500 Expressions of Self-Care

Bubble baths? You betcha. Water-conserving shower? Uh-huh. In fact, my self-care routine seems to be full of contradictions. I guess that makes sense — I need different things on different days. One day I’m all, “Eat a piece of pie!” and the next day I’m all, “Do not eat a piece of pie!”

When I think about self-care, I think: what would be good for me? Me. Not us, not my family, not my friends. Me.

And within that question, I have a couple thoughts:

  1. What would be good for me in the moment — present-me?
  2. What would be good for me later/tomorrow/long-term — future-me?

Those can be two very different people. Present-me has to look out for future-me, too, which sometimes means doing something present-me isn’t super happy about. This isn’t about rules and regulations and forcing myself to follow a predetermined regimen. It’s about caring for and loving myself — in body, mind, and spirit — throughout my day, every day.

Wouldn’t it be great if before every decision I could think, “what would be good for me?” But, realistically, I’m not forever in the mindset of self-care. And even if I were, I couldn’t always do what would be good for me and me alone since I live in a world with other people and responsibilities outside myself. That said, I consciously choose to think about myself and my needs and my desires. I love self-care. I love how it’s a practice that I’m always engaging with and working on. I think about it all the time. Not before every decision, but definitely several times throughout my day.

When I saw on Instagram that Amy Jones at Map Your Progress was launching the 100-day Self-Care Love Affair, I was excited. Really excited. I spouted off a bunch of activities I do for self-care in the comments section and told Amy that, “I was sure I could come up with 500 self-care ideas because it’s probably the most important part of my life.” Well, upon learning of my obsession with self-care, she challenged me to write my 500 Self-Care Ideas. My list is full of things that work for me. Some certainly won’t suit you — and that’s okay. I encourage you to take what you like, and add to it to make your own list. And I invite you to join me in participating in the 100-day Self-Care Love Affair, starting May 1st. How will you choose to take care of your mind, body, and spirit?

The Mind
Oh, mind. You’re the greatest. But you’ve also been trained to be so mean to yourself sometimes. Sometimes I “give” myself a cookie (who am I kidding? It’s a piece of cookie dough). I do this because I want the sugar pick-me-up, or the flavor, or the beauty and satisfaction of wanting something and receiving it. Then I eat another piece, and then another, and then my stomach feels it and I say to myself in my head, “Why would you do that? Idiot! You know better!” And the other part of me says back, “Mind! Mind yourself!” What do I need in the moment? To be chastised? No. If I heard my friend say this to herself out loud, I’d swoop in and say, “Nooo! It’s cookie dough; we’re all helpless against its powers — especially now that there’s paleo vegan gluten free cookie dough.” I’d have empathy. I’d be compassionate. So why can’t I be that way with myself? Oh right, I can! That’s called taking care of myself.

The Body
I think a lot about my body — both how it’s amazing and I’m grateful for it, and also how it’s always changing. How can I choose to treat it / fuel it / love it / be content with it? Sometimes I feel like it’s not good enough or not as good as it used to be, but then I remember that I can do a whole lot with it. (Thanks, body!) I think about what makes it feel good, what makes it feel bad, what makes it feel tired, energized, sore, rested, etc. I think about my physical activities, my posture, my cardiovascular system. I think about the food I eat, the food I choose not to eat, the water I consume, the sugar, the alcohol, the fiber, the vitamins. I think about all of this when I think of self-care. What is good for present-me? What is good for future-me?

The Spirit
Or whatever you want to call it. This part of myself needs care, too. What makes my being quake with happiness? Feel alive? Feel fed and nourished and thriving? I need to give myself those things: that alone time, those friendships, that rest, that space, those hours of sleep, those bubble baths, those nature walks, that really good sparkling rosé I like, and all of the other good stuff.

One More Thing Before the List
Do you have goals? Do you write them down? A daily to-do list? A five-year plan? When I’m being uber-conscious of my self-care, I think more about future-me and not just present-me. What can I do now (stay home and write instead of getting dinner with my pal!) that will benefit me long-term (I wrote something! I’m awesome!)? Okay. That’s all. Everything on the list is good for me (present-me or future-me) in some way.

