Meg Schutte Oct 16, 2023

Sometimes we are better at taking care of others (kids, parents, friends, co-workers, pets) than we are of ourselves. But, in actuality, we’ll only be as good at doing that if we’re in good shape. Personal wellness should always come first, and that means paying attention to – and taking care of – your mind, body, and spirit. Self-care is about making nourishing time and space for yourself and improving your life all around.

WHAT IS SELF-CARE: Doing anything that makes you feel good. This can include adopting new behaviors and activities focused around food, exercise, sleep, mindfulness, relaxation, socialization, gratitude and positivity, and so much more. It doesn’t have to cost a lot. You don't have to do it every day. But you do need to make time for it. Self-care acts can be simple things, easily done in an hour, like cooking a healthy meal, clearing your desk, taking a hot bath with aromatic oils, or splurging on that brightly colored pillow that makes you happy to look at. Or, self-care can be more involved (requiring more time and attention), but just as rewarding: a spa day with your besties, scheduling your annual checkup, taking a cruise to a bucket-list destination, or reading to kids at your local library.

WHY SELF-CARE IS WORTH YOUR TIME: Modern life is much busier than in the past, with always-on technology allowing us to be always-on, too – which can drain our energy and over-fill our calendars. But you can’t let self-care slide because of it. You have to choose activities and endeavors that bring you joy, transport you and your mind to a better place, and can add so much more to your personal and professional lives. So get in the habit of checking in with yourself to see how things are going, what might be missing, what you might need more of, and how you can bring these things closer to the forefront of your consciousness. Because it’s true: you make it happen, and then it happens to you. You start to run after work and your weight goes down, your body firms up, and the endorphins give your soul a nice lift. 

SELF-CARE –THE BENEFITS ARE ALL YOURS: Small changes added here and there (resolve to walk after dinner, choose healthier snacks) to the adoption of bigger commitments (establish a daily meditation zone, volunteer at the Audubon) aren’t just short-term fixes, either. They become new ways of doing and being that you can see and enjoy the results of as time goes by. There are so many ways that practicing self-care for mind, body and spirit can pay off:

  • Improves mental health
  • Boosts mood and well-being
  • Reduces stress, depression, and anxiety by lowering cortisol levels
  • Helps with physical health by decreasing stress-related inflammation
  • Makes good days better with a “I feel good” mentality
  • Makes bad days easier to handle by focusing on the positive
  • Mitigates pressure of daily responsibilities, from work and family to finances
  • Gives you permission to say YES to you and what you really need
  • Flips bad habits into good ones (from couch potato to gym-goer, less chips/more fruit)
  • Shows you that taking better care of yourself = loving yourself more
  • Highlights the need to add more “me time” for better life balance


SELF-CARE – HOW TO GET STARTED: So perhaps all of this sounds good to you, but you’re not sure how to “tweak” your life and embrace self-care. Here are some ideas to get you thinking and doing. All these suggestions can color and enhance your days, filling them with more of what makes you happy. And remember, only you know best what that is – so be honest, clear your mind, and let yourself find some new paths to experience.

  • Make a List: Figure out what you value most
    This is the fun part. There are no right or wrong answers. Just allow your mind to wander and think about everything you love doing (fishing), what feels good (massage), anything that you like to experience again and again (nature). Then take a closer look and ask yourself how good a job you are doing of incorporating these things into your life, and if not, what can you do to change that.


  • Make a Goal: Something reasonable you can achieve
    It’s human nature to want to set benchmarks and reach them. It motivates us, gives us something to work towards and a sense of accomplishment. Along with the feeling of "I did it” and checking it off the list, comes the slow building of this new activity or behavior into your schedule. You’re in charge of this self-care landscape, and to really thrive you have to be realistic about what you can and cannot do. From gardening to being more active in your community to finally editing your house top to bottom, it’s all good. But parcel out your time and efforts to keep things enjoyable:
    • Meditate every day for an hour? No. But 15 minutes is doable.
    • Video chat with a faraway friend every week? Instead, set a reminder for 1x a month.
    • Turn off your cell phone after work? Not likely, but before bed for sure.


  • Make it Fun: Use your imagination and be creative
    Enjoy the freedom to reshape your life in any way that moves you. You’re aiming for brighter moments, pleasurable indulgences, more self-awareness, more peace, and being more kind to yourself.
    • Share – Invite a friend or family member to join you in your new outlet, whether it’s a yoga group, gals book club, or smarter eating cooking class. Sharing it only doubles the good feelings and helps to make sure you’ll stick with it.
    • Play – Kids have no filter when they set out to play. They just get to it. Try to capture that for yourself. Love flowers? Press them in a book. Haven’t painted in years? Buy paints, brushes, and pads and go out and capture nature. Bike around the neighborhood, not for sport but just to see what’s happening. When’s the last time you tried a wheelie! It's about finding things that make you smile, your heart skip, chill you down, relieve stress, and give you a break from our 24/7 world. Play with friends, family, pets, or on your own.
    • Travel – A change of scenery can do wonders. You don’t even have to get on a plane, you can just take the car to explore a neighboring town. Go somewhere new or somewhere you love. Be open to anything and everyone you come across. Go solo or in a group and come back with stories, memories, and souvenirs.


