Medically reviewed by Jill Johnson, DNP, APRN, FNP-BC
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 12/20/2021
When you spend your time thinking about work, friends and other people, it’s easy to lose track of something important: taking care of yourself.
From maintaining good exercise and sleep habits to setting aside time to relax each day, simple self-care activities can have a big impact on your moods, thoughts and overall mental wellbeing.
Read on to learn more about self-care and how it can improve your mental and emotional health.
You’ll find 21 self-care tips for women to help you decrease stress, avoid burnout, reduce anxiety and depression, and improve your everyday life.
Self-care is anything you do to take care of yourself, whether physically or mentally.
It can be a workout, meditation session or even a new habit that helps you to stay in control of your life. Self-care can also be as mundane as eating a healthy meal for breakfast.
Effective self-care is vital for a happy, healthy and balanced life.
While it’s definitely good to be selfless sometimes, taking care of yourself means you’re mentally and physically fit to excel in your personal life, career and anything else that’s important to you.
Interested in caring for yourself but don’t know where to begin?
Taking a proactive approach to self-care can feel a little unusual at first, especially if you’ve never really prioritized your health and wellbeing.
The self-care strategies below can help you gain more control over your mental and physical wellbeing and enjoy a higher quality of life. Let’s begin.
You may have heard the term ‘sleep hygiene,’ though getting enough sleep can be surprisingly difficult.
In fact, according to the CDC, upwards of 35 percent of American adults report sleeping for less than seven hours per night on average.
Sleep has a major impact on your mental and physical wellbeing, making it important to take it seriously.
One way to do this is to set a sleep schedule — and stick to it as much as possible.
To create a sleep schedule, set a bedtime and choose a consistent time to wake up in the morning.
When your alarm goes off, resist the temptation to hit snooze and get straight out of bed.
Over time, you should be able to get used to these rhythms, which can help improve your sleep.
While too much sun exposure isn’t good for your skin, getting a modest amount of sunlight each day can have real benefits for your mental health.
Research shows that sunlight is associated with serotoni — an important neurotransmitter that helps regulate your moods and protect against depression.
Sunlight is also important for maintaining your circadian rhythm — which is the internal clock that assists your body in keeping you focused and energetic during the day, and then helps you feel tired and ready to sleep at night.
In the morning, open the curtains and allow plenty of natural light to enter into your home.
A quick five to 10 minute walk outside may also help perk you up and get you ready for the day.
Whether it’s a fresh cup of coffee, your favorite song or a quick yoga session, one way to get in a good mood is to start your day with something you love.
Make it a habit to always start your day on a positive note.
By getting in a good mood early, you might find it easier to get through the tougher, more difficult aspects of life without feeling burned out.
Exercise doesn’t just keep your body healthy — it also helps you maintain a healthy, balanced mind.
Research suggests that exercise can act as a natural treatment for depression by facilitating the release of endorphins: chemicals that improve your mood.
Physical activity can also result in nerve cell growth, which can help improve your brain function.
You don’t need to take part in intense exercise to benefit, either.
According to the CDC, as little as 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week (for example, brisk walking), as well as two muscle-strengthening workouts, is enough to produce noticeable benefits.
Sometimes, just getting through the day can feel like a journey.
If you often get home and feel a stressed, tired or just frustrated with life, try setting aside five to 10 minutes to help you chill out, relax and decompress before you start your evening routine.
There’s no need to make relaxing complicated.
Simple things like soaking in a bath, reading a book or just listening to peaceful music with your phone in a separate room can calm your mind and help you appreciate the present moment.
Everyone is their own worst critic, and while objective self-criticism can help you identify weak spots and make progress in life, being too critical of yourself can have a serious negative impact on your mental wellbeing.
If you’re naturally self-critical, try changing your mindset and treating yourself the way you treat your close friends.
Be a little more generous and accepting of your flaws, and make an effort to focus on caring for yourself instead of putting yourself down.
Above all else, be positive when you’re dealing with yourself. Think of missteps as opportunities (we all make them) and be the supportive friend everyone wishes they had.
Writing down your thoughts, feelings and worries in a journal is a quick and easy way to improve your mental health.
When you feel anxious, stressed, depressed or simply overwhelmed by life, try writing down as much as you can in your personal journal.
To make things simpler, keep your journal in an accessible location, such as on your desk or beside your bed.
Another great way to deal with anxiety and depression is with mindfulness meditation — a form of meditation that involves training your mind to achieve a mental state in which you feel calm, positive and concentrated on the present.
Research has found that mindfulness meditation can improve anxiety, depression and other common mental health issues.
Meditate at home by sitting in a quiet place while focusing on your breathing.
If your mind starts to wander, bring it back to the present and maintain a focus on the feelings and sensations you're currently experiencing.
You can also meditate with others at local meditation groups, yoga centers and in other communal environments.
Try spending five to 15 minutes each day on mindfulness meditation. Over time, you may start to notice real improvements in your feelings, thoughts and mental wellbeing.
When you’re feeling depressed, stressed or anxious, it’s easy to isolate yourself from others and spend most of your time by yourself.
While this might feel like a natural thing to do, it’s often a mistake.
Spending time around others not only brightens your life, but it also has numerous mental health benefits, including more feelings of wellbeing and less severe symptoms of depression.
Try setting aside time several days a week to spend time with your friends and family, even if it’s just a quick meetup for coffee.
If you can’t spend time with others in person, connect digitally via apps like Zoom, Skype or Messenger to catch up and keep in touch.
Although spending time with other people can be great for your mental health, it’s also important to say “no” when you feel like something isn’t right for you.
