Practicing self-care is vitally important for your physical and mental well-being.
Your self-care plan should include nutrition, stress management, sleep, and exercise.
It is not selfish to make your health a priority and it doesn’t mean you ignore your responsibilities or the needs of others.
What works for one person might not work for you, so try a variety of self-care tips, activities, and strategies.
You’ve got a lot of responsibilities at work and home. You juggle team project deadlines, go grocery shopping, fill out your child’s field trip permission slip, volunteer at the food bank, exercise, run errands, make dinner, and pay bills. That’s a lot on your plate!
But what do you do in the self-care department? If you’re surviving instead of thriving, it might be time to create a self-care plan.
Remember the airline emergency instructions to put your own oxygen mask on first, before helping a child or someone else? That pretty much sums up the idea of self-care—taking care of your own needs first so you’ll not only feel your best, but you’ll be at your best for others, too.
Don’t think of self-care as selfish. It’s a matter of prioritizing your own physical and mental well-being. It doesn’t mean ignoring your responsibilities to your family, job, friends, or community. It just means understanding the importance of self-care and putting the concept into action.
It’s time to schedule some me-time activities. Need some self-care ideas to get started? Keep reading!
What Is Self-Care?
Don’t reserve self-care only for times when you’re feeling sick. It’s important to make caring for your body, mind, and spirit part of a healthy lifestyle and incorporate self-care into your daily routine.
But what, exactly, is self-care?
Self-care actually encompasses a wide range of areas affecting your mental health and physical well-being. It includes nutrition, stress management, and exercise—all touchstones of self-care—designed to help keep you happy, healthy, and resilient. 
Ready for some mental health self-care tips?
How To Practice Self-Care
When it comes to your mental health (which includes emotional, psychological, and social well-being), self-care can greatly impact your health. Self-care can help you reduce your risk of illness, manage stress, and increase your energy. 
Self-care looks different for everyone. What works for one person might not work for you, which is why it helps to keep a variety of self-care activities, tips, and strategies in your “self-care toolbox.” Try some of these ideas to see what works best for you: [1,2,3,4]
Make self-care a daily habit. You don’t have to “go big or go home” when it comes to self-care. Small moments matter, too. Infuse every day with at least one small, self-care activity. It could be as simple as enjoying a cup of tea, calling a friend, lighting your favorite candle or reading a book.
Eat a balanced, healthy diet. This means “eating the rainbow” with plenty of fruits and vegetables on your plate. Besides eating produce, round out your diet with whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, lean proteins, low-fat dairy, and healthy fats. Among other benefits, a healthy diet rich in nutrient-dense foods will help provide energy, support gut health, and promote heart health. Don’t forget to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water. Limit sugary sodas and drink alcohol in moderation or not at all. It’s also good to avoid caffeine consumption after 2pm.
Get plenty of sleep every night. The importance of sleepcan’t be understated. Getting consistent, quality sleep affects both your mental and physical well-being and plays a pivotal role in nearly every body function. Experts recommend that most adults need at least seven to 9 hours of quality, uninterrupted sleep every night.  Learn some tips on how to wake up feeling refreshed.
Exercise on a regular basis. Get moving to reduce fatigue, improve energy levels, and boost your mood. Whether you hit the gym, take an aerobics class, or just walk for 30 minutes every day, physical activity can improve your health. Besides making you feel good in the moment, studies show that exercise provides a variety of long-term health benefits, such as supporting strong bones, improving blood sugar control, increasing HDL “good” cholesterol levels, and reducing LDL “bad” cholesterol levels.
Stay connected with family and friends. If you can get together in person with your loved ones, great! Nothing beats spending time together in person. But if this isn’t possible, technology (and old-school methods) can help you stay in touch, share feelings, and get support. Try phone calls, texts, social media messaging, and video calls to keep in touch. But don’t overlook sending a thoughtful card or letter, either.
Manage stress. Some people enjoy calming activities to manage stress. Ideas include yoga, meditation, getting a massage, walking in nature, reading a book, listening to relaxing music, gardening, journaling, snuggling with a pet, or taking a bath. Other people like to burn off energy to manage stress through dancing, jogging, cycling, playing tennis, or swimming laps. You might find certain self-care products help you, such as lavender-scented candles or meditation apps. You can also practice progressive muscle relaxation or breathing exercises.
Practice gratitude. One of the best self-care ideas is to focus on the positive by counting your blessings. Notice the good in your life instead of focusing on the bad. Be thankful for what you have instead of wishing for what you don’t have. You might try keeping a gratitude journal to record daily moments of joy you’re grateful for. You can express gratitude to someone to show you appreciate them. Notice (and be grateful for) the beauty in nature as you take your dogs or kids for a walk. Send a thank you card once a week to people who’ve made a difference in your life
Plan a self-care day. You don’t need to schedule a full day at the spa for some pampering (although there’s nothing wrong with that, either). But you can block out time every week for a Me Day. For example, you can dub it “Self-Care Sunday” and focus the entire afternoon on engaging in activities that give your mental or physical health a boost. Even if you have one hour dedicated to self-care, to focus on you, it can really make a difference.
Self-care means putting yourself at the top of your To Do list, but it doesn’t mean you’re selfish. It’s important to make caring for your body, mind, and spirit part of a healthy lifestyle. Self-care includes nutrition, stress management, sleep, and exercise. It could include self-care items such as a journal, gratitude list, yoga mat, meditation app, or playlist of your favorite songs. Remember that self-care looks different for everyone, so try a variety of self-care tips, activities, and strategies to see what works best for you.
Continue to check back on the Nature Made blog for the latest science-backed articles to help you take ownership of your health.
This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to serve as medical advice or a recommendation for any specific product. Consult your health care provider for more information.
Lisa Beach is a seasoned journalist whose work has been published in The New York Times, Good Housekeeping, Eating Well, Parents, AARP’s Disrupt Aging, Optimum Wellness, and dozens more. She also writes for a variety of health/wellness-focused brands. Check out her writer’s website at www.LisaBeachWrites.com.
Senior Manager, Medical and Scientific Communications
Melissa is a Registered Dietitian and provides leadership to Pharmavite’s Medical and Scientific Education team. She has over 20 years of experience educating consumers, healthcare professionals, retailers and employees about nutrition, dietary supplements, and overall wellness. Prior to joining the Medical and Scientific Communications team, Melissa launched and managed Pharmavite’s Consumer Affairs department and worked as a clinical dietitian throughout Southern California. Melissa received her Bachelor of Science degree in Nutritional Sciences from the University of Arizona in Tucson, Arizona, and completed her dietetic internship at Veteran’s Hospital in East Orange New Jersey.