If you’re someone who thrives with structure in your life, you’d probably benefit from having a regular self-care practice. And even if you’re not usually a schedule-oriented person, it couldn’t hurt to give it a try and see if you like it. Let’s dive into how to create your perfect self-care routine!
Whether you’re just starting to take self-care more seriously or want to be more consistent with it, I think you will find something useful here.
As a highly sensitive person, I thrive with routines that have self-care built-in. So I’ve designed my days as much as possible to be supportive and receptive to my own needs. Basically, I have a plan in mind, but I’m adaptable. I know that it’s okay to ditch the schedule if I have a hard day to do things that I know will make me feel better. It has taken a long time and a lot of trial and error to develop, but it has been so worth it!
Welcome to Practical Self-Care! It’s a year-long, 12-post series on Plants and Pondering dedicated to exploring all aspects of self-care. Understanding and practicing self-care has changed my life.
If you’re brand new to self-care or you’re looking to deepen your practice and hone in on the best ways to care for yourself, this journey is perfect for you!
When you’re taking care of yourself, it makes everything in life more manageable. You can be more productive, creative, emotionally balanced, and have the energy to work toward your goals with your best effort.
With that being said, let’s get started on Practical Self-Care together!
7 Steps to Create Your Perfect Self-Care Routine
These steps describe the method that I would use to set up my self-care routine from scratch. I’m sharing in the hopes that it may be helpful to someone else, so please try this out if you feel inclined to!
Step 1: Define your why
I always like to start with why. Why am I going to put effort into this thing? Determine the goal you want to achieve or your reason for wanting to practice self-care.
There is a reason you clicked on this article. Do you want a self-care routine to feel less stressed or have a better handle on your emotions? You should also be specific on your desired outcome.
What will you look or feel like when you have a healthy self-care routine? Here are a few examples where the goal and motivation are clear:
“I want to practice self-care in the morning so that I don’t feel frazzled or rushed before work every day.”
“I haven’t been sleeping well. I want to use self-care to wind down at night and clear my mind before bed.”
For me, the goal of self-care is overall peace of mind. I understand that self-care helps manage my anxiety, and it’s one of the main tools I use to improve my mental health.
In Practical Self-Care, I’ve defined seven areas that make up a self-care practice: physical, emotional, mental, spiritual, social, professional, and financial. Doing a self-care activity that covers any one of these areas is likely to improve your life in some way.
You may choose to focus on one area that needs the most help or use a balanced approach that focuses on multiple areas at once. The most important thing is to be clear on what you want. When you have your goal in mind, it’s easier to design your routine around serving that purpose.
Step 2: Evaluate your schedule
To have a sustainable self-care routine, you need to be realistic about how much time you actually have for practicing self-care.
It may be more than you thought, especially if you spend lots of time mindlessly watching tv or scrolling on your phone. Stuff like that can really add up! On the other hand, you may be limited by other responsibilities, ranging from long work hours or multiple jobs to caring for kids and doing housework. These things are often necessary and can be very time-consuming.
If you’re a visual person (and even if you’re not), draw out the hours of your week and write in your schedule for an average week. Use time blocking to indicate the activities you do regularly like work, meal times, sleep, and how much time they take. With this schedule, you’ll clearly see where your time is going and what periods you can potentially use for your self-care routine.
This schedule is a tool for being realistic about the length of your self-care routine, and it will look different for everyone. If you’re a college student, most of your time is probably spent studying, but maybe you have some free time in the morning or between classes. If you’re a mom, your opportunity for self-care might be at night once your kids are asleep.
It doesn’t matter how much time you have, just that you are willing to prioritize self-care in your schedule. The rest is all in the details.
Step 3: Identify the activities
I would recommend making a list. (Can you tell I’m a fan of writing things down?) Think of things that you like to do, things that are relaxing and restorative. The things you always wish you had time to do.
It doesn’t matter what anyone else does for self-care. You want to identify the things that quiet your mind and hold your focus so that you’re fully present. Not worrying about other things or thinking about the future, just wholly focused on the task in front of you.
Also, use the goals or areas of self-care you identified earlier and brainstorm ideas that serve those goals. For example, practicing physical self-care may mean prioritizing exercise or healthier meal planning. Improving your financial self-care could involve maintaining a budget or using resources to educate yourself about personal finance.
