Filling Your Cup: The Importance of Self-Care
Everyone feels depleted and rundown at times. Pain can zap your reserves, and so can factors like depression, anxiety, stress, a busy schedule, caregiving, grief, and loss. Self-care is crucial for your emotional and physical health. It’s what gives you the energy to meet the demands of your everyday life. What does self-care look like and how can you prioritize it? Read on for self-care activity suggestions and ways to build them into your life.
What Does It Mean to Fill My Own Cup?
Self-care is about finding time for activities that replenish your reserves, reduce your stress, and give you a sense of well-being. Self-care looks different for everyone, but it often involves making healthy choices around food, sleep, mental and physical activity, and nurturing social and spiritual connections. When you make time for self-care, your ‘cup’ is full and you have the energy to do the things you love with and for others.
If your self-care cup is empty, you won’t have energy for the everyday demands of life. It may seem counterintuitive, but you’re actually more productive when you make time for self-care. And it certainly isn’t selfish. Studies show that self-care practices can reduce your risk of depression, anxiety, and physical diseases.
“Engaging in a self-care routine has been clinically proven to reduce or eliminate anxiety and depression, reduce stress, improve concentration, minimize frustration and anger, increase happiness, improve energy, and more. From a physical health perspective, self-care has been clinically proven to reduce heart disease, stroke and cancer.” — Matthew Glowiak, PhD
A Self-Care Menu
You can fill your cup in many different ways. Most self-care activities are free and take minimal time but offer immediate benefits to your well-being. Pick and choose from the self-care menu below to find a combination that works for you. You might need to try a lot of different techniques to find what works best. And this list is just a starting point! There are endless possibilities for unique self-care activities that replenish you.
Eat nourishing foods and stay hydrated.
Maintain a healthy sleep routine.
Exercise regularly (including your Hinge Health exercises) and get fresh air.
Clean or declutter your space.
Get a massage or take a bath.
Set aside time for cooking or baking.
Take a nap (30 minutes max is best).
Get dressed up (even if there’s no occasion) or “dress down” in your softest, most comfortable clothes.
Dance or sing to some upbeat music.
Nurture important relationships with a visit or a phone call.
Set reasonable boundaries on your time and energy.
Listen to your favorite music.
Keep a personal reflection journal.
Make a list of things you like about yourself.
Revisit happy memories in a photo album or phone gallery.
Take a break from electronic devices.
Read a book, listen to a podcast, or watch a movie or TV.
Take a class or learn a new skill.
Focus on what is within your control.
Set small daily goals that you can cross off your to-do list.
Make art — draw, paint, or just doodle.
Practice positive self-talk.
Plan a getaway, even if it’s not possible right now.
Set aside time for prayer or meditation.
Start a daily gratitude practice.
Prioritize time spent in nature.
Practice deep breathing.
Try a visualization exercise.
Set aside time before bed to reflect on your day.
Do something kind for someone.
How Can I Make Self-Care a Habit?
Like any new practice, self-care takes time and reminders to become a habit. Try setting your alarm clock 10 minutes earlier for morning meditation, or put a reminder on your phone to take a reading break. You could place an object in a prominent place to act as a memory cue. Whatever works for you!
You may also find that your self-care activities change over time, but there’s always something new that you can try to replenish your reserves. It’s normal for the “fullness” of your self-care cup to ebb and flow over time, and it’s okay if it sometimes seems empty. Don’t be too hard on yourself if you notice that you’ve neglected your self-care recently. Noticing is an important first step that lets you reorganize to prioritize you.
Take a few moments to ask yourself: How can I tell when I have neglected my needs? How do I feel when I make time for self-care? How can I build in daily reminders for self-care?
Self-care is what you do to replenish your reserves, reduce stress, and foster a sense of well-being.
There are many ways to practice self-care. The best self-care practices are the ones that work for you.
Reminders can help you build self-care habits into your daily life.
Active Minds. (2021, August 17). Self-care. Retrieved October 12, 2021, from https://www.activeminds.org/about-mental-health/self-care/
Pilkington, K., & Wieland, L. S. (2020). Self-care for anxiety and depression: a comparison of evidence from Cochrane reviews and practice to inform decision-making and priority-setting. BMC complementary medicine and therapies, 20(1), 247. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12906-020-03038-8
Glowiak, M. (2020, April 14). What is self-care and why is it important for you? Southern New Hampshire University. Retrieved October 12, 2021, from https://www.snhu.edu/about-us/newsroom/health/what-is-self-care
Monk, L. (2020, December 14). 4 key dimensions of self-care. Crisis and Trauma Resource Institute. Retrieved October 12, 2021, from https://ca.ctrinstitute.com/blog/4-key-dimensions-self-care/
Soong, J. (2011, November 29). Power naps: Napping benefits, length, and tips. WebMD. Retrieved October 12, 2021, from https://www.webmd.com/balance/features/the-secret-and-surprising-power-of-naps
Mindful Communications. (n.d.). How to practice gratitude. Mindful. Retrieved October 12, 2021, from https://www.mindful.org/an-introduction-to-mindful-gratitude/