a nighttime routine that helps you wind down for the night. This might include trying relaxation techniques, reducing your caffeine intake, or avoiding screens for two hours before bed.

4. Move your body

Movement is essential for maintaining a healthy, vibrant body and mind. Exercise promotes overall health, increases your energy levels, and relieves stress and insomnia.

Look for ways to move your body that bring you joy, whether it’s climbing a mountain or taking a samba class.

5. Get grounded

The term “grounding” refers to walking barefoot, sitting, or lying on the Earth. This simple act calms the immune system, reduces inflammation, relieves pain, and promotes overall wellness.

To do it, simply find a place where you can (safely) remove your shoes and let your feet be in contact with the ground. Do this for at least 20 minutes.

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How to take care of yourself mentally

Now, let’s look at some ways you can take care of yourself mentally.

6. Meditate

Meditation can help relieve stress and anxiety as well as promote emotional health and mental fitness. A daily meditation practice can also improve blood circulation and sleep and help to reduce addiction.

7. Practice gratitude

Gratitude journaling can induce a relaxation response in your body. Therefore, it promotes improved immune function, emotional resilience, and better sleep. It can also improve your relationships with others.

8. Set healthy boundaries

Setting boundaries boosts your energy levels, alleviates stress, and helps prevent burnout. Clearly communicating your needs to others can prevent them from crossing boundaries and create greater harmony in your life.

If you can manage your boundaries, spending time with others and getting involved in community-building can improve mood and indirectly help you care for yourself. 

9. Spend time in nature

According to research, spending at least two hours per week in nature can promote mental and physical well-being. Even if you live in a city, try to spend more time in the parks and green spaces that are available to you.

10. Manage your stress

There are many different stress management techniques. Here are some you might want to try:

11. Give back

A growing body of research shows that prosociality, or giving back, has both short-term and long-term benefits for physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Look for ways to give back through your money, time, or talents.

12. Journal

Journaling is kind of like free therapy, but instead of talking to another person, you work through your thoughts and feelings on the page. One study found that students who journaled about their feelings daily reported fewer doctor’s visits.

13. Work with a professional

That said, sometimes a professional opinion, such as that of a coach or therapist, can help you see what’s holding you back and get unstuck. Fortunately, through virtual sessions you can find the right match for you no matter where you are in the world.

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14. Organize your life

Self-care can also look like getting down to those boring life tasks that you never get around to. It might mean creating a monthly budget, clearing out your closet, or dedicating some time each Sunday to meal prep.

Getting organized isn’t necessarily fun (unless you like that sort of thing), but it will leave you feeling great once it’s done.

15. Prioritize fun

Self-care doesn’t have to be serious. In fact, having fun is an essential component of taking good care of yourself. Make a list of the things that light you up, whether it’s spending time with loved ones or going to see your favorite band in concert.

And if you struggle to make time for fun, schedule it into your diary.

How to take care of yourself: why not start today?

Taking care of yourself doesn’t need to take up a lot of time or cost a lot of money. In fact, a few simple tweaks to your routine can go a long way in improving your overall health and well-being. In fact, learning how to take care of yourself and how to take care of your mental health goes hand-in-hand. 

The key to effective self-care is to do it for you. Don’t try to force yourself to do something you don’t enjoy just because you saw someone do it on YouTube. Taking care of yourself should be something that brings you joy.

You can start your self-care routine today by following the tips outlined above. But if you need some extra accountability, get in touch with BetterUp. Our expert coaches would love to support you.

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Published November 4, 2021

Maggie Wooll

Managing Editor

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