43 Easy Ways to Start Taking Better Care of Yourself Today

Caring for ourselves has to be realistic if we’re actually going to do it. Here are 43 simple suggestions to get you started.

Self care is critical to your overall well-being, and your well-being is important. Our lives are full of chronic stress. Stress leads to inflammation, and inflammation is at the root of many illnesses.

Self care is about sticking up for yourself. It’s about prioritizing your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health. As parents, we priortize our children, our spouses, and our work over ourselves. And we struggle mightily – feeling selfish and guilty – when we don’t.

Here’s a critically important concept: taking care of ourselves IS taking care of our families, our relationships, our careers, our obligations. It’s an investment in our longevity – in our future ability to continue to be productive in the many roles we all play. If we don’t care for ourselves, we’ll eventually, and inevitably, be unable to care for others.

Because these kinds of lists can so easily make a person feel overwhelmed, the ideas on this list were chosen with these things in mind:

Is the idea actually helpful?

Are the ideas reasonably simple?

Are the ideas – or some version of the ideas –generally accessible?

With that in mind, here are 43 simple ways you can practice taking care of yourself today:

Ask for what you need.

Maybe it’s a raise. Maybe it’s time off. Maybe it’s that when you walk in the door, you need your family to say hello before bombarding you with questions and complaints.

Say no. 

No, you can’t sleep on my couch when you’re in town. No, I can’t take on that project right now. No, I’m not able to stay late. No, I don’t want any more freaking cheese ON MY DAMN PASTA. NO NO NO. Practice it: NO.

Say yes.

Yes, I would love some help with the groceries. Yes, I would love it if you took the kids to school. Yes, I want to meet up for a beer. Yes, I WANT MORE CAKE. Practice it: YES.

Plan a vacation.

A vacation can be whatever you need it to be, whatever you can afford it to be. If it’s a week on the beach, awesome. If it’s playing tourist in a neighboring town for a day, that’s great too.

Dance. 

Turn on some tunes and dance it out. Follow these simple instructions: Jump around. Jump around. Jump up. Jump up. And, get down.

Take 10 deep breaths.

This is an easy way to calm your mind that actually works and costs nothing. Try it. If you get to the third breath and you still hate me, well, keep going.

Eat a piece of fruit.

No, it’s not a miracle cure-all, but it’s a start. Fiber? Check. Vitamins? Check. Delicious? Check. Refreshing? Check.

Read a book.

Some of us are already voracious readers. And some perpetually start books that are never finished. It doesn’t matter. Either way, reading is both engaging and relaxing.

Take a power nap.

The National Sleep Foundation recommends 20-30 minutes and cites all kinds of benefits.

Meditate.

This doesn’t have to involve sitting on a precipice overlooking the Grand Canyon surrounded by thousands of lit candles. This isn’t the freaking finale of The Bachelor, it’s actual real life. It’s not about how well you do it, it’s just about practicing the skill of quieting your mind. Check this list for some insight on meditation apps.

Run.

Any sort of exercise is great. Running requires little more than a pair of sneaks. It’s a quick way to get the endorphins flowing for immediate benefit, and the long term benefits are many.

Yoga.

Here’s the thing about yoga: it’s like pizza, it’s all good, it just depends on what you like. Pick a class and try it. Many studios have a weekly donation-only class as a more affordable option. Lots of science behind this one. Yoga is definitely good for you.

Therapy.

Knowing when it’s time to see a therapist is an important life skill. Yes. Our childhoods, our traumas, our losses, our conflicts have an impact on our daily lives. Yes they do. Therapy helps us see how, and shows us what we can do about it.

Schedule a massage.

Some massage therapists have sliding scales. Some massages are covered by insurance if prescribed by a doctor or a PT. The massage chair at the mall is less that $5 and you can just close your eyes and pretend no one can see you.

Take a break from the news.

Unless you’re reading my son’s 2nd grade classroom newspaper where the worst headline you’ll ever see is about that one time Sam hogged the chess board, the news is generally terrible and upsetting. It’s too much. Take a break.

Milk a spa day.

