How many New Year’s resolutions have you made over the course of your life? And how many have you kept? We all know that most grand resolutions, unless accompanied by deep commitment and accountability, stay where they began: in our heads. I don’t know about you, but after two years navigating work, family life, and school during COVID, the idea of trying to reach major goals sounds exhausting.
Instead, I’m here to suggest that we focus on self-care in small ways. I’m not even talking about the fun stuff like massages, pedicures, or solo trips to Target (though these are all amazing and necessary). I mean ways that are so small, some would consider them “basic needs” rather than self-care: Drinking more than a glass of water a day, for example. As a stressed out working mother of three, who regularly blows past lunch in a frenzy to reach deadlines, this where I find myself — in need of hydration, calories, and a reminder to occasionally breathe fresh air.
This year, instead of resolving to overhaul your entire life, create a short self-care checklist. Three to five items, max. Hell, you could start with just one thing and build from there. (Just don’t add more until you’ve given yourself 21 days of solid, consistent execution to make the first one a habit.)
What goes on this list is entirely up to you. The only guideline is that they’re things you don’t already do every day, but would have a positive impact on your physical or mental well-being. (If your initial list is 20 bullet points long, start with the three easiest items for you to incorporate into your daily routine.) Of course, there are many worthy areas in which to care for oneself, including financial, spiritual, environmental. Here we’ll focus on physical and mental self-care.
Easy ways to improve your physical well-being
This could be anything from basic nutrition (eat two vegetables, drink eight glasses of water, eat lunch, plan tomorrow’s meals) to exercise (10 minutes of cardio, a 20-minute walk outside, 15 minutes of stretching). It can be about limiting or adding certain things to your diet (take vitamins, eat only one processed snack per day, no alcohol until Friday) skincare (wash your face once per day, apply sunscreen), or creating better sleep habits (in bed by 10 p.m., no screens after 9 p.m.).
Avoid vague words like more, less, some, or early. Make each item on the checklist specific and measurable.
Easy ways to care for your mental and emotional well-being
Close your eyes, take a breath, and ask yourself: What’s one thing that would make my mornings easier? As someone who is almost always tired and scrambling to get dressed while a child yells for me from another room, it would really help me to set an alarm and get up 20-30 minutes before them. For you, it may be prepping something the night before (your smoothie ingredients, a work or gym bag, the kids’ lunches, or programming the coffeemaker to brew before you get downstairs).
To promote a better mood, it could be 15 minutes of meditation, five minutes of gratitude, or a 10-minute dance or air-guitar rock-out session. If clutter gives you anxiety, allocate 15 minutes a day to clearing off surfaces, putting clothes away, and sorting through paper piles. Reading, taking a walk, journaling, listening to a podcast, or connecting with a friend by phone all qualify under the umbrella of emotional well-being. And we’re all making our beds every day, right?
It doesn’t sound sexy or exciting, but instead of shooting for the stars in 2022, what if we reach for more water, or a sandwich for lunch instead of infinite crackers? Pick a handful of small, uncomplicated ways to take better care of yourself. Do them religiously. Over time, they make a difference, and can spur us on to tackle the big things.