Creating a Personal Self-Care Plan

June 29, 2024

Step-By-Step Instruction on Developing a Customised Self-Care Routine

In today’s fast-paced world, taking time for self-care can often feel like a luxury we cannot afford. Yet, neglecting our own needs can lead to burnout, stress, and a decrease in overall well-being. Self-care is not just about pampering yourself occasionally; it is about making a consistent effort to nurture your mind, body, and spirit.

Creating a customized self-care routine tailored to your unique needs and lifestyle can significantly enhance your mental, emotional, and physical health. Whether you’re juggling a demanding job, family responsibilities, or personal challenges, having a dedicated self-care plan helps you stay grounded and resilient.

Step 1: Assess your needs

Whenever developing a personalised self-care routine, it is first and foremost important to assess your current situation. The point of self-care is to improve the way you feel, to improve mental health and take time to nurture yourself. 

Reflect on the current state of well-being and identify stressors. It can be helpful to keep a journal to track emotions, stress levels and energy levels. For instance, you can answer the same questions every night in a diary: What stressed me today? What went well? What do I need now? This could help you get a better understanding for your needs in different situations.

Step 2: Identify goals 

Setting goals for your self-care routine is crucial to ensuring that your efforts are intentional and impactful. Long-term goals give you a broader vision for your life. The short-term goals will give you better direction on how to achieve the vision you have of your life and for yourself. Once you know them, it will become easier to pick out activities that align with these goals.

Begin by defining what you hope to achieve through self-care, whether it’s reducing stress, improving physical health, or enhancing emotional resilience. Get very specific and try not to achieve everything at once. Prioritize what needs of yours are most pressing and need to be addressed immediately, then branch out. 

Step 3: Find the right self-care activities for you

Self-care should never be a chore, but a way to give yourself what you need in a nurturing and compassionate way. There is no one-size-fits-all. Instead, it is important to get to know yourself, so that you may learn what your body and mind need depending on the situation.

Rainer Strack, Susanne Dyrchs, and Allison Baileyhe recently published an article in the Harvard Business Review, where they applied business strategy to “create the life you want“ (2024). They identified the six key areas of life as:

  • Relationships
  • Body, mind and spirituality
  • Community and society
  • Job, learning and finances
  • Interests and entertainment
  • Personal care

When dividing life into these categories, it may become easier to understand where to apply more energy and time. It can inspire you to consider new ways and aspects of self-care, that you may not have thought about before.

On top or as part of these areas, there is also mental and emotional self-care that play a big role in developing a customised self-care routine. This includes practicing self-compassion, monitoring mental self-talk and becoming aware of the way you process emotions.

Applying the five love languages to self-care

When coming up with the right self-care activities for you, taking the five love languages into account may be useful. According to the couple and relationship counselor Dr. Gary Chapman, there are five ways in which romantic partners experience love:

  • Acts of service
  • Quality time
  • Physical touch
  • Words of affirmation 
  • Gift giving

These are transferrable to self-care and self-love. Instead of focusing on giving love in the form of these five ways to someone else, you will focus on giving that love to yourself. 

Possible activities for self-care are:

  1. Acts of service 
  • Clean your apartment.
  • Finish a task on your to-do list.
  • Book a medical check-up.
  1. Quality time
  • Go on a self-date! Get coffee, go window-shopping, do your skincare routine, paint your nails, watch a football match, journal, go to the gym, go to a concert, plan a trip, …
  1. Physical touch
  • Book a massage.
  • Hug a loved one or a pet.
  • Massage your scalp.
  • Run a hot bath.
  • Create something with your hands.
  1. Words of affirmation
  • Give yourself a compliment when looking in the mirror.
  • Ask loved ones about your strengths.
  • Make a list of things you like about yourself that you can read again and again. 
  1. Gift giving
  • Treat yourself! To something small, something you have always wanted or just a little chocolate bar to enjoy at work. Indulge yourself.

Step 4: Create your self-care routine 

Once you have come up with different self-care activities from each life area, you can create a customized self-care routine. This should not be static and follow a tight schedule, but instead try to listen to your body and feelings and act accordingly. After a long day at work, sometimes you just need food and a good book, some days you want to meet a friend and others you just need to work out hard at the gym. Self-care is all about taking time for yourself and giving yourself what you need. 

