Taking care of yourself isn’t all manicures and “treating yo’self,” don’t cha know? When you break it down, self-care is about ensuring your most basic needs are being met. And that (literally) takes time.
Sometimes, looking after your most simple, human needs—the eye-roll inducing, obvious ones—is harder than it seems. And with self-care so often presented on social media as an act of pampering, it’s no wonder so many of us can get the true meaning of self-care twisted.
But not anymore! It’s a new year, and with it comes a new opportunity to reexamine what it means to take care of ourselves—starting with those basic (but actually incredibly important) needs. The ones that are so apparent, they’re often the first we overlook.
Consider these needs akin to the foundational, lower level on Abraham Maslow’s good ol’ “hierarchy of needs.” They’re the most important piece of the pyramid, and without them, it’s impossible to build a life.
So, how do we meet them? The recurring theme is time—scheduling it and prioritizing it, so that self-care becomes as routine as tying your shoe laces before leaving the house.
You need to sleep. All humans do. Sometimes, however, it’s not a lack of sleep, but too much of it, that’ll mess with one’s mental health. Psychologist and founder of The Practice, Dr. Lauren Hazzouri, says the key to sleeping the optimal amount is creating a routine and sticking to it. “I go to bed every night at 10:30 p.m. and wake up at 6:00 a.m. Every single night,” she says. “Human beings need seven to eight hours of sleep a night to function well.”
If you have trouble falling asleep, remember to keep lighting low, stay warm, try to relax before bed and definitely avoid looking at your phone, computer or TV screen. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. Why leave exhaustion or lethargy to chance?
There’s really no substitute for water. We’re made out of the stuff, and you better believe we need a lot of it to stay hydrated and not feel like shit. The Institute of Medicine of the National Academies recommends women drink 91 ounces (2.7 liters) of water daily, from both beverages and food. Depending on your diet, about 25 percent of the water you consume comes from your food.
Again, creating an unchanging, time-based routine around drinking water will make it easier to drink more. For example, I try to take a sip of water every time I say something during quieter periods at work. You could also try drinking certain amounts by certain times of the day (use a marker to keep track). Having a reusable drink bottle placed on your desk at work, or by your bed or couch at home is a great reminder.
You guessed it—like sleeping and drinking water, taking care of your basic needs when it comes to eating well is about time as well. Specifically, organizing your time so there’s a daily pattern to follow. It helps take the emotional aspects out of eating, and leaves nothing to chance. Dr. Hazzouri says “eating five meals a day—three main meals and two snacks” is essential, no exceptions.
You might not be able to shop your dream organic fresh food products, or meal prep like a wellness influencer, but if you’re eating food that nourishes your body and gives you energy, you’re doing amazing, Sweetie.
Who would have guessed it? Setting aside time each day to get your bod machine moving will help give you energy and a good ol’ boost of good vibes. Whether it’s dancing around the house, going for a walk through nature, or simply stretching—getting exercise in one form or another is important for self-care.
Just because you don’t do fancy yoga or own a Class Pass membership doesn’t mean you can’t put 10 minutes aside every morning or night to roll your wrists a few times. It’s okay to start (and even stay!) small. Everyone’s different.
The cool thing about sitting still and breathing is that it’s a gateway drug into mindfulness. Breathing in deeply through your nose and out through your mouth, at your own pace, is a practice as old as time. And there’s good reason for that. It’s asserted in more than a few studies that mindful stillness—yes, just sitting there, breathing—relieves anxiety.
Feel silly and don’t know where to start? Guided meditation apps will take the guess work out of relaxing. Plus, it gets easier. Promise.
Sure, we all feel feelings all day long, but what about the feeling behind that feeling? “Checking in” with yourself is a valuable part of basic self-care because it’s about listening. Listening to our basic emotional needs. On the surface, we might feel fine, if a little irritable. But we might be covering up the fact that we desperately need a hug and a lil’ cry. #same
Journaling is a really simple, self-care 101 activity (that also gets easier with practice) that helps me access my emotions, and then purge them. You can even burn them, if you’re feeling extra symbolic.
Again, with water. But water is not only life-giving (as above), it’s cleansing, it’s hygienic, and it’s fun to splash around in. So while it’s not as essential to your survival as sleep, food and clean drinking water, having a shower, bath, or basin-scrub is pretty important, self-care wise. While the world won’t end if you skip a shower one day (I do it all the time!) the act of taking care of oneself through basic hygiene can’t be underestimated.
Your body is a temple. Keep it shiny and clean, and it won’t just protect you from bacteria-born disease and infection, it’ll feel good in your mind, too. Funny how that works, huh? Make an agreement with yourself to shower at the same time everyday.
You might slip up, but your “same time, same place” approach will hopefully mean you can simply carry on the following day. And that goes for all of the above. There’s always tomorrow; just keep going! Time is on your side.