  • Make it Personal Life is all about connection
    Often we think of self-care as having to do with physical activities, and neglect our emotional and psychological well-being. But they need self-love, too.
    • Not sure what you need? Make a vision board or file on your desktop where you keep clippings, photos, phrases... all reminders to your heart and soul of what you respond to most.
    • Nurture the people in your life that always leave you feeling positive and better about yourself. Meet for lunch, hop on a call or Zoom, or even send them a note to check in. But make the effort to keep in touch.
    • Be a best friend... to you! It's so easy to be hard on ourselves; something we would never do to a good friend. So next time you start with “If only I had....” or “I can’t believe you just did that...” statements, catch yourself. Swap it out for something encouraging or understanding, even forgiving.


  • Make it Physical: Save your body from future issues
    Regular exercise is paramount to good health, even if it's just a walk around the block after dinner. You don’t have to tackle a new sport, though the currently popular pickleball might become your new North Star. You want to keep your muscles and bones strong for the future, and that requires an investment of time and energy today.

    How to save money keeping fit:

    • Get a gym membership. Businesses often offer a discount if you prepay for a year or several months. You also might earn added perks for being a loyal patron.
    • Sign up for an unlimited pass for yoga, meditation or another class. By paying upfront, you’re more likely to attend and give a new activity your full attention and yourself a chance to see if it really fits you.
    • Download a fitness app. There are countless choices out there (usually for free) for any and all types of exercise programs. Apps can keep track of your efforts (rewarding to see), send you alerts and reminders to get moving, and even customize a plan for you. Social tie-ins mean you can meet others who share your interests, compare progress, and encourage each other to keep at it.


  • Make a Budget: You want more feel-good vibes, not stressed-out ones
    You can certainly spend some good money focusing on yourself, and that is fine. You can also keep things budget-friendly to ease money worries and to allow yourself more wiggle room to pursue self-care in any way that suits you and your wallet.
    • Pick a $ sum and allow yourself to spend that each month on just you. No rules, just total self-indulgence.
    • Introduce self-care choices slowly but surely to keep related costs down:
      • Get a pedicure once a month, not every week.
      • Bake your own cake versus picking up at the bakery.
      • Look for coupons, discounts, and promotional discounts when you want to join a fitness club or purchase exercise equipment.
    • Divide and conquer! If you love fresh flowers, bypass the florist and pick up cheaper (but still pretty) bouquets at the supermarket and place them around the house in several spots.
    • If it’s makeup, clothing, shoes, music, books, food, camping, cycling, fishing, or whatever else gives you a happy buzz, join a retailer’s loyalty membership program to save money and benefit from perks and feel even more special.
    • Buy a gift for “yourself” and get it gift-wrapped to reopen later.
    • Sometimes when we’re stressed or rattled, we self-comfort with purchases we later regret. Self-care keeps our minds clearer and calmer, resulting in better decision-making – especially when it comes to spending money.


  • Make it Easy: Self-care is about acceptance, not judgment
    We all plan to do our best each and every day, and we all know how easily that can change. If you don’t get to the bottom of the self-care to-do list, that’s okay.
    • Be flexible (kids, family, and work can alter your schedule some days). Don’t stress if you lose a few days of self-care.
    • If you don’t feel like embracing this positive approach to life one day, you get a pass. There’s room for moodiness and laziness on your way.
    • Ate a pint of ice cream, skipped classes for a few weeks, or yelled at drivers on the highway... relax. Nobody’s perfect and self-care is an ever-evolving journey.


  • Make it Yours: It’s really quite simple: Self-care is all about making YOU happy. Keep that in mind... body... and spirit. It’s an investment you’ll never regret.

There’s no end to the things you can do for yourself that result in a more balanced, peaceful, and happier life. By practicing whatever self-care that you do, you will see the effect at home, at work, with your relationships, and life in general.

Here are some things you can start doing today:

  1. Spend an hour outside enjoying nature (no technology!)
  2. Fit some sort of exercise into each day.
  3. Get a good night’s sleep (phones and televisions off) or indulge in an afternoon nap.
  4. Create a shopping list of healthier foods.
  5. Unplug from work-related emails/texts/calls when you’re off the clock. You do not have to always be available. You’ll feel fresher and more ready for the next day.
  6. Pop into a favorite store and just browse around to take it all in.
  7. Lose the day in a good book, downloaded online or checked-out from the library.
  8. Start a journal. Capture your dreams, goals, feelings about family and friends. Or just use it to be creative: write a poem, tell a story, pen a blog.
  9. Make breaks in your day a priority. Set an alert on your smartphone to get up and move around, get a coffee, check in on a friend or coworker, or romp with the dog.
  10. Focus on the positive! Pick up a book that talks about self-care or self- development. Pin up greeting cards or posters with a message that spark you. Chit-chat with your closest friend. Remind yourself often what a singular, unique human being you are.

Show Your Finances Some Self-care, Too!
Enroll in Online Banking
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Meg Schutte is a Bank of Hope Blog contributor.    

The views and opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of Bank of Hope. 

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