Why Self-Care Transcends Age, Background, And Experience Barriers

Medically reviewed by Julie Dodson, MA
Updated April 24, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), self-care involves activities required for personal care, such as eating, dressing, or grooming. However, it can also involve activities in which you engage to tend to your psychological, spiritual, social, and mental well-being. 

Self-care may seem like an outdated topic or a repetition of the same five coping skills. However, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of ways you can practice self-care, which can work for anyone of any age or background. Understanding the unique ways you can tailor this practice to the various circumstances of your life may reduce the stigmas around practicing coping mechanisms.

self care is for everyone
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What is self-care for everyone? 

Self-care "for everyone" refers to the various self-care techniques that can be used regardless of your identity or in consideration of your identity. It combines equality and equity to find ways each individual can benefit. Below are forms of self-care different groups might try. 

Modified self-care for children 

Children may not understand more complex forms of self-care that adults can use, such as journaling or talking in depth about their feelings. However, they can modify a few self-care practices to benefit their mental and physical health. Although parents may not understand the benefit of mental health exercises for children, children can find value in mental healing, regardless of whether they have a mental illness or cognitive challenge. 

Below are some self-care activities for children: 

  • Coloring an "emotions wheel:" Emotions wheels are colorful wheels where children can learn about their emotions and what facial expressions and body language are paired with them. 
  • Art therapy: Children can create images of their thoughts or experiences to help parents, caregivers, and care staff understand their feelings. 
  • Taking a creative bath: Children may benefit from having a special bath time just for them, where they can play with toys, listen to music, and use bath-safe crayons. 
  • Listening to music: Children may enjoy listening to music as much as adults do. An MP3 device or radio can allow them to spend time in their room listening to music without using a device or the TV to distract themselves. 
  • Exercise: Children can exercise using methods like a trampoline, running around in the yard, or playing pretend. 

Self-care for Gen Z 

Generation Z, born from 1997 to 2012, ranges from around nine to 25. Older Generation Z individuals, who are teens or young adults, may have a significant amount of mental health education material available through social media awareness, online blogs, and increased connection to care. Due to this knowledge, they may have exhausted some of the more popular forms of self-care often repeated by older adults, like yoga, mindfulness, and exercise.

Although Gen Z can benefit from these techniques, as well, they may shut down when such activities are recommended repeatedly. Instead, below are a few unique self-care activities young adults and teens can use that fit with their generational culture: 

  • Treating yourself: Setting up a reward system may help you receive instant gratification from self-care. For example, you might create a sticker chart with funny or cute stickers. You can have a point trade system and trade in a number of stickers for a reward you like, such as a new outfit or food you enjoy.
  • A PowerPoint night with friends: PowerPoint nights involve a night with friends where you pick a theme for a humorous PowerPoint presentation, and each person presents their ideas to the others while everyone snacks. 
  • Self-date roulette: For this activity, add your favorite restaurants, outings, and activities to an online wheel. Spin three times and do the activities selected. For extra organization and surprise, create separate wheels for food, leisure, social time, and fun.
  • Create something: If you enjoy creating, you can take part in various forms of art. If you have financial barriers, consider going to a store like a dollar store to buy a small canvas or wooden craft and paints. Have a night in painting or make it a social activity by inviting friends. 

Self-care for millennials 

Millennials were born from 1981 to 1996 and are mostly in their 30s and early 40s. Although potentially more educated about mental health than their parents, millennials may choose to cope differently than Gen Z with specific challenges. Below are a few forms of self-care for millennials: 

  • Connect with nostalgia: If you had toys, movies, or games you used to love as a child, consider reconnecting with your inner child by using them again. You could watch a Disney movie or buy an old science kit or video game from eBay to relive your youth.
  • Set boundaries: Millennials may struggle to set boundaries due to a lack of boundary culture growing up. They may have been told to "suck it up" as children. Setting boundaries can mean saying "no" to parents who push your limits and choosing to spend a night instead of going out with friends.
  • Have a themed friend night: If you have a group of friends, it might be fun to have a themed food night where you each bring a different flavor, theme, or color of food when you hang out. For example, someone can bring only purple food, while someone else may bring only brown food. 

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Self-care for adults over 40 

Adults over 40 and into their late lives can also practice unique forms of self-care. If you're entering or well into middle age, below are a few options you can consider: 

  • Reframe your mindset about age: Some people may believe their age prohibits them from setting long-term goals. However, creating a bucket list to reframe your mindset may be beneficial. Make a goal to complete at least one bucket list item each year.
  • Have regular social meetups: Social connection is essential for human well-being. If you don't see your friends or family members as much as you used to, consider organizing regular meetups, such as game nights, barbeques, or generational discussion nights, where each generation can have unique stories about their generation's culture.
  • Get a massage: A massage may be a relaxing way to care for yourself and keep your body healthy. If you often experience stress, the stress may cause your muscles to tense up, so a massage can reduce this tension and potentially help with chronic pain from aging. 

Self-care for men

Men may be encouraged not to practice self-care due to stigmas about men and mental health. However, self-care doesn't have any labels attached to it. It isn't emasculating, weak, or stupid. In fact, appropriately caring for your own health is wise, mature, responsible, and respectable.Below are a few self-care activities men may enjoy: 

  • Read a book: If you have specific interests, consider reading a book about them. Reading is a way to practice mindfulness, as you must focus on the page and the thoughts that arise about what you're reading. If you like aviation, you could check out an aviation book or learn more about flying. If you like history, consider reading about your favorite historical figure's life.
  • Give back to yourself through others: Some men may enjoy feeling useful to others. Consider giving back to your community by volunteering your time to an organization you want to support. You can also volunteer to offer manual labor if you enjoy hands-on activities.
  • Build a DIY project: If you enjoy creating, you might like DIY projects. Look online for inspiration. You can create DIY furniture, household items, knick-knacks, clothing, journals, leather products, jewelry, watches, and other items. 

