When was the last time you did something just for you? And what is your reaction to that question? Maybe you feel guilty or that you should be doing something else. Maybe you are a caregiver and have someone that relies on you to make sure their needs are met. Whatever the reason, prioritizing you can be hard. Yet, doing self-care (those things just for you that make you feel good) is so important.

A way to think about and justify self-care is imagining your own personal energy gauge. This gauge is unique to you, everyone’s looks different. There are things you do that take energy out. These include things such as work, running errands, taking care of children, daily hassles (like sitting in traffic), and other stressors. These energy outputs also cover things that bring us joy, but take a lot of energy to do. Each of these take energy out of our tank and lower our overall energy level. There are also things that give us energy and add to our overall energy level. These include the basics like getting a good nights rest, eating healthy, and exercise as well as other things we do for self-care. These inputs fill-up our tank so to speak.

Now, think about what happens if you have more outputs than inputs. Eventually, you will drain out all the energy from your tank and experience burnout. When you get to this place, you can’t take care of others anymore or do the things you need or “should” do. So if you really think about it, those energy inputs of self-care are absolutely necessary. You need to do things for yourself so you have the energy to take care of what or who is most important to you.

Now you may be wondering how do I do that or find time for self-care? Well, it can be helpful to start with a plan. First make a self-care list of things to do for you. To help you start, I’ve included some activities below. Next, find ways to fit in self-care where you can. It could be something as simple as making sure you are taking your lunch break instead of working through it or finding time to take a quick walk around the block to get moving and get some fresh air. Maybe it starts with implementing the basics of making sure you are getting good sleep, eating healthy, and getting some exercise. Take it a step further and make time for self-care. Prioritize it.

Once you have your plan, all that’s left if putting it into action and holding yourself accountable. Start small and keep it simple. Take it day by day. And keep checking in with your energy gauge. You can also be flexible with your plan. Maybe when you check in you realize your energy level is pretty high so you can do some extra output activities. Or maybe your energy is lower than you expected, so you need more inputs than you originally planned for. Find what works for you.

Self-Care Examples:

Journal

Walk, run, exercise

Take a bath

Do yoga

Practice mindfulness/meditations

Read a book

Listen to music

Spend time with pets/animals

Keep a gratitude journal

Make art, crafting, be creative

Any form of play

Do something that makes you laugh (watch funny videos on YouTube, go to a comedy show)

Get outside (the beach, a hiking trail, a forest, etc.)

Play a sport

Watch a movie

Get a massage

Take a vacation (or stay-cation)

Play video games

Cook or bake

Garden or do yard work

Dance

Spend time with family or friends

Jennifer Piper
Author: Jennifer Piper

I am a licensed psychologist in San Diego, CA currently accepting new clients. I specialize in social anxiety and frequently work with individuals who feel stuck to identify underlying factors contributing to their current difficulties. Additionally, I work with individuals who have a variety of concerns including stress, depression, anxiety, self-esteem, relationship issues, grief, sleep/insomnia, life transitions, and issues common to university students and young adults.