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I know that practising daily self-care is important in the pursuit of mental wellness. I know that I’ll feel better overall if I ditch the coffee for water and do some meditation before bed. I know this – so why am I always so bad at doing it?
I’m the kind of person who loves to create to-do lists under the guise of productivity. I like my lists to be pretty and colour-coordinated and jam-packed full of checkable activities. The trouble is that on my bad days, to-do lists stop being friendly, motivational cues and become harsh reminders of everything that I haven’t achieved. And then, when I don’t complete everything at the end of the day or week, I mentally attack myself for failing at everything to ever exist, ever.
Either that or I’m in a good mood and self-care just slips my mind completely.
That’s the thing about practising self-care – it doesn’t always produce instant results and it’s easy to disregard when you’re in a good mood. But if you’re like me and suffer from depression, those good moods are often extremely fragile. Incorporating self-care routines and activities into your everyday life is a great way of managing your mental health, taking steps to ensure that you can kick depression’s ass on a daily basis.
I started taking my self-care much more seriously during my last breakup, right when I was coming out of the ‘wallowing in my filth’ phase and into the ‘I’m going to dye my hair and go back to the gym’ phase. I found that rather than just write down a list of random activities and bully myself into completing them, I had to really understand what my needs were and personalise my self-care routine accordingly.
So, how do you construct a self-care checklist that actually motivates you to complete it and doesn’t have you feeling like a dud at the end of the week? Well, I thought I would share some tips that helped me create my ultimate self-care checklist.
1. Improve Your Knowledge of What Self-Care Is
I’m not saying you need to become a guru, but practising self-care is so much more than treating yourself to a bubble bath. It requires a lot of self-exploration into your individual needs, as well as identifying the obstacles in your way. For example, I’ve always found it particularly difficult to use positive affirmations and take care of my social self-care goals, which I now know comes from confidence issues. You may have similar issues that are hindering your self-care journey. Identifying and working on them is a crucial step to crafting the perfect self-care checklist for you.
If you’re pretty new to self-care, I highly recommend Jayne Hardy’s ‘The Self-Care Project‘ (affiliate). This nifty little self-help book goes deep into explaining just how important it is to implement physical and mental self-care into your everyday routine. Jane explores how things like self-esteem and expectations have a direct effect on our ability to be self-helpful, and she offers a wide variety of tips and suggestions to help you achieve your goals. I always refer to it when I feel especially low.
2. Find a method that works for you
I like to see my self-care checklist as less of a to-do list and more of a guide to help me better myself. The aim is to work towards incorporating as many of these 70 self-care ideas into my week as I can. Rather than trying to force myself to complete everything, I try and do as many of these things as I can over the week. Then at the end of the week, I’ll assess the list. Maybe I’ll revise it depending on how much I think certain things helped. Or, I’ll try a new activity and see if that helps more.
However, if you feel like you need to push yourself to complete everything, do it! This is all about discovering the method that helps you achieve your self-care goals.
3. Identify what type of self-care you want to focus on
I find it useful to divide self-care into five different categories: physical, emotional, intellectual, environmental and social. Each category needs proper nurture and attention if we are to become Masters of Self-Care, but at various stages in our lives we may find that we need to pay extra attention to specific areas. That’s why I don’t treat self-care as a rigid checklist – our needs are constantly fluctuating in response to our environment, so what I may really need to attend to one week might not be a priority on another.
Using my 70 self-care ideas post, explore which areas of self-care you feel are the most important to you right now and base your checklist off that. If you’re like me and need help on all bases, try to incorporate a few things from each category into your list. Whatever works for you!
4. Set Achievable Goals
One of the reasons people often give up on using checklists is because they jam-pack it with activities that they don’t have the time or patience for. It can be overwhelming, which in turn can lead to inaction and negatively affect self-perception. For instance, ‘yoga’ was on my list for ages because self-care gurus are all about it, but not only do I not have any time for it – I bloody hate it. And that’s OK! Instead of attacking myself for never doing it, I took it off the list and focused on the things that actually felt achievable.
Whether you have only 3 things on the list or 30, making sure that they’re achievable activities you actually enjoy is mandatory to encourage and promote inner happiness, health and harmony.
BONUS TIP – Are you a visual person? Make sure your checklist is aesthetically pleasing!
I respond best to material that has certain aesthetics. My fitness regime list is a bold design with in-your-face colours and fonts to ensure maximum motivation! My self-care checklist is pretty and pink to instill calm and relaxation. If you’re like me and respond to visuals, that list you scrawled on the back of an old receipt isn’t going to enthuse you. Try creating your own checklist with your favourite designs, or download my free anxiety workbook that contains a weekly self-care tracker!