It can make sense to organize self-care activities based on frequency. Decide on activities that you would like to do daily, weekly or monthly and make an effort to stick to it. Always review your routine and adjust accordingly. If you realize that working out three times a week is too stressful, or that it is not realistic for you to read one book per week, cut yourself some slack and adjust the frequency accordingly. After all, self-care is all about making you feel good and reduce stress.

Possible self-care activities:

  1. Relationships
  • Have one date night per week.
  • Call your family for 10 minutes.
  • Read to your child for 20 minutes before they go to bed.
  • Also: cancel plans. Say no. Distance yourself from people who no longer bring positive energy to your life.
  • Invite friends to cook together.
  1. Body, mind and spirituality
  • Try out one new sports activity every 2 months.
  • Get a medical check-up.
  • Meditate for 10 minutes.
  • Dance in the morning.
  • Go to therapy.
  • Engage in spiritual practices.
  • Spend a day in nature.
  • Digital detox for a day (or start small with 5 hours or so).
  1. Community and society
  • Volunteer at a local organisation.
  • Donate clothes you do not wear anymore.
  • Buy somebody a meal.
  • Start a community for like-minded people (online or offline).
  1. Job, learning and finances
  • Plan and organise your finances.
  • Listen to a talk on a subject relevant to your job.
  • Ask for additional training at work.
  • Take a vacation day.
  1. Interests and entertainment
  • Try out a new recipe.
  • Read a book, or an article.
  • Go to a concert or to the theatre.
  • Go for lunch in a new area of your city.
  • Invite your friends for a movie night at home.
  • Spend time in your own city as if you were a tourist.
  1. Personal care
  • Clean up your bedroom.
  • Eat a home-cooked meal.
  • Go to bed 15 minutes earlier.
  • Do daily chores mindfully.
  • Buy new supplies to make your living environment more comfortable.

Step 5: Evaluating and adjusting your routine

Creating a self-care routine is an ongoing process that requires regular evaluation and adjustment. As your life circumstances, stress levels, and personal needs change, your self-care routine should adapt accordingly.

Especially if you are starting a new self-care routine, regular check-ins are vital. Set aside time regularly to reflect on how your self-care routine is impacting your well-being. Ask yourself questions like: Am I feeling more relaxed? Is my stress level decreasing? Am I enjoying these activities? Keeping a journal to track your thoughts, feelings, mood changes and energy levels will help you identify patterns and areas needing adjustment. There are also numerous apps designed to help you track your self-care activities and progress. These tools can provide reminders, track your habits, and offer insights based on your inputs.

Based on your evaluations, make practical changes to your routine. Life is unpredictable, and your self-care routine should be flexible enough to accommodate changes. If an activity no longer fits your schedule or feels enjoyable, it’s okay to modify it or replace it entirely with something else. Don’t be afraid to experiment with new self-care practices. Trying new things can keep your routine fresh and exciting, and you might discover activities that significantly enhance your well-being.

To stay motivated, you can seek an accountability partner or create a reward system for yourself. Small rewards for sticking to your routine or reaching a milestone can boost your motivation and make the process more enjoyable. Also having someone to check in with about your self-care practices can help keep you accountable. This could be a friend, family member, or even an online community.

Conclusion

Developing a customized self-care routine is a powerful step towards enhancing your overall well-being. By understanding your unique needs, finding meaningful self-care activities, and regularly evaluating your practices, you can create a self-care routine that truly resonates with you.

Remember, self-care is not a one-size-fits-all solution. It’s about finding what works best for you and making it a priority in your life. Start small, be patient with yourself, and allow your routine to evolve as your needs change. Flexibility and regular adjustments are key to maintaining a routine that remains effective and enjoyable.

Embrace the journey of self-discovery and personal growth that comes with building your self-care routine. Celebrate your progress, no matter how small, and keep seeking new ways to nurture your mind, body, and spirit.

Finally, don’t hesitate to share your experiences and learn from others. Whether through support groups, feedback from loved ones, or online communities, connecting with others can provide valuable insights and encouragement.

By committing to self-care, you’re investing in a healthier, happier you. Take the first step today, and watch as your customized self-care routine transforms your life for the better.

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