Self-care for LGBTQIA+ individuals

In 2023, over 490 anti-LGBTQIA+ bills were passed or suggested on a government level. Current events can cause some LGBTQIA+ people to feel scared, upset, or alone. Below are a few self-care strategies unique to these situations: 

  • Create a self-love chart: There may be aspects of your identity you love and respect. Create a drawing of yourself or a symbol that reminds you of yourself, and write as many words as possible that showcase what makes you happy to be you unnecessarily limiting. If you can't think of anything, list words that make you proud of your community.
  • Go to an LBGTQ+ meetup: If there is an LGBTQIA+ group in your city, consider joining them to meet friends and talk to people who relate to your experiences. You may feel safer in a space where you aren't alone.
  • Have a "me night" makeover: Spend one night alone at home giving yourself a makeover with clothing, makeup, jewelry, shoes, and gender-euphoric attire that fully represents who you are. If you don't dress like this in public, the activity can allow you to feel comfortable in your own skin and see yourself as you want to be. When you look in the mirror, tell yourself positive affirmations, such as, "I am such a beautiful face of the trans community" or “I love being a butch lesbian.” 
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Self-care for BIPOC 

Being a person of color in the US can come with unique challenges, such as racism, potential xenophobia, and the fear of hate crimes. A few ways people of color may benefit from self-care include the following. 

Connect with your roots 

Whether you were born in the US or not, consider taking a night in to research your family lines. If you have spiritual beliefs, you might try connecting with your ancestors this way. If you don't, you can create a family tree. Even if you can't trace your family back, start with your immediate family and use this tree as a keepsake you can pass down to your children if you choose to have them. 

You can also research the culture of your family's home country or land if it wasn't the US. If you're Indigenous to the US, learn how your tribe or family might have lived before colonization and connect with these practices through a ceremony or ritual. 

Leave what doesn't serve you 

There may be people, careers, locations, or cultures that don't serve you in your life and don't align with who you are as a person of color. If you relate, consider leaving these challenging situations. Let go of friendships in which you work harder than you need to. Stop trying to educate people who might not listen. Move to a location where other people of your culture are present. You don't necessarily have to push yourself into equality if equity is what you're seeking. 

Set boundaries

Black women's communities consistently have their experiences of being asked to do more than they are able to. Family members may push you to be present when you can't, and you might experience high levels of sexism in your community. Setting boundaries can be difficult, but it is a form of self-care. Black Girl Existing suggests reframing your boundaries as a way to have more authentic relationships while learning healthier communication methods with those you love. 

Self-care for those with disabilities 

Having a disability, whether visible or invisible, can make it difficult to complete some forms of self-care. For example, if you live with depression, you might struggle to manage your hygiene or get out of bed, let alone set a full schedule with unique activities. If you are a wheelchair user or have a hypermobile condition like Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS), you might struggle to partake in activities like yoga or exercise. In these cases, below are a few forms of self-care to try: 

Modified exercises

If you have a physical therapist, they may be able to guide you in creating a modified exercise routine. For example, you may be able to lift weights with your arms but not move your legs. A physical therapist can teach you to stretch without overextending your joints if you are flexible. If you struggle to exercise because you pass out easily, you can walk short distances, swim, or partake in a low-impact exercise like stretching each night. 

Do self-care in bed 

You're not alone if you can't get out of bed due to a sickness or a mental health challenge. Instead of leaving your bed, consider having activities next to your bed you can perform quickly and easily. Don't pressure yourself to clean your bed or move these items away after use as long as they don't impede you from sleeping. For example, the following are activities you can do sitting in bed: 

  • Write 
  • Journal
  • Sing
  • Listen to music
  • Play with your pets
  • Paint your toes
  • Draw or create other forms of art
  • Play an instrument
  • Eat healthy snacks
  • Play video games
  • Meditate or practice mindfulness
  • Drink water
  • Read a book
  • Fill out a workbook
  • Attend therapy 

Set up a bedside station with your favorite activities to use regularly, as well as when your mental or physical health worsens. 

Self-care in the form of therapy

Regardless of who you are, you can try hundreds of self-care activities and adaptations. From childhood to the end of life, you can partake in self-care to improve all aspects of your health. In addition, even if you struggle to practice self-care on your own, multiple resources are more quickly available to people from home, such as online therapy through a platform like BetterHelp. 

Online therapy can be used for anyone of any identity group. In addition, you can specify whether you'd prefer a therapist of a specific gender or an LGBTQIA+ or BIPOC identity. Receiving culturally or trauma-informed therapy from home can be possible for those living in rural areas without many options through this format. 

If you are experiencing trauma, support is available. Please see our Get Help Now page for more resources.

Studies also verify the effectiveness of online therapy. One study found that four out of ten US adults started using therapy in 2021, and the number may increase. Another study found that 71% of participants found internet-based therapy more effective than face-to-face options, and 100% found it more convenient. 


Self-care involves any activity to improve your physical, mental, spiritual, emotional, and social health. If an activity does not harm you, your environment, animals, or other people while offering benefits to your health, it may be a form of self-care. Consider contacting a licensed therapist to further discuss how you can adapt self-care practices to your unique needs.
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