Find out how many treatments you have to purchase in order to sit in the hot tub or next to the pool all day. Sometimes purchasing a 30-min facial, or a pedicure, buys you a whole day of plush-robe-wearing, lemon-water-drinking, steamy-sauna-sitting restoration.

Clean your feed.

Our social media feeds are full of Debbie Downers — people who take to Facebook and whine about how life is so much harder for them than it’s ever been for anyone else in the world. Here’s an update: no, it’s not. Hit unfollow, unfriend, whatever. If a person doesn’t make you laugh or share useful info, they’re not helping you feel better. Buh bye.

Schedule a dawn date.

It’s hard to wake up extra early to hit the gym, right? But maybe you’d be more motivated if you were getting up to meet a friend for breakfast? Maybe you could get up a little earlier if it was to enjoy a cup of coffee in a quiet house before tiny monsters crawl out of bed and start making unreasonable demands.

Drink a glass of water.

Just get up right now and do it.

Write.

Keep a journal. Express yourself. Check out this site for 365 days of writing prompts.

Ask for help.

Can you do all the things yourself? No. You can’t. Ask for help.

Have coffee/tea with a friend.

Connect with a friend. You know what contributes to depression and anxiety? Isolation.

Go outside.

Literally just go outside. Why not go right now?

Floss your teeth.

Did you know there’s a strong link between poor dental health and heart disease? Read about it here. Or just floss your teeth.

Go to the movies. 

Sometimes you need an escape. Go see a movie.

Chew your food.

Focusing on actually chewing your food zooms you right back to the present moment.

Doodle or color. 

You know what topped Amazon’s 2015 bestseller list? Coloring books for adults. They’re fun, relaxing, and mindless. You know what else is cool? Recolor — a coloring app with free pictures, beautiful pallets, and special effects.

Laugh.

Laughing is good for your health. It relieves stress, stimulates your organs, and improves your immune system. Take it from the Mayo Clinic, they’re smart there.

Go see a live performance.

A concert, a play, whatever helps you feel some good vibes.

Do some karaoke.

You know what’s awesome about karaoke? It combines music, friends, and laughing. Because you’re terrible at it, but it doesn’t matter.

Snuggle with a pet.

Having pets improves your health. WebMD says so.

Schedule your annual physical.

Hate going to the doctor? Go anyway. Better to have regularly scheduled check-ups than be surprised by advanced melanoma. Harsh, yes. And true.

Acknowledge your feelings.

Say it out loud to yourself, say it to a pal. I feel sad. I feel angry. I feel irritated. Say it.

Swap childcare with a friend.

Agree to spend a little QT with some kids, get some free childcare in return. Win – win.

Let go.

You know that thing that’s been bugging you? That thing you can’t control and yet continue to obsess over? Visualize picking it up, putting it a box, and setting the box on fire. Never look back.

Be a good friend to yourself.

Do you have any friends that follow you around saying mean things to you? No. You don’t. Because that person would be an asshole. So, why do you do it to yourself? If that concept doesn’t resonate, try this: if you wouldn’t say it to a friend, don’t say it to yourself.

Buy yourself flowers.

Or a house plant, unless you tend to kill house plants in which case stick to flowers. The point is, no need to wait for someone else to do this for you.

Have dessert.

Life is about balance, not restriction. Enjoy yourself.

Try something new.

So many benefits! Check out this list of places to learn something new online.

Get enough sleep.

Sleep is really, really important. Hard to come by. Just keep trying. Goto bed 15 minutes earlier each night for four nights and you’ve gained an hour.

Get rid of the word should.

If you can think of one single time the word “should” was used for something other than relaying a guilt trip or conveying shame and disappointment, then you can keep using it. Otherwise, kick it to the curb.

Wake up and say something.

Instead of immediately reaching for your phone, take a minute and say something. Like: Man, this day is packed full, but I’m going to handle it by being decisive. Or: Today will be better than average. Be as realistically optimistic as you can be.

Make a decision.

Then make another. And another. Overthinking is holding you hostage. Pick something and do it.

Do you have any ideas or thoughts to add? Please share in the comments!

 

What Happened When I Created a Daily Priority List Every Day for a Week

I’ve tried to-do lists in the past, but I always made the mistake of jotting everything down. Keeping the lists short is what makes it work.