Lately, cross-stitch embroidery has been a significant part of my self-care routine. It’s meditative and so relaxing. Since I’m following a pattern, it allows me to be creative without the pressure of doing something ‘wrong’ or making something that I won’t like.
If you need inspiration, you may want to read my list of ideas for self-care for busy people or self-care for introverts.
Once you have your list, select the activities that you want in your routine. Don’t worry about trying to do everything every day. Just choose the things you want to do and the order you’re going to do them in.
Writing this down helps formalize the routine and set your intention. It’s also an easy reference, so you don’t forget what you want to do.
Step 4: Practice your self-care routine
Now it’s time to turn your ideal routine into a real practice. Time to do the thing!
Use the list of activities you enjoy to start living the life you want. For a self-care routine to truly serve you, it should feel beneficial, fit into your schedule, and work toward your ultimate intention for the practice.
I’d say that you should be as consistent as possible with your routine for at least a week, preferably more. Give it a fair chance for you to build the habits and for the routine to work its magic! If you stop too soon, you may not be able to feel any difference.
Related post: 7 Strategies for Staying on Track with Your Goals
Since you’ve selected activities that you like, this should be an enjoyable process. It shouldn’t feel like too much of a chore or like you’re forcing yourself into things that you don’t want to do.
In my mind, the purpose of self-care is to provide a form of comfort and to support you. It enables you to grow and show up as the best version of yourself. That’s not to say that it will always be easy! Part of self-care is making the tough choices and being disciplined enough to do things that are actually in your best interest.
Step 5: Check in with yourself
After practicing your self-care routine for some time, evaluate how things are going. This could just be a quick mental check-in, but it can be beneficial to write down your thoughts. (Again, big fan of processing through writing!)
It also doesn’t have to be a long process! It can often be pretty easy to tell whether something is working for you or not.
Here are some journal prompts as a starting point for your reflections…
- Do I feel any different after practicing my self-care routine?
- What is the most enjoyable part?
- What is not currently serving me that could be changed or improved?
- Am I any closer to my goal or intention?
It’s okay if there’s not a huge difference right away. Taking care of yourself is a lifelong process. It’s not always about the quick fix or instant gratification, and your efforts now could take months or years to fully manifest.
Step 6: Adjust your routine as needed
That reflection wasn’t just for fun! Use those insights to tweak your schedule. Or maybe, it helps you realize that your routine needs a complete overhaul, and that’s okay too.
Please don’t be discouraged if you don’t get something right the first time or struggle to form the habit. We’re often sent the message that it’s selfish to care for ourselves or that it’s a waste of time. This is simply not true! But it may take some effort to change your perspective about self-care.
I see my self-care routine as an iterative process. It’s a cycle of trying new things and refining. I repeated over and over until I had a routine that worked well for me.
Be open to the idea that your perfect self-care routine now may look totally different in the future. An easy example of this is with a college student. Their self-care routine during the busy semester may be radically different in the summer when they have more free time and other priorities. There’s value in the ability to switch up your practice as needed.
Your routine can also change if it involves practicing a hobby and your interests change. You don’t need to feel tied to any one activity. Be free to pursue whatever you are drawn to or brings you joy.
Step 7: Enjoy your self-care routine!
You’ve done all the planning and experimenting, and now it’s time to enjoy your routine. Know that the ‘perfect self-care routine’ doesn’t necessarily exist, but you can still benefit from a thoughtful self-care practice. Also, consistency will help you move toward your overall goal or intention.
Enjoy the self-care and self-love, and know that it doesn’t stop after you’ve practiced a few times. Continue to make it a priority in your life as long as it is serving you well. As you can read about in my self-care journey, I’ve been practicing self-care for over six years, and I’m still learning new things!
Personally, it makes it easier to get through a hard day at work when I know that I can come home and practice self-care. Because of all my trial and error, I’m more in tune with what my body and spirit need. I’m able to identify what will help me feel better and what will only drain me more.
Hopefully, you can develop the same intuition for yourself. Above all, remember that self-care is not selfish, and you deserve to take time for yourself.
So there are 7 steps to create your perfect self-care routine! I hope this has provided some guidance and encouragement to just get started. There’s no better time to start taking care of yourself.
What does your self-care routine look like? Do you have any tips for being consistent with self-care? Let me know by leaving a comment!
If you want to keep the self-care train rolling, check out more of the Practical Self-Care series: