The Dos and Don’ts of Self-Care

self-care self-compassion self-love Jun 11, 2021
woman practicing yoga in yoga class


The term “self-care” is plastered all over the web and “self-care Sunday” has become a popular term in our day to day world and media, yet research shows that many people misunderstand the term and what it really means to practice self-care effectively. What is self-care? Are we really practicing self-care when we say we are? And do you need a lot of time and money to do it?
All of these questions, and more, answered below.

What is self-care?

Let’s get right to it. Self-care is any activity that leads you to wake up feeling better after doing it. In contrast to self-improvement or self-growth, which are based on the belief that “I’m not good enough” and therefore need to improve and fix something about myself to be worthy, self-care is rooted in the belief that “I am worthy and deserve to feel nurtured and cared for now” no matter what I have or have not accomplished or succeeded in thus far. Big difference, huh?

What does it mean to practice self-care effectively?

Because the term “self-care” is thrown around so much and because we may unknowingly misunderstand it, I figured it’d be best to nail down what it really means by running through the correct and not so correct ways to do it.
So here we go: The dos and don’ts of self-care.



Set boundaries.

Let yourself say “no” and “f it”. Sometimes, these words and the actions that follow them are the best forms of self-care. Saying yes to everyone and doing everything you think you should do to be a nice and dedicated person sometimes leads you to engage in the opposite of true self-care.

Spend time with people that feel oh so good to be around.

Be around people who remind you that you can achieve your wildest dreams. Spend time with people who know how to love you when you’re sad. Spend time with people who never make you feel ashamed to be who you are or to love what or who you love. Spending time with people who misunderstand, judge, or try to change you is often riddled with stress and is the farthest we can get from true self-care.
I know a few people who it might feel good to be around :) Actually, there’s quite a few of them, and they’re in my online community, The Happiness Hub! Come join us for feel-good support, weekly lessons, and support with all things having to do with happiness.

Be good to yourself.

Take a break, slow down, let yourself rest. Oftentimes, self-care doesn’t need to look a specific way or be fancy at all. It just needs to allow us to do the thing that we aren’t doing but that we need to do most: take a break.

Listen to your intuition.

Listen to the quiet voice inside you. Rather than doing what others do or what you think you should do to practice self-care, ask yourself what you really need to take better care of yourself right now and listen inward for an answer. Deep inside we always know what we want and need.




Make it take a lot of time.

If you don’t practice enough self-care or if you don’t do it at all, I bet it’s because you’re busy or you’ve got other priorities. The thing about self-care, though… it needn’t take a lot of time. At all. In fact, like every other habit we want to build in life, it’s best done gradually and incrementally. Spending an hour or two of time on self-care once a week is better than not doing it at all. Spending a half hour on self-care a few times a week is better. Spending 5 minutes a day on self-care every day is even better. It allows you to build the skill without doing too much too soon.
Here is a list of 40 self-care activities that needn’t take a lot of time at all and that can each be done for three to five minutes:
  • Get some fresh air
  • Reflect on your thoughts and feelings
  • Close your eyes and leaning back in your seat
  • Do something you love
  • Read a page of a book
  • Stretch or do yoga
  • Buy yourself flowers
  • Go for a walk
  • Give yourself a scalp massage
  • Listen to your emotions
  • Say something affirming about yourself and take it in
  • Breathe deeply
  • Make a nutritious and delicious snack
  • Splash your face with water
  • Let yourself cry and just let it all out if you need to
  • Sit in the grass and watch the sky
  • Scratch off an item that’s been lurking on your to-do list for ages
  • Give yourself a foot massage
  • Read a positive news story
  • Ask for help with something you need
  • Dance
  • Listen to your favorite song
  • Write down 5 things you’re grateful for
  • Make yourself a warm drink
  • Show yourself kindness when you’re feeling bad
  • Drink a tall glass of water
  • Meditate
  • Send a text to someone you love
  • Watch a funny YouTube clip
  • Journal
  • Light a candle
  • Do something you enjoyed as a child
  • Wear something that makes you feel great
  • Write down your thoughts
  • Do a creative activity
  • Do a mini declutter
  • Talk to a friend on the phone
  • Say ‘no’ when you want to
  • Put your hand on your heart and saying ‘I love you’
  • Move your body
  • Take time to play

Spending a chunk of time on self-care once a week is better than not doing it at all. Spending a smaller chunk of time on self-care a few times a week is better. Spending 5 minutes a day on self-care every day is even better.


Neglect your mental, emotional, and spiritual self.

When considering how to practice self-care, be mindful not to focus just on your physical self (e.g., pampering yourself with a face mask, getting your hair and nails done, exercising) in order to conform to society’s standards of fitness and beauty. Many self-care activities will naturally be mind-body activities (e.g., getting a massage, doing yoga, exercising) but it’s nevertheless important that you encourage yourself to prioritize your emotional, mental, and spiritual self when selecting self-care activities too.

Make your coping mechanisms your only form of self-care.

Our coping and protective strategies are quite sneaky and can disguise themselves as self-care. So, be mindful not to make your coping mechanisms and forms of numbing and escape (e.g., drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes, shopping excessively, eating excessively, binge watching TV, endlessly playing games or surfing social media channels on your phone, etc) your only form of self-care. These activities that have habitually protected from feeling bad (whatever they are for you) can feel great in the moment because they keep your stress and negative emotions at bay, but because they don’t actually do anything to acknowledge and relieve your stress and negative emotions, your emotional and other overwhelm will just be piling up in the background, waiting to explode and make itself known at the first opportunity. Not only that, but unlike self-care which leads you to feel better the next morning you’ll wake up doubting yourself and how much of that coping behavior you really needed to engage in.

Our coping and protective strategies are quite sneaky and can disguise themselves as self-care.


Consider hygiene and chores to be the ultimate self-care.

Considering showering, grocery shopping, cleaning your house, and similar activities to be a form of self-care is like equating eating an apple and a potato because you need fuel to survive with going to a nice restaurant for a dinner of fish, salad, and dessert. One is a necessity, while the other a benefit and blessing.
While some components of activities like grocery shopping and cleaning your house might provide a bit of self-care, these are basic activities that constitute hygiene and chores. Like the last example of coping mechanisms, if hygiene and chores are your only form of self-care, after a while, your exhaustion, overwhelm, and lack of true self-care will catch up with you. Yes, there are things that need to be done to keep yourself and your house clean. And no, these are not the end all be all forms of self-care.
Now that you’ve heard the dos and don’ts of self-care, have a moment of truth. Do you really not have time for self-care or can you adjust something in your life to create time and space for it? Are you really practicing self-care when you say you are or are you succumbing to the same old numbing or perfectionistic habits you’re used to? I know it can be hard to honestly address these questions but it’s okay if you do so with compassion and understanding for the reasons why you might be circumventing this whole self-care thing and finding ways around it in the first place. If you know me then you know that’s the approach I love to take because hey, getting real with ourselves leads to getting real results real fast :)
How are you shifting into greater self-care this week and this month? Let us know in the comments below.

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