My inbox is a wealth of wisdom, life-hacks, and reasons to laugh, though most of the messages get delivered to my junk folder and get mass deleted. (Regardless of how worthwhile they are, ain’t no one got time for that.)

However, I was recently sitting bored on a park bench, took out my phone, and decided to take a gander. I don’t even know who Tony at coach.me is or how he ended up under my promotion tab, but I opened his email that read “How to Start Your Week Right.” It gave five bullet points of advice, but I stopped at the first one: create a daily priority list.

Tony says that productivity isn’t about smarts or willpower, but smart habits. Although I’m very motivated, there are things I just don’t want to do, like clean my house. There are also things that overwhelm me, and leave me not knowing where to start, like choosing which of my many brilliant ideas I should manifest first. There are also the things that I just can’t forget to do, like pay my bills, yo.

For a week, I created a daily priority list, with only three items on it – usually one was a household chore, another was a writing goal, and the third was random.

May 4, 2016

Clean bathrooms, Finish blog post on letter D, Meditate for 5 minutes

Cleaning bathrooms simply would not happen if it wasn’t on my list, because I don’t like using chemicals around the kids and when they are sleeping, I rather spend that precious time doing something more enjoyable. So yes, my bathrooms get superficially clean, but very rarely deep cleaned. But on this day, I did it- busted out the bleach and everything. You know what? It wasn’t only necessary, but it felt damn good.

Everyday I write because I prioritize my personal pleasures and goals these days. However, some days I just can’t focus on what I want to write about, and it stops me from accomplishing anything. Putting a specific writing goal on the list really helped my focus.

Meditation is something I would love to get in the habit of doing regularly, but it just doesn’t happen unless it’s a priority, or….on a priority list. Ommmmmmmmm

May 5, 2016

Replace ink cartridge, write about feeding schedule, put all laundry away

I used to think only suckers replaced ink cartridges and put laundry away, but now I know the deep sense of satisfaction that comes from an empty hamper bin. Cleaning my home seems to clear my mind, and inspire even greater creativity. Wow.

May 6, 2016

Pay Target bill, write about honesty or nursing, clean all windows

Yay to no late fees and windows you can see through!

May 7, 2016

Clean car, write about nursing or Mother’s Day, put laundry away

My car is like my bathrooms… never clean. But today? Ta-da! I’ve doing a lot of tooting of my own horn lately, and take my husband on tours of my domestic conquers. I think he’s legitimately impressed. I’m only putting one household chore on the list per day which isn’t draining or annoying.

May 8-9

No lists were made because we went out of town and my only goal was doing nothing.

May 10

Clean car, meal plan and make grocery list, write about weaning

I am so damn efficient. I’m doing things I wouldn’t normally do, but totally should be doing. Usually, I come home from a trip and leave everything in the car until my four-year-old decides he has no more pajamas he’s willing to wear then finally bring everything in and do laundry. (I really don’t know how I became a housewife.) Thanks to my buddy Tony’s advice, I brought everything in promptly, and organized it. Life really is easier like this. The grocery list is another new addition to my life, and it feels good to know what I’ll be making for dinner rather than winging yet another thing.

May 11

Go to post office, go to library, do paperwork for passport

All of these items are things I would normally put off. I’ve been meaning to do the passport paperwork for over a year now.

May 12

My mother-in-law came to visit, and our routine fell off the track which is both a relief and a grief. I like taking a break from the everyday norm, but I also miss the structure of my day. That being said, when our company leaves, I am looking forward to setting daily priority lists again.

I’ve tried to-do lists in the past, but I always made the mistake of jotting everything in the world down that I could and should possibly do. Keeping the lists short is what makes it work. Also, it’s important the items aren’t just for the house and kids, but myself, too. Balance is definitely a priority.

6 clever instagram accounts you should be following

Perfectly filtered selfies and forgettable shots of lattes and lunches are the currency of instagram. But every once in awhile, you stumble across someone who’s truly worth following. If your feed is becoming a total snooze fest, check out some of my current favorites.

Perfectly filtered selfies and forgettable shots of lattes and lunches are the currency of instagram. But every once in awhile, you stumble across someone who’s truly worth following. If your feed is becoming a total snooze fest, check out some of my current favorites.

