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Last December, in thinking about my New Year’s resolutions, I decided to focus on me. That was my goal. To do whatever it took in the coming year to prioritize and improve me, my wellbeing, my happiness. I know, I know… this isn’t technically a SMART goal. It is absolutely attainable and realistic, but it isn’t specific, it isn’t measurable, and it isn’t timely—which typically means it won’t equate to success. But I guess I looked at it as more of a mission. A process. A journey. And the little goals that I set along the way would get me to my destination.

So, a big step in the right direction has been employing healthy self-care strategies: working out at least 3-4 times a week, eating nutritious meals, journaling, practicing mindfulness… the list is never-ending. Now, every single one of these practices has proven to benefit me in some way. But the trouble has been finding the ones that stick, the ones that truly work for me and my lifestyle. It took me some time, but I’ve finally learned how to choose the right self-care routine for me. And lucky for you, I’m going to share these secrets so you can start employing effective self-care strategies too!

Aligning Practices with Values

There is no self-care technique out there, guaranteed to work for you or to work for me. Why? Because each strategy’s effectiveness is dependent upon the individual employing it. Their strengths, weaknesses, goals, desires. “What’s most important is matching self-care skills to who you are and what you value,” Rachel Stanton, Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker, explains. “The best self-care techniques are actually the ones that you are personally more likely to engage in. So, if mindfulness turns you off, it doesn’t matter how effective it is for others—it’s not going to work for you.

If you are someone who really values your appearance and feels best when you look your best then self-care skills should focus on things like getting a makeover, spending extra time in the morning to get your makeup just right, getting your nails done, etc. If relationships are most important to you then your self-care skills should involve ways of maintaining your relationships.” Additionally, it’s best if you incorporate the practices you do decide on into your current lifestyle. “It’s most important to tie your self-care skills to activities you already have to do regularly. You will be more likely to remember to do them,” Stanton explains. “For example, engage in deep breathing every time you wash your hands. Say a positive affirmation every time you brush your teeth. Go to the gym on your way home from work…” The possibilities are endless.

3 Simple Steps for Creating a Successful Routine

Now that you’ve learned the key to choosing effective self-care techniques—aligning them with your values—take Caleb Backe’s advice in employing your new routine. “Interestingly enough, some of the best self-care techniques revolve around the idea of approach,” Backe, a Health and Wellness Expert, explains. With that in mind, take the following recommended steps to create a plan that is not only beneficial, but easy for you to employ and keep up with:

    Step 1: “Start treating yourself as if you are someone who is worth being helped. Treat yourself as if you are looking after a friend, a lover, a family member. Talk to yourself and encourage yourself, as if you don’t know who you really are; as if you are someone who you really want to take care of. That is the best self-help there is, since it gets you into the right mindset.”

    Step 2: “Set goals. Mental wellbeing is, in most cases, intertwined with one’s physical wellbeing. Setting goals—practical goals like sleep, diet, and exercise—is utterly crucial to the process. If diet, sleep, and exercise are not your thing, or you want something more geared towards the mind, then silent sitting mediation is one technique which can help you improve your abilities and help you to clarify things through inaction.”

    Step 3: “Start journaling. Chronicling different things in your life can also have a major effect on your mind, since—much like meditation—it helps to declutter it. Keeping a journal (not a diary, per se, but a journal), reminds you of the fact that you are on a journey, and that to a great degree, your mental wellbeing is in your hands. We cannot change the world, we can only change ourselves. And the ability to see that process unfold through writing is thrilling, no matter what ups or downs you may go through, because you can see it is all part of an ongoing process, and this in turn helps to keep your mind more at ease.”

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