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  • Writer's pictureDr. Meagan Stanley

Q: How do I start a self-care routine?

Updated: Apr 17, 2020

7 self-care acts that are good for your mental health

Self-care is a huge buzz-word in our culture today and a lot of things can be considered acts of “wellness.” I am not here to judge works best for you, but I want to give a few suggestions to make sure your “self-care” routine is actually improving your emotional well-being.

What is not self-care?

I’d like to start off with discussing what may not be acts of self-care. One way I like to frame self-care is to think of it as “self-nurturance”. In my opinion, these acts should be nourishing, rather than distracting. Sure, a little distraction from the hassles and headaches of everyday life is fine. However, compartmentalizing your life into the extremes of “stressful” and “self-care” with nothing in between can be quite harmful. This can occur when self-care becomes a reactive act to the parts of your life you are unhappy with. Being good to yourself should really exist in every moment of everyday. Understanding, accepting and/or making peace with the unpleasant parts of your day is just as important for your mental health as what you do in your spare time.

It is also important to be careful and consider that something that may be labeled as a self-care could be a gimmick. Taking care of yourself should not mean you have to spend money. Because this is such a huge trend, brands are and will continue to try to capitalize on this. I’ve seen just about everything marketed as “wellness” and “self-care.” Another trend is social media influencers sharing a “self-care routine,” which not only involves one product, but often several products to achieve full wellness—fitness equipment and tools, juices, teas, skincare, essential oils, etc. I am NOT saying these things are bad. In fact, I enjoy many of these things. But I do not think they are vitally necessary for your emotional and psychological wellbeing.

What is self-care?

7 self-care acts that are good for your mental health

1. Being grateful for what you have

2. Forgiving yourself for your past

3. Having compassion for those who take their suffering out on you

4. Setting limits with others and yourself

5. Living in the moment and remembering to breathe

6. Creating a home environment that brings you peace

7. Taking care of your body and nervous system with exercise and meditation

You’ll notice that my list isn’t just about the self. It may be controversial to make a self-care list that considers other people. To me, it’s important to recognize that we do not live in a bubble and our lives will always include how we take of ourselves in conjunction with how we take care of other people. Being good to yourself means being good to the people around you—self-care is an act of self-love, not selfishness.

Another item that might be a little shocking is the idea of setting limits—both with others and yourself. Setting limits with others allow for you to have space to assess what you need and how you might take care of that need.

What about setting limits with yourself? Isn’t self-care about giving yourself everything you want? One of the most psychologically healthy things you can do for yourself is learning restraint and moderation, which are acts of self-awareness. Moderation does not mean denying yourself of anything pleasurable. It’s just about monitoring what you feel brings you joy and peace vs. acts that may actually be driven by forces such as societal pressures or our more primitive pleasure-seeking parts of our brain.

In addition, sometimes self-care can be removing something from your life, rather just adding on things that feel good to you. I think of this especially when speaking about item 7-- creating a home environment that brings you peace. Your home is your sanctuary and it’s important your physical environment reflects how you want to feel on the inside. Typically, this does not mean adding new things, but organizing and “Marie Kondo-ing,” if you will. Focus first on finding one peaceful place in your home that you can meditate, breathe, and feel completely at ease in.

I hope this helps—I will continue discussing health and wellbeing topics for the remainder of March. I look forward to seeing you here again!

With love,


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