Live From Snacktime (@livefromsnacktime) highlights the most hilarious and perfectly bizarre quips overheard by an anonymous NYC kindergarten teacher. Somehow this brand of humor never gets old.

Revenge never smelled so sweet 🌸

A photo posted by Live from Snack Time! (@livefromsnacktime) on

Miriam Sicherman (@closetarcheology) documents the treasures her fourth graders find in the floorboards of the NYC East Village Elementary school. What started as one student’s treasure hunt has become a class wide lesson in history and archeology.

Sad Animal Facts (@sadanimalfacts) is the brainchild of Brooke Barker, an illustrator who somehow regularly charms me with depressing information.

I’ve got some bad news for cicadas. #sadanimalfacts #the100dayproject”

A photo posted by sad animal facts (@sadanimalfacts) on

Kirsten Rickert (@KirstenRickert) Never have I clicked into this mother/artist/cyborg’s account and made it one scroll of the finger before mumbling “oh, fer f*cks sake.”

Between adorning her strikingly beautiful daughter’s in things like swim caps that she’s made of actual cherry blossoms or crowns out of icicles (come ON. What is this? Game of Thrones?) she makes Martha Stewart look lazy.

And just when I thought she couldn’t get more ridiculous, she rescues a bluejay a follows a fawn IN THE SAME WEEK. I just can’t look away.

Jory Raphael (@sensibleworld) Notabli co-founder and designer, I’m including this guy not only because he’s sitting six feet away from me right now, but because his ongoing icon project is pretty fantastic.

Icon 084. Wolverine #yearoficons #icon #marvel #superhero #xmen #wolverine

A photo posted by Jory Raphael (@sensibleworld) on

Josh Hara (@yoyoha) is a cartoonist whose coffee cup panels bring almost as much joy to my life as coffee itself. Ok. That’s not true. But close. 

Every single week. #100CoffeeCups A photo posted by Josh Hara (@yoyoha) on

5 parenting “hacks” that need to knock it off

Alright. You’re probably all wondering why I’ve gathered you here today. People of the internet, there is something we need to discuss. There seems to be a universal need for the “hacking” of things.

Cooking hacks, organizational hacks, cleaning hacks, parenting hacks, hacking hacks. JUST COOL IT WITH THE HACKS, PEOPLE. For one thing, 40% of the ideas out there are actually more work than just performing the damn task in the first place.

Another 55% are completely useless (“What the hell was that crash?!” “That’s the sound of my organized cleaning supplies falling into a heap under the sink because the tension rod Pinterest told me to hang them from refuses to hold more than 2 bottles of cleaner.”)

While the remaining 5% are admittedly helpful (seriously, using a mason jar attached to the blender blade to make a single serving smoothie has revolutionized my morning) it’s still getting out of hand.

In my internet travels, here are the top 5 “parenting hacks” I’ve run across that need to knock it right the hell off.

lh-housework-baby

Use your baby as a mop. Novelty gag or not, this is disgusting. Like that poor kid doesn’t do a good enough job of soiling himself without the contributions of your otherwise unswept floor.

lh-broccoli

Put sprinkles on boring food to make kids excited about eating it. What in the actual crap is this? Are you raising Buddy the Elf? Do I smell burning plastic? Oh, wait, no. It’s just the melting brain cells of dietitians everywhere.

pizza-box-canvas-1024x768

 

Reuse a pizza box as a canvas.  We’re going to consider painting on garbage an idea so revolutionary that it warrants sharing in a public forum? WAIT UNTIL YOU HEAR ABOUT MY BRACELETS MADE OF PIPECLEANERS.

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Warm the toilet seat with socks. Stop the planet. I want to get off. In an age where parents are calling colleges to argue their adult children’s grades, and emailing their employers to explain why they should be excused from work for a family vacation, THIS IS TAKING THE CODDLING TOO FAR. How cold is your house that your cheeks can’t do a sufficient job of warming that sucker up in just a few seconds? Additionally, ew. I don’t even want to envision what a fright fest I’d walk into after one afternoon of use. I want to bring charges against the person who thought of this.

