How To Create A Solid Self-Care Routine For Your Mental Health

Medically reviewed by Dr. Jerry Crimmins, PsyD, LP
Updated February 22, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

We have many obligations in life, and they can cause stress. You have to work, provide for yourself, and your family if you have one. These are essential, but it’s important to make time for yourself. When you’re taking care of your mental health, creating a self-care practice is crucial; some of us take care of others so much that we neglect ourselves, which can lead to resentment or burnout. Self-care is crucial for good mental health and physical health. As part of bettering your mental wellness, it’s a great idea to start a self-care routine even if it's not National Self-Care Day. You can create a routine that helps you.

Self-care isn’t selfish. It’s about honoring your needs and supporting your health. There are many ways to develop a self-care routine. Whether it becomes a part of your morning routine, or you simply designate a day of the week to incorporate some self care ideas, creating a plan for self-care could be just what you need to stay healthy and balanced. 

Here are some steps you can take to determine what makes you feel good and start engaging in those activities. You can read about self-care here and understand the value. Incorporating these actions into your daily routine can be easier than you imagine.

Self-care and guilt

Self-care routines are crucial for good mental health

When you start practicing self-care, you might feel guilty. This is a natural reaction; you might confuse the concept of self-care with being selfish, which are two entirely different things. If you’re selfish, you’re not considering others. Self-care, on the other hand, means ensuring that your needs are met so that you are capable of helping others. Just consider the well-known example of the oxygen mask: put on yours first before you can help others. 

The Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance highlights the importance of self-care for caregivers. If you’re a caregiver, offering yourself emotional support can be an important self-care step. You don’t need to feel guilty for setting aside time for you.

If those feelings come up, you might discuss them with a licensed therapist. They can help you look into why you’re feeling guilty after engaging in self-care. Professional help may offer insight into effective self-care and managing guilt. That way you can keep practicing your routine, even if it feels uncomfortable at first. Over time, you’ll get used to engaging in activities that make you feel good.

What fills up your emotional cup?

People practice self-care in unique ways. Your routine should serve your life and your health. To begin, you may ask yourself: what makes you happy? 

Do you enjoy taking a few moments to write in a gratitude journal each morning, or would you rather have a fun night out with a friend on a regular basis? Maybe you find joy in meditation, painting, or bubble baths. They don’t need to be time consuming or expensive activities. You can decide to find time to support your overall well being in small moments throughout the day instead of one large chunk of time.

You might try looking at self-care tips from the field of positive psychology. Many things are considered self-care. It could mean taking some time to journal, meeting friends for coffee, or even going on a short trip somewhere. Take a moment and make a list of five-10 activities that make you feel content. Those are the things you can do to practice self-care. 

There are daily self-care practices that only take a minute, such as a self-compassion meditation. Take some time to think about what hobbies you like or things you like to do with friends. Maybe you enjoy going to the theater once a week or once a month. Perhaps you enjoy hiking, going for runs, or just moving your body through a quick walk. These are excellent self-care practices. Envision things you can do each day as well as ones you can do once in a while. These are all items you can incorporate into your self-care practice. 

Once you determine what makes you feel good, it’s about incorporating these things into a self-care routine. More self-care that’s good for you and makes you feel good can lead to positive outcomes. And remember that less can be more. Consider what you might eliminate in the interest of self-care. For example, social media might make you feel stressed. So, you could set goals to limit your intake of social media. Basically, a good self-care approach can mean doing more of what fills your emotional cup and cutting back on what depletes it. Self-care can help you preserve your emotional resources.

How can you incorporate those things into your life?

There are lots of activities you can do to achieve self-care and support your emotional health. Some are simple self care ideas, while others may require more effort on your part. The important thing is that the routine should help you improve your well being and make it easier for you to cope with stress and emotional challenges.

Take a look at your list of self-care activities. Choose ones that you can schedule as part of your routine and that can become part of your life. You have these activities in your calendar, and hopefully, you’re looking forward to them. Self-care time can be exciting; you get to drop the stressors for a while and focus on things that make you feel good. 

