Making time for a self-care routine — one that allows you to attend to your psychological health and emotional and spiritual needs when stressed — is essential for leading a well-balanced life. Think of commitment to your psychological health as a commitment to other domains of your life — a refreshed, happy, and energetic mind allows for greater productivity at work or school. So, how does one create a self-care routine? In this article, we will discuss the steps you can take to create one that fits your lifestyle. After all, self-care is a routine, which means that you need to stick to it for maximum benefit. A “one-size-fits-all” plan does not usually work.
Step 1: Identify positive and negative coping strategies in your life.
Think of what you do now to manage stress in your life. Do you overeat or undereat? Do you shut down under stress? Do you engage in positive thinking? The University of Buffalo School of Social Work lists the following activities as positive and negative coping mechanisms:
Positive: engaging in physical activity, getting 6-8 hours of sleep, making time to relax, having a sense of humor, and spending time with friends and family.
Negative: smoking/using tobacco, drinking excessive alcohol, drinking excessive coffee or caffeinated beverages, overeating or undereating, and engaging in self-destructive thoughts.
Here is the full worksheet from the University of Buffalo that outlines positive and negative
Step 2: Eliminating barriers that prevent you from engaging in positive self-care habits
Now that you have identified your negative habits, think about why you have relied on them. If you undereat, is it because you forget to eat when you are stressed or is it because you are so busy that you cannot find time to cook? If you overeat, is it because food provides comfort? If you shut down, is it because you are overwhelmed with everything that is on your plate?
Knowing why you rely on negative strategies when coping with stress will allow you to identify the psychological or emotional needs they fulfill. You can then begin to identify healthy strategies that can fulfill the same needs.
Step 3: Replacing negative strategies with positive ones.
If you can eliminate even one negative strategy from your life and replace it with a positive one, you should be proud of your commitment to yourself! Changing habits is not easy. Reward yourself for even reading this article and doing the above worksheet.
Take a journal or notebook or even a piece of paper and create three columns.
In the first column, write down the negative strategies you want to eliminate. In the second column, write down why you engage in these activities and the psychological need they fulfill.
For instance, if you find comfort in food when you are stressed, the psychological need that food fulfills for you is a feeling of comfort and consolation.
In the third column, identify positive activities that will fulfill the same psychological need. How does cooking with your significant other or just laying in bed with the sound for comfort? How does snuggling with a pet sound? According to Penn Medicine’s Health and Wellness blog, science shows that snuggling, holding hands, and hugging a human or a pet actually boost overall health. These activities cause your body to release oxytocin, a hormone that offers comfort.
As inspiration, refer to a previous article in our blog that lists out 50 positive self-care strategies here: https://www.guidingthewise.org/post/50-self-care-activities-to-achieve-mental-and-emotional-health
Step 4: Be prepared.
Congrats! You have just created your self-care plan!
Now that you have identified your goals and strategies, it is time to rely on them when you are stressed. Have your plan easily accessible. Put it up on your wall in your bedroom or make it the background or your phone.
Next time you are stressed, be conscious of your default coping strategies and make an active effort to refer to your self-care plan. With practice, your plan will become a routine.