Self-care routines are always a good idea, but in this time of uncertainty and crisis, it’s even more crucial — which is why I created this self-care checklist to help guide you through these rocky times, or any type of times for that matter. Scroll to the bottom to download the checklist and read through for some ideas and guidance building your self-care routine.
What Goes on a Self-Care Checklist?
Everyone’s self-care routine will look a little different but some foundational pillars for a strong self-care checklist may include caring for your health by eating well and moving/exercising, making social connections, and taking time to find joy and relax. Here’s what that might look like on a checklist…
Self-Care Checklist Categories:
- I nourished myself with healthy, nutritious food
- I moved/exercised
- I spent time outside/in nature
- I connected with others
- I did something that brought me joy
- I took the time to relax or calm down
Okay, now let’s break down these categories! Here are some ideas for rituals to implement within each category.
1. Eating Healthy, Nutritious Food
Eating healthfully can keep our brains and bodies feeling good and energized! Some ideas for rituals to create to keep up this habit include:
- Starting the day with a simple, nutritious breakfast. Personally, I find breakfast to be the easiest meal to stick to my healthy eating habits because I pretty much always eat breakfast at home and I have built the time into my morning routine to eat a slow breakfast. It’s a non-negotiable for me!
- Prepping lunch the night before or the morning of. We’ve all experienced the feeling of being famished at 1 p.m. with no idea of what we’re going to have for lunch. It often leads to grabbing whatever is easiest, fastest, and most convenient — which is usually not the healthiest option.
- Keeping healthy snacks on hand. Similar to the note above, having nutritious snacks like fruit, veggies, nuts, etc. with us can keep us from resorting to the potato chips in our pantry or the vending machine.
- Block off time to cook and eat dinner. As Blue Zones founder Dan Buettner puts it, you may say that you don’t have the 15 minutes each day to cook dinner, but think about it this way: dedicating the small amount of time each day to make this daily meal can give you many extra years of your life!
2. Movement and Exercise
When it comes to self-care-related movement, this isn’t about pushing yourself to your physical limit — it’s about finding exercises that you enjoy and that leaves you feeling rejuvenated. As the phrase goes, the best exercise is the one that you stick to! I’ve tried running, cycling, step class, circuit training workout videos, you name it — but none of these habits stuck because I simply hated all of them. What did stick? Yoga! I absolutely love yoga to the point where I actually start craving it if I haven’t done it in too many days in a row.
Some ideas for self-care movement:
- Do some stretches each evening before bed
- Take a walk
- Go for a hike
- Canoe, kayak, or find other water-related activities if you live near a river or lake
- Do some yoga
- If you do enjoy weight-lifting, go for it!
- If you find joy from being part of a community but are self-isolating right now due to COVID-19, find a live class online you can take for a sense of this community!
3. Get Outside and Spend Time in Nature
There are some COVID-19-related restrictions on this in various regions around the world, but if you are able to, spend time getting some fresh air and if possible, find places you can walk in nature. Researchers have even found that spending at least two hours per week in nature leads to improvements in physical and psychological wellbeing.
Some ideas for getting outside:
- Go for a walk, hike, or bike ride
- On weekends, you could even consider taking a longer trip to a forest preserve, park, or other immersive nature-based experience
- If you live in an area where the air is clean and healthy, take 5 minutes to just step outside and reap the benefits of some fresh air!
4. Make Social Connections
There’s no denying that connecting with other people is vital to our mental wellbeing. These connections have even been shown to improve physical health and extend lifespans. But in the time of COVID-19 and social distancing, what can we do?
- FaceTime or call friends and family. Set aside a time to “meet” with a loved one or a group of loved ones!
- Start a virtual book club and meet monthly through video chat to talk through the book
- Make an extra effort with your family or roommates to get together in a meaningful way. Maybe you all dress up and cook an extra special dinner, perhaps every morning you get the family together to enjoy a cup of coffee and breakfast together, or maybe you all gather for a board game night. Check out this post for more tech-free social distancing activity ideas.
- Write a physical letter to a loved one (or, if you’re sick, write an email to avoid sharing physical surfaces)
5. Finding Joy
Joy: in my opinion, this is one of the most underrated aspects of holistic health! I know that I have underprioritized joy in my life even as I have focused on eating healthy, exercising, and spending time on nature. I often view these things as goals to accomplish or as items to check off of my to-do list. But especially in this current global situation, finding joy is crucial.
Guidance on finding your daily joys: Take a moment right now to think of 10 things that bring you joy. Don’t judge, don’t think about what your friends or family or any experts might say. Don’t think about if it’s “right” or productive. Just write down what comes to your mind! Think of this as your rough draft. Once everything is written down, think about which 2 or 3 you can implement on a weekly or even daily basis without hampering any of your other goals. This is the editing stage! (For instance, a slice of chocolate cake might bring me temporary joy but detracts from my healthy eating goals. I can eat it once in a while, but it probably shouldn’t be a daily habit! On the other hand, listening to my favorite artists brings me joy without any negative consequences so I should make this part of my daily routines.)
Need some ideas? Here are some that came to my mind:
- Smelling a wonderful scent whether it be a candle, essential oil diffuser, or herbal tea
- Listening to my favorite music
- Cooking a tasty, satisfying meal
- Making an easy DIY
- Organizing (I know, sounds weird, but really it makes me so happy to have an organized space!)
- Spending time with a cute pet (this self-isolating time is really making me wish I had a dog!)
- Watching a favorite TV show in the evening (if I watch TV any other time of day, I feel groggy and lazy, but in the evening, a good show that makes me laugh can bring joy)
- Singing or dancing
- Writing, painting, or drawing
- Read a great novel
6. Take the Time to Relax and Wind Down
Another one that I personally struggle with on a daily basis: dedicating some time to wind down and relax! Here are some ideas for ways to calm down at the end of a busy or stressful day:
- Have a technology “curfew” – pick a time in the evening where no devices are allowed! If you have an iPhone, you can set “downtime” which will put you apps “to sleep” at a certain time. My goal this year is to stop looking at my phone last thing before I go to sleep or first thing in the morning. The days I do this, I can definitely feel the difference.
- Do meditation, breathwork and/or yoga in the evening
- Find calming or relaxing scents that you can fill your space with during the evening
- Avoid drinking alcohol too late at night as this can disrupt your sleep patterns
But you can also find time to relax and unplug in the middle of the day!
- Go for a walk at lunchtime or after work ends
- If you’re feeling overwhelmed, close your computer or step away from work to take two minutes of meditation and/or to do breathing exercises
- Stretch or do some simple yoga
- Flip through photos of happy memories
I hope that these ideas can help you create your own self-care routine! I’ve created a free downloadable and printable Self-Care Checklist for you to use to help you build your own daily self-care routine. You can feel free to do activities that check off multiple categories — maybe your yoga is your exercise and your relaxing activity — or combine activities — maybe you call a friend while you go out for a walk!