Self-care is not synonymous with self-absorption, weakness or something you do only when you’re stressed out. Self-care is a critical part of our overall health — both mental and physical — and doing it regularly contributes to living longer, healthier, happier lives. We’re not just saying that, either. Countless studies show that regular relaxation, exercise, pampering and other stress relieving tactics significantly improve the quality and longevity of life.
For many people, however, taking the time to practice self-care is easier said than done. Our lives are jam-packed with things to do and places to be. However, there is always time to take care of yourself: you just have to make it available. One of the easiest times to practice self-care is in the morning. This is because the demands of the day have not bogged you down yet: you still have a fresh start and clean slate. Whether you’re setting the time aside to exercise, meditate, prepare a healthy breakfast, indulge in a rise and shine skincare treatment or all of the above.
The key to making your morning self-care routine stick? Planning for it, and starting small. Here’s a step-by-step guide to implementing your AM self-care regime.
How to Start Your Day With Real Self-Care
Step 1: Get to Bed Earlier
If you’re a night owl, it can be difficult to want to get up and own the morning. That’s why your morning self-care begins the night before. Get to bed so you can get around 8 hours of sleep. To ensure you get to sleep and fall asleep quickly, turn off electronics two hours before bed, have a relaxing walk or bath before bed time, and when you turn in, make sure your room is dark and cool (60-67 degrees fahrenheit). This will ensure optimal sleep.
Step 2: Rise & Shine!
If you’re used to sleeping in until the very last minute, setting your alarm for an hour earlier is likely unrealistic. Start small. Set your alarm for 20 minutes earlier. That’s it. Take this little slice of time infuse your morning with a bit of self-care. You may want to include exercise, a long shower, a natural skin care routine and a healthy, homemade breakfast in your morning routine, but don’t bite off more than you can chew off the hop. This will be overwhelming and you’re more likely to give up.
Step 3: Pick Your Poison
As already mentioned, you don’t want to make self-care seem like a chore, and it will if you overwhelm yourself with too many things to do. Pick one thing you want to do to start. Maybe it’s 20 minutes of yoga, or high-intensity interval training, or a face mask. Exercise, admittedly, is one of the best places to start since it is not only good for your body, but it will provide you with more energy and focus to take care of yourself all day.
Step 4: Be Patient
The full benefits of self-care aren’t seen in a single session. Sure, that yoga flow will instantly make you feel better and be more positive and focused, but the long-term benefits of regular self-care (i.e. a longer life, increased overall happiness, better memory and decreased risk of serious disease) only come with long-term practice. So, keep it up and be patient.
Once you’re comfortable with your new morning self-care routine, then you can add more to it. But it needs to become firmly part of your life before you should start taking on more. Remember: self-care is supposed to feel rewarding. It’s something you should look forward to everyday. If it’s starting to feel like work, you have to adjust your strategy and expectations. Go back and step 1, and begin again.