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We are natural nurturers of others, and with that we often leave self care of ourselves last, if at all. However, self-care is important from the standpoint of regular ‘maintenance’ (doctors visits, etc.) and also helps with our mental state. We are better caregivers if we take time for ourselves. So, if you find yourself short with others, especially your spouse and children, stop and ask yourself if you’ve taken time for yourself. This guide will help you understand why you need it and what steps you can take.
Small Acts of Self-care for a Happier You
Women are natural caretakers. Whether they’re a mom, wife, teacher, nurse, etc., they are always providing for those around them. It’s normal that women tend to put themselves last and don’t think it’s important to take care of themselves too. Some even think it’s selfish. Quite the opposite – it’s selfish to not take care of ourselves! You’ve probably heard the old saying:
“if mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.”
There’s some truth to that saying and it relates to women in general, not just moms! Think about it…how can you be expected to care for those around you if you’re tired, feeling stressed, and that you just wish you could have five minutes to yourself? There’s nothing for you to give if you’re stressed, overwhelmed, depressed, etc. It’s important to take care of yourself – physically, spiritually, and emotionally!
Listed below you will find several ideas for things you can do to put yourself first once in awhile and take care of YOU!
Treat yourself to a Retreat.
This can be something personal, spiritual, or even professional in nature. Consider how much time you could take out to soak in an immersive event experience. There are one day events you can find locally on everything from eating right to learning to meditate and there are amazing multi-day events hosted all over the world for a deeper dive into subjects and activities.
Some retreat focus possibilities include: Writing, Yoga, Recovery, Healing, Mindset, Walking/Hiking/Running, Marriage & Relationships, Creativity & Leadership. Name your interest and you can find a retreat coming up in the next season.
- hosts business focused retreats for women in business.
- offers 3 day retreats serving powerful leaders.
- runs small group writing retreats for Christian Women.
Get a Massage
A massage is an excellent way to have some time to relax not just physically but emotionally as well. There are probably several spas around you that offer massage services. Ask around for referrals or see if they have a website with testimonials. Spend some time researching before making up your mind. Another thing to keep in mind is that you’ll find different price points to choose from – most places have a few different time options for a massage (i.e. 30 minutes or 60 minutes). Obviously, the less the time the less the cost.
There are lots of different massage types you can choose from, but here are three of the most popular ones:
- Swedish Massage is popular in the United States and is the perfect starting point for someone who has never had a massage or someone looking for a very relaxing type of massage. In this type of massage, the therapist will use an oil or lotion as they massage and knead in long strokes as well as use circular motions too.
- Aromatherapy Massage is for the person that is under a lot of stress and has stress related ‘injuries’ (sore neck, tension in the neck/back, etc.). The therapist can choose oils that are specific for your issues but a popular one that is often used is lavender. (Note: if you don’t tolerate strong smells well, this probably isn’t the right choice for you)
- Hot Stone Massage is another popular one in the United States. Perfect for tight and tense muscles. The therapist will use warm, smooth stones to gently massage your tension areas.
What to expect when getting a professional massage:
- Licensed massage therapist – you can rest assured knowing that your therapist has been through school and training to develop their skills and ensure they know what they’re doing.
- Health history – if this is your first-time meeting with your massage therapist, they should go over any health issues you have and also talk about the areas of your concern (the areas you need massaged – back, neck, etc.) This process allows the massage therapist to create a massage that will be the most beneficial to you and your needs.
- Remove clothing/drape yourself with a blanket – it’s up to you how comfortable you are. Some people will get fully naked while others will strip down to just their underclothing. It’s totally up to you!
- Music – most massage therapists will play soft music in the background during your appointment. If you don’t like the music they’re playing, be sure to tell them. Or if you would prefer there be no music at all, let them know that as well. Remember, it’s up to you and what makes you feel the most comfortable and relaxed!
- Technique – once your therapist gets started, depending on your needs and the type of massage there are many different techniques they may use. Techniques known as skin rolling, direct pressure, kneading, and gliding are some of the most popular.
Work with a Life Coach
It’s ok to admit that you have some things in your life you’re not happy with, it’s normal! And it’s even ok to admit you could use someone on your side to help you work through those things. Admitting you need hep does not make you weak!