500 Expressions of Self-Care (in no particular order)

  1. Drink lots of water
  2. Make delicious meals
  3. Make delicious healthy meals
  4. Eat the delicious and healthy meals
  5. Allow yourself to eat the unhealthy thing (because it’s delicious and you love it)
  6. Listen to your body about what it wants to eat
  7. Listen to your body about (not) pushing it too far
  8. Listen to your body about how it feels
  9. Do something that will make your body feel better
  10. Stretch
  11. Yawn
  12. Sneeze
  13. Take your vitamins
  14. Take your supplements
  15. Make yourself herbal tea
  16. Smile at yourself in the mirror
  17. Plan and food prep ahead of time
  18. Choose not to eat the terrible things when you’re on the verge of hanger
  19. Notice when you’re hangry
  20. Feed yourself
  21. Carry snacks in your bag; you never know when you’ll need one.
  22. Get yourself to bed early / get 8+ hours of sleep
  23. Stay out late for once
  24. Exfoliate
  25. Moisturize
  26. Wear sunscreen
  27. Trim fingernails
  28. Trim toenails
  29. Put the nail clippers away after you use them
  30. Paint fingernails
  31. Paint toenails
  32. Look in the mirror and say something positive or encouraging, “You can do this. You’re awesome!”
  33. Look in the mirror and say something understanding, “Today was hard. It’s okay to feel upset.”
  34. Go for a walk
  35. Go for a long walk
  36. Go for a walk even though it’s raining
  37. Go for a walk and talk with a friend
  38. Walk a dog
  39. Jog a dog
  40. Go for a jog
  41. Make yourself a kickass jogging playlist
  42. Listen to NPR
  43. Call a friend
  44. Text a friend
  45. Spend more time in the backyard
  46. Spend more time on the porch
  47. Spend more time on the stoop / balcony / rooftop lounge / outdoors
  48. Go play in nature
  49. Go play disc golf
  50. Go step your feet in the river
  51. Go wade in the ocean
  52. Go swimming
  53. Forgive yourself
  54. Drink tea on the front stoop
  55. Eat breakfast in the backyard
  56. Set up your hammock
  57. Read in your hammock
  58. Think in your hammock
  59. Spend the better part of an afternoon in your hammock
  60. Nap in your hammock
  61. Say hi to your plants (mine make me so happy)
  62. Go rockclimbing
  63. Go rollerskating
  64. Go to yoga
  65. Get a massage
  66. Give a massage (or try to)
  67. Go to the spa
  68. Go to a sound bath
  69. Meditate
  70. Go to therapy
  71. Go to bodywork
  72. Go to acupuncture
  73. Spontaneous yoga! If you need a downdog, bust out a downdog in public / at work / wherever.
  74. Take it easy when you want/need to take it easy
  75. Take a day / week / month off from training / working out
  76. Push yourself to do the thing!
  77. Choose reading over TV
  78. Let yourself watch TV when you want to watch TV and don’t judge yourself!
  79. Seriously, don’t judge yourself
  80. Okay, notice if you judge yourself
  81. If you notice that you’ve judged yourself, say something nice and compassionate after to combat the icky feelings.
  82. Notice if you say something mean to yourself or about yourself in your head or out loud
  83. If you notice you’ve said something mean to yourself in your head or out loud, say something compassionate after (I see why you did that…)
  84. Be grateful
  85. Name something you’re grateful for. (Then do it again. And again.)
  86. Let yourself eat something sweet (pie!)
  87. Listen to your body
  88. Play a record
  89. Dance in the living room
  90. Dance in the kitchen
  91. Dance on the sidewalk
  92. Sing in the shower
  93. Sing in the kitchen
  94. Wash dishes while you sing
  95. Sing in the car
  96. Play a podcast
  97. Listen to the podcast
  98. Go slacklining
  99. Invite friends slacklining
  100. Try a new fitness class
  101. Find something new to do in your city. Then do it.
  102. Take a nap
  103. Go to a movie by yourself
  104. Go to a movie with your partner
  105. Go on a date with yourself
  106. Go to a literary reading
  107. Go to a literary craft talk
  108. Go to a live show
  109. Go to an open mic night
  110. Be a good partner
  111. Ask your partner what “good” looks like from you
  112. Ask your partner for a specific thing he needs/wants from you, and try to give it
  113. Say no to going out on a Friday night
  114. Say yes to going out on Saturday night