If you want to develop a sustainable self-care routine, consider choosing activities that have some flexibility. For example, if you love to take walks, you can do that anywhere. You could walk in the park, around the block, down the city streets, or go for a long stroll in the woods. You can keep walking as a part of your daily self-care practices for a long time because it’s versatile. In addition to choosing flexible activities, it’s crucial to set goals for activities.

Set goals

When you start self-care practices, it’s essential to set goals. These goals should be practical, easy-to-monitor items that you can incorporate into your life relatively easily. Consider breaking larger goals into more manageable steps that you can address one at a time.

Say for example that one of those larger objectives is incorporating physical activity into your routine. You might set aside a certain amount of time every week – thirty minutes every other day, or something similar – for exercise without specifying what the type of exercise is, to offer yourself flexibility. If you want to keep your self-care practices interesting, change the type of exercise you do each week. 

Setting goals and accomplishing them is often a wonderful feeling. Remember, though, that self-care isn’t set in stone. You may need to adjust your goals when necessary. That’s why a part of your setting objectives should be to keep track of your progress.

Monitor your progress and your moods

When you’re practicing self-care, you can use mindfulness. Be aware of how you feel when you’re nurturing yourself. Self-care should feel refreshing to your mind and body. When you start practicing, it could feel unfamiliar. Be aware of what emotions come up for you when you nurture yourself. All those feelings are valid, and you don’t need to judge yourself for anything that comes up. It can be common for self-care to feel awkward or unnatural at first, but it may be helpful to take note of what parts of self-care make you feel recharged, and what aspects don’t work for you..

Another question to ask may be, “what are the barriers to my self-care wellness?” It’s crucial to address what might get in the way when you’re trying to care for yourself. Understanding your personal barriers to self-care, and discussing them with a professional, may help make the process of practicing self-care easier in the future. If you’re having trouble integrating self-care exercises in your daily routine, maybe they’re not compatible with your lifestyle. Or perhaps some psychological barriers are happening. It can be important to remember that self-care is most effective when it is worked into your lifestyle, opposed to be practiced sporadically. . Try to focus on how you can make healthy adjustments. As a part of your routine, take a moment to jot down your feelings. Write down any thoughts or ideas you may have. That can give you clarity on what’s preventing you from engaging in self-care. Not only is this a great way to track your feelings over time, but it also allows you to remind yourself that self-care is important and achievable. Remember that nurturing yourself takes practice. There’s no right way to care for yourself. Do what works for you, and you can adjust your routine if you need to do that.

You may also monitor is your moods. Self-care isn’t about pushing yourself too hard. Discover a balance between challenging yourself and feeling contentment. Think about what you’d like to accomplish through self-care. For example, is reducing anxiety a priority for you? If so, you might set self-care goals that will help you manage anxiety, like meditation, deep breathing, and doing relaxing, leisure activities.

Change yourself routine if necessary

Your self-care routine doesn’t need to stay the same. Maybe you try a regime for a week or two, and it doesn’t seem to be working with your life and schedule. Self-care is a trial-and-error process; if you’re not meeting a particular goal, it could be that you’re setting unrealistic expectations for yourself. For example, maybe you don’t have an hour to meditate, but you could try the practice for 20 minutes instead.

If you have kids, you may find it easier to schedule your self-care routine first thing in the morning before the rest of your family wakes up. Try setting your alarm clock earlier so that you can spend some time doing something you enjoy before the day’s responsibilities begin. 

If you work late, try scheduling a relaxing activity before or after your shift. Don’t forget to give yourself a break if you have an especially busy day or evening, as it is equally important to take time for yourself, even during hectic periods. 

You may also find it helpful to break up your self-care activities into smaller chunks. For example, you could set aside 15 minutes each day for exercise or writing instead of expecting yourself to have a full hour every day. This way, you won’t be trying to fit “me-time” into your already busy schedule, and these short daily exercise routines may reap important health benefits, such as weight loss and lower blood pressure. 

It is natural to feel stagnant with routine, and if so, you might want to switch up your self-care rituals. . It can be comforting to have a predictable self-care regime. One way to keep on schedule is to have your routine posted on your bedroom wall or next to the bathroom mirror. Keep it in a place you frequently go to. Your routine needs to make you feel motivated. If the self-care plan is working for you, then keep it up, and if it needs to be modified, then change it.