Whether it be some extra weight you want to lose, self-esteem issues, or negative thinking (just to name a few) a life coach can help. A good coach will call you out on your bull crap, help you set goals and hold you accountable. And thanks to technology, you can do this online if there isn’t a coach local to you or you just don’t want to meet someone in person.
If you need a few more reasons why hiring a life coach is a great way to take care of you, here are some:
- Clarity – if you are struggling with what you want out of life or wondering what your purpose/passion is, a life coach can oftentimes help you get clear about these things.
- Unbiased opinion – having someone to talk to and bounce ideas of that isn’t family or friends is a great opportunity to get some unbiased input. We are almost always more open to hearing things from an outsider versus those we are closet to. A life coach can do that for you and give you a new perspective to think about.
- You want more – more balance, more happiness, more satisfaction. A coach can help you work on any mental road blocks that are preventing you from moving forward and working towards those things you want more of. They can also help hold you accountable to working on doing things to help you achieve more of what you want.
Get a Mani/Pedi
What better way to relax than sit back and let someone pamper you? Heading to a local nail salon for a manicure and pedicure can be the perfect way to relax for a few hours. If you really want to maximize the relaxation benefits, leave your tech at home (or the very least, in your car) and instead bring a book or magazine and dive into that during your pedi.
What to expect from a professional mani and pedi:
- Trained individuals – they went through schooling to learn how to properly provide manicure and pedicure services.
- Licensed – just as the manicurist & pedicurist are trained, the salon must be licensed. This ensures they are following proper procedures to keep their tools clean and disinfected/sterilized.
- Nail trimming – a good manicurist or pedicurist will ask if you would like to have your fingernails/toenails trimmed. It’s up to you whether you want this service done or not.
- Gentle massage – for a manicure, most manicurists will provide a light hand massage; for a pedicure, you’ll get a light massage on your feet and up your calves.
- Polish – and of course there’s the polish application. You’ll have lots of variety to choose from at a salon and there is also the popular French Manicure option too.
As a side note, some salons will have different pedicure options to choose from. Aside from the basic, they may offer a spa pedicure, stone pedicure, or other specialty ones. Depending on what each one offers, the price will vary depending on the extra pampering you’ll receive.
Get a New Do
Aside from keeping up on haircuts and color because of split ends, unruly locks, and fading color, a lot of women admit a fresh new cut, color or style makes them feel like a new person.
Even if you can’t afford the whole shebang (color, cut & style), still splurge on at least a new cut. It really is remarkable the difference a new do can make in how you look and feel.
When you’re ready for a new do, keep these things in mind:
- What amount of time will the new do require to style it? Does that fit into your lifestyle?
- The shape of your face – not all styles look good on all face shapes. Pay attention to your face shape and research styles that are specifically created for that shape.
- Do your due diligence and research to make sure you find a stylist you feel comfortable with and can provide the results you’re looking for. Most stylists will even offer a consultation before you make the commitment to go forward. So, if you’re feeling nervous go talk to them first (show pictures of the styles you like, share any bad experiences with cuts you’ve had in the past, etc.)
What to expect from a professional haircut:
- Licensed provider – the cosmetologist must be licensed to provide services. The license should be displayed in a prominent place that is easy to see and make sure it’s up to date.
- Consultation – a good hairstylist will take some time to chat with you about what you’re looking for. While the decision is ultimately up to you, they should give advice about whether a style is good for your face shape or whether a color would be good for you as well as how hard a color/style is to maintain, etc.
- Blow dry & style – a good stylist will provide a blow out as well as styling your hair for you once they are done with the cut. It’s a great feeling to see it all come together and to look at the new ‘you’ in the mirror! (Note: most salons do charge extra for this but it’s worth it).
Doing your own hair every day becomes second nature. You probably don’t spend much time even thinking about what you’re doing. So when it comes to having a stylist do it professionally, there’s something magical about their gentle touch. A simple shampoo becomes a relaxing scalp massage. And, the final stage where they blow dry it and then style it, get lost for a few minutes and let yourself feel like a movie star!
Try a New Style
Do you rummage through a closet full of clothes and find things that don’t fit because they’re too small? Too big? Are you still holding onto your 80’s wardrobe? Do you live in yoga pants and t-shirts?