Whether you’re feeling tired and want to stay in or just overwhelmed by being asked to do a little too much, don’t be afraid to say no to some invitations.
Instead, prioritize your mental health and make choices based on what’s best for your wellbeing.
When you’re focusing on improving yourself, it can be easy to get too serious and avoid slowing down to enjoy life.
No one is productive, focused and active all the time.
If you’re ever feeling tired, stressed or just in need of a break, don’t be afraid to give yourself a chilled-out night at home in which you binge-watch Netflix and order something indulgent.
Sometimes, enjoying your bad habits in moderation makes it easier to maintain your good ones over the long term.
While it’s good to enjoy a night of takeout and Netflix every now and then, it’s also good to make healthy cooking part of your everyday life.
If you’re looking for a fun, social activity that can also improve your daily life, consider signing up for a cooking class in your city.
Learning how to cook not only saves you money — it also means you can control your nutrient intake and avoid frozen meals and fast food.
To make preparing food interesting, try one or two new recipes each week, or turn cooking into a social activity by hosting friends and family for dinner at your home.
Your phone can be a great tool for communicating with people, but in some cases, it can easily turn into a source of anxiety and higher stress.
If messages, calls and other notifications constantly take you out of the moment and affect your ability to relax, try silencing your phone.
Or, to take a complete break from contact with others, put it on airplane mode while you focus on other things.
While your phone is out of the picture, focus on relaxing, de-stressing and enjoying a moment of peace without any interruptions.
Got a pet? Take a few minutes to play with them, whether this means taking your dog to spend time at the park or relaxing with your cat in the living room.
Spending time with a pet has real benefits for both your physical and mental health.
Research even indicates that spending time with a pet can reduce your heart rate and blood pressure — two common cardiovascular factors affected by stress and anxiety.
If you have the time and budget for it, one of the best things you can do for your wellbeing is to treat yourself to a vacation.
The workplace is one of the most common sources of stress.
Research suggests that spending even a short amount of time away on vacation can have a positive impact on perceived stress, recovery and mental wellbeing.
Don’t have time to travel? Instead of booking a trip somewhere else, try going on a staycation in your own city to clear your mind and enjoy a new experience.
Sometimes, the best way to relieve stress is to embrace your creative side.
Simple things like sketching, doodling, spending time learning a musical instrument or working on that book you always planned to finish can distract you from sources of stress.
Not only is being creative fun, but it’s a great way to buck the rumination cycle that can worsen depression, anxiety and other common mental health issues.
Warm baths are great for relaxation, and research suggests that they also offer real benefits for your mental and physical health.
In a study published in 2018, researchers compared the effects of showering and bathing for 10 minutes on numerous aspects of health.
They found that taking a bath produced larger improvements in fatigue, stress and pain than showering.
They also found that people who bathed reported lower levels of tension-anxiety, anger-hostility and depression than those who showered.
The next time you’re feeling a little stressed, overwhelmed or simply in need of a little extra relaxation, run a warm bath and let yourself soak for a while.
Even if you don’t have a green thumb, adding some plant life to your living area can have a positive impact on your mental health.
In a study published in the Journal of Psychological Anthropology, researchers found that active interaction with indoor plants seems to reduce physiological and psychological stress, including blood pressure levels.
If you have your own house, try planting a garden.
If you live in an apartment, adding a couple of house plants to your living room or hallway is a low-maintenance way to add some natural life to your home.
If you work in an office setting, there’s a good chance that you spend the vast majority of each day interacting with technology. (Or let’s face it: If you’re human, you’re spending time with tech.)
While tech definitely has benefits, it can get in the way of life and cause your work to follow you everywhere.
To enjoy some time for yourself, try making a promise to avoid using the computer, phone, tablet and other tech when you have time away from work.
If a completely tech-free day isn’t for you, try logging out of social media for the day to keep yourself free of distractions and able to enjoy each moment.
Is your living space becoming a little disorganized? Clutter is a common consequence of being busy.
With the right perspective, it can also serve as an opportunity to organize your home and your mind at once.
If your clutter is getting a little out of control, spend a morning decluttering and organizing your living space.
Not only can decluttering make it easier to keep track of your things — it can also increase your sense of confidence and self-efficacy, lower feelings of anxiety and provide you with a boost of productive energy.
When life gets stressful, it’s easy to spend time focusing on the negatives, whether they’re social, financial, romantic or related to something else.
This kind of thinking can take a serious toll on your mental health, especially when you ruminate on problems by constantly thinking about them.
In fact, research shows that frequently thinking about the negative side of life can fuel depression and other mental health issues.
To balance negative thinking, focus on the positive side of life by identifying and celebrating your accomplishments.
This could mean finishing your degree or other professional qualification, getting a promotion or reaching a financial goal, buying a home, moving to a different city, getting engaged or married, making a new friendship or just trying something new in life.
Try listing your accomplishments every few months. Not only can this help boost your mood — it’s also a great way to recognize that despite the ups and downs in life, you’re still moving in the right direction.
Self-care is an important part of keeping yourself mentally and physically healthy.
And done right, it can help improve mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety, and even lower your risk for heart disease and other health issues.
However, if you think you might have a mental illness, you should always reach out to a mental health professional for advice and assistance. We have a quick guide on how to find the right therapist.
You can do this by asking your primary care provider for a mental health referral, reaching out to a psychiatrist or psychologist locally, or from home by connecting with a psychiatry provider with our online psychiatry service.
With the right combination of professional help and self-care, it’s possible to overcome common mental health issues and enjoy an excellent quality of life.
Interested in learning more about improving your mental health?
Our free online mental health resources detail proven strategies to help manage stress, anxiety, depression and other common mental health concerns.
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