Self-care and mental health

Taking care of all aspects of yourself can increase the likelihood that you can feel well and stay well, according to Mental Health America.

You can start by developing a good self-care plan and getting into a positive care routine. You may need some time to develop a strong routine of self-care activities, but try to maintain it. Even small steps can be great accomplishments. You might start with the essentials:

  1. Commit to healthy sleep habits: Prioritize getting adequate, regular sleep. Getting enough sleep at regular times is one of the healthy habits for mental health. In fact, this habit can improve your overall health. The right amount of sleep can boost energy, brain function, and your immune system. Restorative rest can also help with the management of mental health concerns and illnesses, such as anxiety and depression. 
  2. Manage stress: Managing stress levels can help reduce the long-term physical effects of chronic stress, like heart disease and depression. You might feel the effects of stress on your body and mind. You can try to reduce stress with self-care tips like spending time in nature, muscle relaxation, getting fresh air, healthy sleep habits, and physical activity. Lower stress levels may improve your quality of life.
  3. Stay connected with others:Mental Health America explains that human connections can help you feel supported, valued, and connected. Positive human connections have many benefits: they can increase happiness and lead to better health and even a longer life. They can be excellent resources for your mental health.
  4. Move your body: Exercise can be a great form of self-care. It can help ease symptoms of anxiety and depression, lower stress levels, and help your body stay healthy. Even small acts of moving are good for you. Staying hydrated can be beneficial during exercise and throughout the day. Hydration can be a great self-care step. Carrying a water bottle with you at all times can help you remember to drink more water.
  5. Unplug from technology: Taking some time away from your phone, electronics, and social media can be beneficial for your mental health. Try setting aside specific days or hours each week that are “unplugged” time — this will give you time to check in with yourself and take a break from being available to the world. Removing the constant ping of notifications from the room can give you time to rest and be present in the moment. 
  6. Eat Healthy, Regular Meals: A balanced diet of can help nourish your mind and body. Good nutrition can boost your mood, energy, and focus. There are both mental and physical health benefits of eating well.

Talk about self-care in therapy

Self-care routines are crucial for good mental health

You may not realize the lack of self-care in your life until you talk about it with a therapist. Going to therapy is a great place to gain emotional insight. The decision to seek professional support can be a most positive form of self-care. As the National Institute of Mental Health points out, self-care can look different for everyone; it’s not a one size fits all proposition. So, finding out what your needs are and what will work best for you can be very helpful. A mental health professional can gently guide you to understand what makes you happy and what doesn’t. They can also help you manage any mental health concerns or diagnoses of a mental illness that you may have, such as anxiety and depression. They can help you learn healthy ways to manage stress in your daily life and offer you resources for feeling, thinking, and behaving more positively.

A licensed counselor, licensed psychologist, or other licensed mental health professional can identify specific areas where self-care is lacking. Some people have trouble implementing self-care into their routines. There could be many reasons for that. But, ultimately, it’s important to figure out what those are. 

Self awareness is key to understanding your roadblocks with self-care tasks and implementing change. A professional can help you develop both short-term and long-term goals to help you prioritize your self-care practices more regularly.

Speaking to a therapist may help you learn more about the mind-body connection and identify opportunities for self care. Together, you can explore ways to incorporate self-care practices that benefit your physical health and overall wellness.

Online counseling is an excellent place to learn how to start a self-care practice. Online counselors understand the value of nurturing yourself. The mental health professionals at BetterHelp want to support you as you learn to care for yourself.

Takeaway

Establishing a personal self-care routine can help you improve your own physical and emotional health and can make it easier for you to care for others. To create a self-care routine, you can set realistic goals that are flexible enough to fit your schedule and adjust them to match what works best for you. You may find the help of a mental health professional useful if you don't know where to start. If you don’t have time for traditional therapy at this time, you may benefit from speaking to an online therapy. With BetterHelp, you can work with a therapist or psychologist who has experience helping people develop a personalized self-care plan. You may find that a personalized plan improves your emotional health, boosts your mood, and improves your overall well-being. Take the first step toward building a self-care routine that works best for you and reach out to BetterHelp today.

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