If you answered yes to any or all those questions, it’s time to head out and try some new clothes and update your style. You deserve to look and feel great and a new outfit that fits properly and in a style perfect for your body type (and age) is the perfect solution!
Find a local department store where their sales associates will spend time chatting with you getting to know about your likes and dislikes. Let them measure you if needed to find what size you are. Let them make suggestions and pick clothes they think would be a good fit for you. I encourage you to keep an open mind – just because you used to hate dresses or skirts or anything dressy, give them a try. You might be surprised to find that you like them, how they look and the feel of them.
You’ll know the exact moment you find the perfect outfit. You’ll just ‘feel’ it. Your eyes will light up, you’ll get a big smile, and you’ll feel great! It’s that one you should be sure to pick up! You’ll be amazed at how something as simple as a proper fitting outfit can make you feel.
If you have a Torrid store near you, I highly recommend checking it out. One of the best shopping experiences I’ve ever had was in that department store recently. It was literally the most fun I’ve ever had shopping for clothes – their associates make you feel like you’re the most important person and that they have all the time in the world to devote to you and only you! Plus, the clothes are fun, cute and affordable!
Facial: Professional or Self
Facials are not only a good source of relaxation, but they can be an important part of keeping skin healthy. They increase circulation and the flow of blood and should include different oils and creams meant to moisturize the skin. Professional facials along with a regular at home face care regimen will keep your skin looking younger, and don’t all women want that? 😉
If this will be your first facial, stick with the basics and don’t book any of the more advanced options the salon or spa may provide. It’s always best to first meet with your licensed esthetician and talk to them about your skin and the needs you have. They will then be able to provide their knowledge to help you make a decision that will best suit you.
You’ve booked your facial and the time has come, what to expect:
- Questions – a good esthetician is going to ask you questions about your skin type (is it dry, oily, etc.) as well as if you have problems with acne breakout, what products you are currently using at home and more. Be prepared to answer them to help make sure you get the best service for your skin.
- Cleansing – the first thing you’ll experience during a facial is the cleansing step. This process will cleanse your face of any makeup (if you wore any) and ensure the esthetician has a ‘clean slate’ to work with.
- Exfoliation – this step is most often done in preparation for the removal of any whiteheads or blackheads. If you’re not having that done, this step will be skipped.
- Massage – a light facial massage will be done once the esthetician has completed the other steps.
Note: some facials will include steam and a mask. The last step that all facials should include is the applying of a lotion that also has SPF in it.
Remember, you are paying for this service to be provided so make sure you are asking any questions you have or that you are voicing any concerns you may have too. It’s their job to ensure you get the best facial and leave there feeling rejuvenated and that you got what you paid for!
Schedule That Annual (Including Your Yearly Mammogram)
Chances are if you’re feeling good, have a well-balanced diet and get some regular exercise you probably don’t think there’s a need for a yearly exam. It’s a common misconception that many women have. Heck, not even just women but people in general.
While you may feel great and think you’re in good health, a yearly exam is still important for many different reasons. It gives you and your doctor the opportunity to go over any medications you may be taking on a regular basis and see if they’re still working how they should. It also gives you a chance to talk about anything you have concerns with. But most importantly, a yearly exam gives your doctor a chance to find something that is wrong and early detection of something as serious as cancer can be lifesaving.
Need some more convincing that you should get an annual exam? Here’s just a few:
- Save money – sure you probably have an insurance co-pay that will come out of pocket on the day of your exam, but think long term saving benefits. That yearly exam could find something simple now that could turn into a serious issue down the road. Simple preventative measures are cheaper than serious problems later down the line.
- Cultivate a relationship with your physician – seeing your primary physician once a year gives you the opportunity to build a relationship with your doctor. It also helps them get a baseline of your health so they can compare it each year – another way to catch something that could be an issue later on.
- No symptoms – remember some things like cervical cancer or breast cancer go undiagnosed because there are no symptoms. A yearly exam can detect something abnormal.
Are You Taking Your Vitamins?
The human body is a complex system and to keep it running smoothly it requires a lot of minerals, vitamins and nutrients on a day to day basis. If you aren’t getting what your body needs, you can easily become deficient in one or more vitamins and minerals. When you become deficient, your body doesn’t run like a well-oiled machine anymore and can start causing issues – anemia, fatigue, inflammation, and more.