  115. Massage your feet
  116. Take a bath
  117. Take a bubble bath
  118. Take a lavender bath salts bubble bath
  119. Communicate clearly what you’re feeling
  120. Communicate clearly what you’re thinking
  121. Listen to people when they talk to you
  122. Go to a farmer’s market
  123. Buy yourself a vegetable from the farmer’s market
  124. Say no to an invitation out
  125. Say no to taking on one more tasks/responsibility
  126. Remove a task from your plate (delegate it, decline to participate, etc.)
  127. Snuggle with your pet rats
  128. Wash your face
  129. Listen to a Chinese lesson
  130. Speak Chinese out loud
  131. Listen to a Chinese song
  132. Play a song on the guitar
  133. Learn a new guitar song, or part of one
  134. Play a song on the piano
  135. Learn a new piano song, or part of one
  136. Learn how to do something on YouTube
  137. Give someone a hug
  138. Ask for a hug
  139. Give yourself a hug
  140. Donate clothes
  141. Do laundry
  142. Fold laundry
  143. Put laundry away
  144. Tidy your bedroom
  145. Tidy the whole house
  146. Vacuum the floor
  147. Wash the dishes
  148. Wash your car
  149. Detail your car
  150. Get a haircut
  151. Color your hair
  152. Perm your hair
  153. Research recipes
  154. Find a new recipe to try
  155. Cook a new recipe
  156. Invite a friend or two over for dinner
  157. Cook dinner for friends
  158. Give yourself a break
  159. Stop walking when you get blisters
  160. Put bandaids on your feet to protect against blisters
  161. Don’t spend money on something you don’t need
  162. Buy yourself something you want
  163. Try the yoga pose you don’t want to try
  164. Call your mother
  165. Don’t call your mother
  166. Say no more often
  167. Say yes more often
  168. Let your pet rats ride on your shoulder while you walk around the house
  169. Give your pet rats treats
  170. Teach your pet rats a new trick
  171. Cheer and congratulate your pet rats when they’ve conquered their newest trick
  172. Tickle your pet rats
  173. Kiss your pet rats
  174. Empty your pet rats’ litter box
  175. Clean your pet rats’ cage
  176. Love your pet rats
  177. Harvest your garden
  178. Eat berries off the vine
  179. Go on a date
  180. Surprise your partner with a date day
  181. Ask your partner to surprise you with a date day
  182. Go ice skating
  183. Go skiing
  184. Write a poem
  185. Write an essay
  186. Write a journal entry
  187. Write an email to a friend you haven’t connected with in a while
  188. Respond to an email you haven’t gotten to yet
  189. Clear your inbox
  190. Archive your email
  191. Back up your digital files
  192. Backup the photos and voice memos and notes from your phone
  193. Charge your phone
  194. Throw together the easy dinner tonight
  195. Eat leftovers
  196. Go out to eat
  197. Start watching a new television series
  198. Water your garden
  199. Paint
  200. Draw
  201. Color
  202. Type a letter on your typewriter
  203. Send a friend a birthday card
  204. Send someone a postcard
  205. Plan a vacation
  206. Check the weather for your vacation plans
  207. Pack your suitcase two days before you go on vacation
  208. Take three items out of your suitcase
  209. Take a vacation
  210. Don’t check email / social media if you don’t need to
  211. Take a short hike
  212. Throw a snowball
  213. Sit in silence
  214. Be in awe of a glacier
  215. Acknowledge ten beautiful things you see in the world today
  216. Pump up some jams
  217. Drive in silence
  218. Have alone time
  219. Make a plan for how to spend your alone time
  220. Make no plans at all for your alone time
  221. Lift weights
  222. Do a plank
  223. Do a forearm plank
  224. Do a side plank
  225. Do a handstand against a wall
  226. Do a headstand
  227. Think happy thoughts
  228. Make time to write a list of goals
  229. Write goals for today, for this week, for this year
  230. Write goals for the next two years, the next five years, the next ten years
  231. Write goals with your partner
  232. Write goals for your career and professional development
  233. Write goals for yourself
  234. Write fitness goals
  235. Write hobby goals
  236. Write sparetime goals
  237. Build a garden bed
  238. Plant your starter plants
  239. Wear gloves
  240. Wear a hat
  241. Wear sunglasses
  242. Wear rainboots
