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A (Practical) Guide to Self Care

If you are a human with access to the internet or television in the twenty-first century, chances are you’re familiar with the term self care—and you’ve probably been told repeatedly how important it is to set boundaries, get enough sleep, exercise regularly, eat healthy, meditate regularly, et cetera, et cetera. And while all of these things are undeniably important, they also require a lot of time that many people don’t have. 

If the self care tips that are commonly touted on the internet and social media seem unattainable to you, you’re not alone. Many often-cited self care ideas (such as the aforementioned sleep, exercise, and diet recommendations) are simply unrealistic for people who struggle to manage busy schedules and multiple demands on their time.

If you’re struggling with prioritizing your own health (whether physical, mental, or emotional), take a look at some of the suggestions in the following (practical) self care list:

Take advantage of the margins.

A lot of self care tips are contingent on the ability to carve out a chunk of your time, but for people with busy lives, that’s not always realistic. Instead of trying to create time where there is none, try to focus on the small pockets of time throughout your day as opportunities for “you time.” You might not be able to carve out fifteen minutes to meditate, but you can use the time you spend walking to the car or waiting in line at the grocery store to take a few deep, intentional breaths.

Pick one thing, and start small.

Self care practices can start to get overwhelming fast if you try to do too much at once. Rather than trying to overhaul your diet, exercise more, and start a meditation habit all at once, restrict yourself to one thing that you think will make the biggest difference in your life and practice doing it often, until it becomes ingrained. A little bit of regular, concerted effort is much more practical (and sometimes more effective in the long run) than trying to make multiple big changes all at once.

Practice gratitude.

In terms of self care practices, gratitude is the MVP. Practicing gratitude takes up very little time and space, but can have immense benefits. For example, having a gratitude practice has been shown to increase happiness and improve physical health. It’s also extremely easy to do—you can keep a daily gratitude journal, or start a habit of thinking about things you’re grateful for whenever you have the chance (say, during your lunch break, or in one of your margin moments).

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