While a healthy diet can provide the nutrients and vitamins your body needs, it’s not always possible to get everything your body requires through a healthy diet. Even though you may think you’re eating a well-balanced diet, you’d probably be surprised to find out that most Americans don’t eat enough fruits, vegetables, or high fiber foods (just to name a few).
Sometimes supplements are needed and recommended by health care professionals. In addition to a multivitamin, it is now recommended that all women also take a supplement that gives them additional:
- Vitamin D – this vitamin is good for helping to fight off things like depression and cancer. It’s next to impossible to get enough vitamin D from foods and depending on where you live, you may not see enough sunshine to get all the vitamin D you need either.
- Omega 3s – these will help keep your heart, joints, skins, eyes, and brain healthy. The recommended daily dose for a woman is 1,000 mg. To get your omega 3s, find a good fish oil supplement.
- Calcium – this is one of the most vital nutrients women need to help keep bones strong and healthy and to help prevent osteoporosis. It is recommended that women under 50 take 1,000 mg a day and anyone over 50 (who have gone through menopause) take 1,200 mg.
Take Yourself on a Date
For many women fear of judgement holds them back from enjoying some experiences on their own. Things like going to a movie and enjoying a dinner at a sit down restaurant are just a few activities we’re afraid to do solo.
As women, we spend too much time and energy worrying about what people around us will think if they see us going solo. We think people will look at us and feel sad or see it as pathetic (‘oh, she couldn’t find a date or friend to come with her, that’s sad’). But guess what? Most people won’t even be paying attention to you!
3 reasons you need to take yourself on a date and ASAP:
- It’s empowering!
- It’s all about you – no need to worry about someone else’s timeframe or what someone else wants to do. You get to make all the decisions!
- You learn how to enjoy your own company. But even more important, it will give you the time to learn how to be okay and be comfortable being alone with yourself.
Experiment with Meditation
There are so many reasons practicing meditation can help you take better care of yourself. It’s an all-in-one health benefit meaning it’s great for you physically, spiritually and emotionally.
The more you begin experimenting with it and getting better at it you will start to notice some of the health benefits – stress reduction, being more focused, having less anxiety or depression, better breathing, reduction in inflammation, and more.
Keep in mind, meditation takes practice. If you’re a beginner, don’t get frustrated if you find your mind wandering and you can’t concentrate for more than a few minutes (if even that long!) at a time. It’s all about practice and teaching yourself how to do it.
If you’re looking for a resource to help get started, be sure to check out these:
- 10% happier – book, podcast, app
- Headspace (app)
- Real Happiness: The Power of Meditation: A 28-Day Program (book)
Try Something Creative
What do you think of when you hear the word creativity? Does writing a novel or painting a masterpiece pop into your mind? Sure, those are creative outlets but it can be something as simple as trying a new recipe, coloring, and more.
Don’t let yourself get hung up on overthinking and making creativity out to be something complicated because it’s not. And it’s something that you should give yourself permission to do once in awhile. Allowing yourself the freedom (and time) to be creative is a great stress reliever, relaxation technique, and an opportunity to have fun which in turn helps you live a happier and healthier life.
Not sure where to start? Here are some suggestions:
- Painting with a twist –It’s just like it sounds, painting with a twist. The twist? You are served alcohol and get to drink as you paint. How can you not have fun with a night of wine and painting? A quick Google search for ‘local painting with a twist’ should easily give you several options to choose from. Gather a gang of your closest gal pals and head on out for a night of relaxation and fun! (Don’t forget to have a designated driver!)
- Check out meetup.com for local groups in your area. There are a wide range of topics to choose from – photography, dining out, art, small business owners, theater, etc. If you’re in a bigger area like a metropolitan location, you will have endless opportunities. In smaller, less populated, towns you may have to find something in a bigger town nearby.
- com – if you want to get your creative juices flowing but don’t feel like heading out into the world, why not give it a try from the comfort of your own home? From oil painting to photography to calligraphy (just to name a few), YouTube is an endless supply of creative ideas!
