Re-thinking Self-Care–Small Steps

one small stepI have written a great deal about self-care in the past few years.  Just use the search term self-care, and you’ll find all my Self-Care 101 series, as well as the mention of self-care in many other posts.  And one of the issues that I have written about is that many of us (and I’m definitely in this boat) struggle with regularly implementing self-care. I was reminded of that this week during the #PPDchat in support of those struggling with postpartum depression.  One comment in particular, from user @story3girl, really hit home for me.  She expressed a struggle with self-care and talked about viewing self-care as “just another chore.”

Just another chore.

I don’t know about you, but those word rang inside my head like one of those amazing Tibetan singing bowls that I not-so-secretly lust after.

For me, this feeling about self-care, that it is one more chore on the already-way-too-long list of chores that many of us face each day, is one of the powerful myths we have internalized about self-care. It is hand in hand with the idea that self-care is actually selfish, instead of sensibly putting on your oxygen mask first.

And that got me wondering–how can we think about self-care differently?  How can we reconnect self-care to the many moments of small joys that may already be happening in our days? 

What if you got “self-care credit” for taking an extra 20 seconds to focus on how truly wonderful your morning coffee is?

All too often, when we talk about self-care, we talk about the big ticket items. These can be big ticket in terms of actual cost, like massages, gym memberships or nights out (trust me, a night out can be big-ticket once you pay a babysitter, buy a few movie tickets and some popcorn, and maybe spring for dinner).  They can also be big ticket in terms of time, like preparing fresh meals each day, working out for an hour a day, taking breaks from kids or work.  So many of my clients say things to me like, “that sounds fantastic, but I don’t have the time/money/energy to make that happen.”  When we focus only on the “big ticket stuff” in self-care, we face two possible risks.  The first is that self-care begins to seem unattainable or feels like another chore.  The second is that you miss all of the small opportunities for self-care throughout your day.

So, today I am inviting you to re-think self-care.  Here are just a few “small ticket items” that you can try, with no financial investment and minimal time investment, to begin redefining self-care in your daily life:

  • Take 3-5 deep breaths.  Try to breathe fully into your lungs.
  • Take a “pause break.” When you notice stress or overwhelm creeping in, walk away for a minute or two.
  • Get outside. Reconnecting with the natural world can remind you to take life a little less seriously.
  • Move a little.  Walk for 10 minutes, dance to your favorite song–you don’t need to go to the gym to let your body move.
  • Watch something funny.  YouTube has made this oh so easy.
  • Savor a favorite food or drink (did I mention coffee??). Really let yourself notice the taste and feel.
  • Reach out to someone hurting.
  • Listen to favorite music.

What are your favorite “small ticket” self-care actions?

11 thoughts on “Re-thinking Self-Care–Small Steps

  1. Great post! From your list the two things that I most like to do are going outside, particularly my own backyard…looking at my plants etc. The other is listening to favorite music. I rarely ever watch something funny, I will make a mental note to try that soon! 🙂

  2. Books, books and more books. Warm baths with soothing oils added. Reading books. Baking, my newest cookie recipe makes the whole house smell wonderful. Embroidering. Reading books. Listening to beautiful music. Playing the piano. Oh, and did I mention books? 🙂

  3. Self-care has come to feel very much like a chore lately, and you are right – this is crazy. I took three deep breaths, so that is a start. Now I’m taking more deep breaths, so there is some improvement 🙂 Good article and good reminder. Thanks! ~Catherine

  4. Ann, this is such a terrific post. Small steps speak volumes! My self-care includes writing, even if it’s a few sentences, and creating art. I find that when I create art, cancer doesn’t exist in my mind. It’s a wonderful escape. Thank you for sharing.

  5. Thank you for this. It was good for me to read. The other piece of what I was trying to get across that day though is that some times, there’s an emotional heaviness to self care too. I’ve spent so much time *not* enjoying things, big or small (Yes, I know that’s a defining symptom of depression) that sometimes even the little things feel like a risk of disappointment. So even when I have the time to do something, I find myself in a kind of self care analysis paralysis. What do I want? What do I like? Will it be worth it?

    1. Thanks for clarifying that–I have heard a similar experience from my clients in the office. That is one of the reasons I advocate small steps–less risk even if it turns out to be not quite right. Thanks again for your willingness to share the inside experiences of your journey–I truly believe that you are lifting others up.


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