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Invest in cargo pants. Unless you’re going to be starring alongside Bear Grylls on Man Vs. Wild, drinking urine out of a shed snakeskin (listen, I don’t just make this stuff up), CARRY A BAG LIKE EVERYONE ELSE. This is not a parenting hack. This is a crime against fashion.

Thank you for listening.

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The 5 Movies I Couldn’t Wait to Share With My Kids

The best thing about being a parent is reliving our favorite parts of our own childhoods through the eyes of our kids. And while there are countless ways to do that, some of the best in our house have been when we’re snuggled under a blanket, watching the movies I grew up with. These are the top five I couldn’t wait to share.

The Sandlot 

My sister and I watched this coming of age film about a ragtag group of baseball obsessed boys so many times that we could likely recite it from start to finish. And neither of us even cared about baseball. I was the same age as the majority of the cast back when it was released, and I remember even then being so enchanted by the independence of kids in the ’60s. By now, I wonder if it even registers to my kids that this in any way depicts real life in the days gone by. Either way, sitting on the couch, both of us throwing our hands over our eyes and clutching one another as the boys experiment with chewing tobacco and the tilt-a-whirl told me no amount of peer pressure is ever going to talk him into that. As a bonus, it has given me my most used declaration of parenthood, “You’re killing me, Smalls!”

Pee Wee’s Big Adventure

I do believe that somewhere there exists a photo of myself in my 1985 frilly Easter finery, posing with an inflatable bunny and a VHS copy of Pee Wee’s Big Adventure. How was there ever a world before Pee Wee? From his red bow tie, all the way down to his white moccasins, I’ve cherished him for a lifetime. My husband grew up loving him too, and in the interest of full disclosure, both of us got several emails and texts when the new movie was announced. It’s common knowledge that we’re a family of fans. My son was charmed by him immediately, and a few years down the line, my daughter was too. Not that we expected any different. I mean, we would have kept her anyway, but we’d talk about her behind her back.

The New Adventures of Pippi Longstocking

Every Halloween, I wished I were a red head so I could shove wire into my braids, throw on some crazy mismatched rags and perch a monkey on my shoulder. I just loved Pippi. She was the opposite of everything I believed myself to be. She was daring and fearless. She was bold and full of imagination. She lived alone and didn’t even look under her bed before she went to sleep. I could barely manage going upstairs alone when everyone was home. I know it is controversial to suggest this over the original, but it’s really only because of the musical numbers. There isn’t a single time I’ve ever mopped a floor and not hummed “Scrubbing Day” while thinking about how much more fun the job would be if I strapped scrub brushes on my feet instead. I’ve seen every single one of the Pippi movies, too, except for Pippi in the South Seas, which was eaten by our VCR one fateful movie night in the mid-80’s. Irritating as she may be, she’s the sort of spunk I want my kids to be delighted by. (Hold the too big for their britches Disney Channel sasspots.)

The Goonies

This may be my favorite movie of all time. Yes, at this point I’ve run it right into the ground, but I stand by calling it such. How can you top seven kids on a perilous adventure to find pirate treasure in hopes of saving their homes from being bulldozed into a golf course? GAH! It’s everything. Yes, there’s a statue penis breaking incident and one kid gets locked in a freezer with a corpse, but that’s the way the 80’s rolled. I probably haven’t gone more than a year or two since seeing it for the first time without watching at least a few minutes, so finally watching it with my kid felt like introducing him to a family member. I’m not sure he was as riveted as I wanted him to be, but it’s likely that nudging him every twenty minutes to go “Isn’t this great? Huh? What do you think? Awesome, huh?” didn’t add to the experience.

Home Alone

We saw this as a family in the theater the weekend it opened. When it came out on video, we owned a copy. It’s possible that eventually my parents threw it out the window of a moving vehicle. A few years back at Christmas, I showed it to my son. One viewing in, he had mastered the iconic after shave scene, slapping his face with both hands and letting out a blood-curdling yell. I feel my life came completely full circle when this past Christmas I finally broke down at the sixth viewing of it in the season. “OH MY GOD. IF YOU GUYS DON’T PICK A DIFFERENT MOVIE I’M THROWING OUT THE TV.”

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