One thing I want to mention – don’t you dare tell yourself you are not creative! Everyone has creativity within, it’s just a matter of giving yourself permission to let it out and try new things!
Aromatherapy (the use of essential oils) can be used for things like skin and hair care, taking care of your mental wellbeing, some medical things, and to create an aromatic smell in your office, home, etc. There are a few ways to use them: (1) use a carrier oil with them and massage into your skin, (2) added to a bath or shower – known as vaporized, (3) used in a diffuser, or (4) ingesting them – only some are safe for this process!.
Expert aromatherapist Liz Fulcher, owner of the AromaticWisdomInstitute.com had this to say for anyone interested in aromatherapy:
Anyone who is just beginning to use essential oils are in for a treat because of their amazing healing properties. However, just because they are natural doesn’t mean they don’t have some safety concerns. To get the most benefit and enjoyment from your essential oils, here are a couple of things to keep in mind as you are learning to use these beautiful aromatics for self-care.
- Purchase from a reputable supplier who has had professional training and can comfortably answer any question you ask about essential oils.
- Since they are very concentrated substances, dilute essential oils in lotion or carrier oil such as Jojoba before applying them to your skin. Proper dilution help protect against topical irritation or other common skin reactions. I always recommend 6 drops of essential oil to 1 ounce of carrier.
- Never ingest essential oils, especially as a beginner.
- Before using essential oils on children under 6 or with a pregnant women, seek the advice of a Professional Aromatherapist. You can find one through NAHA.org (National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy).
- Get some good basic information from aromatherapy books at your local library or bookstore, or spend time in the NAHA.org website which is a great source of free information.
By following just a few safety precautions with essential oils, they will provide you with tremendous health benefits such as reducing anxiety and stress, helping manage discomforts such as headaches and muscle pain and helping you drift off to sleep.
Here are a few resources to help you start an aromatherapy journey:
- Aromatic Wisdom Institute is a Liz’s site and she provides a ton of information as well as training on how to become an aromatherapist. Be sure to check it out for informative articles and be sure to check out her podcast too!
- Aroma Talk is another online resource where you will find informative articles and all kinds of helpful tips on incorporating essential oils into your daily life. They’ve been around since 2008 and are one of the top aromatherapy blogs.
Refresh your unmentionables drawer
The lifespan of unmentionables isn’t real long because of the frequent washing they get. And because these undergarments can be a bit on the pricy side, we tend to hold on to them way too long.
If you find yourself pulling out bras that are missing a wire on one side or a hook or two in the back, it’s time for new ones. Or if you find yourself pulling out dingy looking stained undies that are stretched out and loose, it’s time for new ones. Or what about this – do you go out and hope you don’t get in an accident and end up in the emergency room because your undergarments are that embarrassing?
These are all clues it’s time to purge the old and stock up on new stuff! Not sure where to find some cute, sexy unmentionables? Try these resources:
Practice saying No
One way that women devalue themselves and their needs is by always saying yes! It’s like ‘yes’ is an automatic response and before you can even think about whether you have the time to do something, or more importantly – whether you want to do it – you’ve already said “sure, I’ll do that, no problem!”
Don’t forget that saying no is a full sentence and it’s not a bad word! I challenge you to pause for a minute or two the next time you’re asked to do something. If it’s something you really wouldn’t mind doing, then go ahead & do it but if it’s something you don’t want to or don’t have the time to, say “no!” and leave it at that. You do not have to explain yourself to anyone. No is no and that’s that.
Practice saying no and every time you’re asked to do something, stop and think about these things:
- Boundaries – it’s up to you to set and keep boundaries. As you begin to practice saying no, you will find you’re more effective, efficient, happier, and have more free time.
- You don’t have to do it all – a lot of women fall into the trap of thinking no one else can do it the ‘right’ way so I’ll just do it myself because it’s easier. Not true. You need to let go of this belief ASAP! There are others that can do the things you’re being asked to do.
- Your goals – setting your own goals and working towards reaching them is just as important, if not more important, than what everyone else wants you to do. When you learn to say no, you get to have more time to focus on your goals.
This is only a small list of many different small acts of self-care you can partake in. These suggestions can be a great starting point for you, but spend time trying different things and find what you get the most relaxation and enjoyment out of.