  243. Pack an extra set of clothes in your trunk
  244. Pack sneakers in your trunk
  245. Pack yoga clothes in your trunk
  246. Learn to make gnocchi
  247. Sit on the couch with your fuzzy blanket
  248. Start a fire in the fireplace just for you
  249. Be cozy by the fireplace with your love
  250. Prepare for your meetings
  251. Mow the lawn
  252. Don’t wear makeup today
  253. Eat a vegetarian diet
  254. Eat a vegan diet
  255. Make a dessert
  256. Share the dessert with friends or coworkers
  257. Bake something sweet
  258. Make biscuits
  259. Compliment someone
  260. Recognize someone for an accomplishment
  261. Reach out to congratulate someone who deserves congratulations
  262. Change your sheets
  263. Pick up the dry cleaning
  264. Wash your hair
  265. Condition your hair
  266. Blow your nose
  267. Eat some chocolate
  268. Eat some more chocolate
  269. Put the chocolate bar away on a shelf in a cabinet in the kitchen
  270. Tell someone if you’re sad
  271. Tell someone if you’re angry
  272. Have a vent-session with a friend
  273. Send your friend an Arrested Development GIF
  274. Ask a stranger if you can pet her puppy
  275. Drink coffee if you feel like you need it
  276. Enjoy an alcoholic beverage
  277. Read the newspaper
  278. Walk barefoot in sand
  279. Have a bonfire at the beach
  280. Go to a potluck
  281. Add more writing time to your calendar
  282. Favorite a new recipe
  283. Try a new recipe every week this month
  284. Do one of the projects you have pinned on Pinterest
  285. Wear makeup today
  286. Remove your makeup at the end of the day
  287. Brush your teeth
  288. Floss
  289. Pluck your eyebrows to “on fleek” status
  290. Go to the spa
  291. Tell your naked body it’s awesome
  292. Put things on your calendar so you won’t forget them
  293. Set your alarm before bed
  294. Take out the trash
  295. Take out the compost
  296. Take out the recycling
  297. Clean out the fridge
  298. Take it easy if you’re feeling sick
  299. Call a doctor if you’re really sick
  300. Make a doctor’s appointment
  301. Make a dentist appointment
  302. Make a vision appointment
  303. Put your keys in the right place
  304. Take off your shoes when you get home
  305. Hang up your coat
  306. Wear a watch
  307. Wear flats
  308. Wear sneakers
  309. Wear a hoodie
  310. Go grocery shopping
  311. Pay your bills
  312. Set up autopay
  313. Go to an event a friend invites you to
  314. Go to yoga with your niece
  315. Paint a picture with your niece
  316. Eat dinner with your nieces and nephews
  317. Wear your posture corrector thing
  318. Stand up at least once an hour and take a quick 1–3 minute walk
  319. Play foosball
  320. Play MarioKart on an N64 emulator
  321. Check Instagram
  322. Check Facebook
  323. Check Twitter
  324. Stay off social media for the weekend
  325. Don’t check work email tonight
  326. Turn your phone off
  327. Put your phone on silent
  328. Tell your partner you love him
  329. Hug your partner
  330. Have sex
  331. Masturbate
  332. Snuggle
  333. Spoon
  334. Take an afternoon nap
  335. Take an evening nap
  336. Make yourself a smoothie
  337. Make a friend a smoothie
  338. Juice
  339. Drink juice
  340. Make up a new juice recipe
  341. Plan your week in advance
  342. Look to see what commitments you have coming up
  343. Reserve a few nights a week for yourself
  344. Help someone move
  345. Help someone do something
  346. Look at puppy pictures
  347. Watch funny animal videos
  348. Volunteer somewhere
  349. Donate money to a nonprofit
  350. Donate money to a charity
  351. Donate money to a Kickstarter campaign
  352. Donate money to a GoFundMe campaign
  353. Support an artist on Patreon
  354. Pack yourself lunch for tomorrow
  355. Pack your partner lunch for tomorrow
  356. Take your car to the shop
  357. Get your oil changed
  358. Learn a healthy practice
  359. Ask questions
  360. Ask for help
  361. Tell people you’d rather not talk right now
  362. Ask someone if they have a moment for you before interrupting them
  363. Check in with yourself
  364. Notice how your body feels
  365. Notice what thoughts have been looping through your mind
  366. Notice how you’re breathing / if you’re holding your breath
  367. Take a few deep breaths
  368. Close your eyes for a minute
  369. Be still
  370. Take the stairs
  371. Take the elevator
  372. Go to a yoga sculpt class
  373. Go to trivia night
  374. Stay in with a book
  375. Drink hot cocoa
  376. Go to happy hour
  377. Light a candle
  378. Burn incense
  379. Forgive someone for something
  380. Let go of something you’ve been holding onto
  381. Go through one of the boxes you have in your storage shed
  382. Purge
  383. Gift or donate items you no longer need / want
  384. Get yourself a treat
  385. Do something nice for a stranger
  386. Do something nice for someone you love
  387. Listen to an album start to finish
  388. Choose what you’ll wear tomorrow the night before
  389. Steam your clothes for tomorrow
  390. Plan a camping trip
  391. Pack appropriately for a camping trip
  392. Go on a camping trip
  393. Set up your tent by yourself
  394. Ask for help setting up your tent
  395. Bring baby wipes on your camping trip to “shower”
  396. Take a long hike up a mountain
  397. Take a long hike on a trail
  398. Take an urban hike
  399. Take a hike on a volcano
  400. Sit under a tree
  401. Hug a tree
  402. Go mushroom hunting
  403. Cook with wild mushrooms you foraged yourself
  404. Wake up and do a few sun salutations
  405. Turn off the lights you’re not using
  406. Turn off the water while you brush your teeth
  407. Turn off the water while you shampoo your hair
  408. Shave your legs
  409. Shave your armpits
  410. Don’t shave your legs
  411. Don’t shave your armpits
  412. Get waxed
  413. Make eye contact with everyone you pass
  414. Smile at everyone who makes eye contact with you today
  415. Blow yourself a kiss in the mirror
  416. Clean out your junk drawer
  417. Hire someone to help you with something (handywork, yard work, cleaning)
  418. Give a canvasser a high five
  419. When you have a headache, drink water
  420. Take medicine when you need medicine
  421. Ask to borrow something from someone instead of buying the thing
  422. Wear headphones
  423. Go to a cafe or coffeeshop to write
  424. Sweep your floors
  425. Mop your floors
  426. Flip through a photo album
  427. Call your sister
  428. Text someone a string of emojis
  429. Stay in bed for fifteen extra minutes
  430. Match all your socks
  431. Put gas in your car when it’s below a quarter of a tank
  432. Take photos
  433. Edit photos
  434. Post photos
  435. “Like” photos
  436. Take a selfie
  437. Eat with chopsticks
  438. Turn down the heat
  439. Turn up the heat
  440. Eat dessert
  441. Skip dessert
  442. Consider a big life choice
  443. Play field hockey
  444. Play lacrosse
  445. Speak Spanish
  446. Read a Spanish poem
  447. Sing karaoke
  448. Don’t sing karaoke
  449. Look up a word in the dictionary
  450. Say I love you to your friends
  451. Say I love you to your family members
  452. Say I love you to someone every day
  453. Cry
  454. Wiggle in your chair
  455. Take a hot shower
  456. Unlearn a habit
  457. Write someone a letter. On paper. Mail it.
  458. Play a board game
  459. Shoot some video
  460. Shoot some slo-mo video
  461. Make a movie in iMovie
  462. Collaborate on an artistic project
  463. Go to a film festival
  464. Go to a museum
  465. Go to an island
  466. Go for a bicycle ride
  467. Eat a three-course meal
  468. Go to a winery
  469. Go to a brewery
  470. Take a ferry ride
  471. Go kayaking
  472. Go stand up paddleboarding
  473. Go snowboarding
  474. Play tennis with a friend
  475. Ask a friend to teach you something she excels at
  476. Curl your hair
  477. Let your hair air dry
  478. Part your hair in a different place today
  479. Braid your hair today
  480. Look up hair tutorials online
  481. Mix up your hairstyle for today
  482. Play roller derby
  483. Go to a roller derby bout
  484. Go to a baseball game
  485. Go to a football game
  486. Go to a sporting event
  487. Look up the weather
  488. Dress weather-appropriately
  489. Use mouthwash
  490. Refill the ice cube trays with water
  491. Treat yourself!
  492. Buy a new plant
  493. Buy organic produce
  494. Fix/replace something around the house
  495. Get a new toothbrush
  496. Learn a joke
  497. Leave the dishes until tomorrow
  498. Be lazy
  499. Get something done
  500. Say “I love you” to yourself in the mirror
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