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Self-care is a major buzzword right now. We’re constantly bombarded with the message that we need to take care of ourselves before we can be there for others. Self-care is typically depicted as lighting some candles, taking a bubble bath while listening to relaxing music, and emerging as a brand new person ready to take on the world. (When I searched “self-care” to find an image for this blog post, the vast majority of images pictured smiling women in robes with cucumbers on their eyes.)

I am a huge advocate for self-care…but I have thoughts.

First of all - the point of taking care of yourself first is not exclusively so that you can take care of other people. The point of taking care of yourself is to treat yourself like somebody you love and want to see thrive - hard stop. Yes, we have the responsibility to show up for the people in our lives, and being there to care for our friends, family, and neighbors is important. But the whole idea that you can’t pour from an empty cup implies that the only reason you are taking care of yourself is to turn around and give all of your best energy away. It also implies that self-care is only not selfish as long as you are doing it for others. You are the only person you are going to be with your ENTIRE life - showing up for yourself has to be a daily practice and commitment.

Also, as much as I love an Epsom salt bath and face mask (they did in fact make this list), they’re not going to fix all your problems. Self-care is not just reactive. The best type of self-care is proactive - the little things you do each and every day because you know your future self will thank you. As someone with anxiety, I know what helps calm my racing mind and recognize that some of the most important self-care practices I need to maintain are moving my body, getting outside, getting enough sleep, and taking my medicine. It’s not glamorous but it’s effective.

I put together a list of over 50 actionable ways you can give yourself some love. In an effort to give some order to this list, I categorized it into three categories: self-care for your body, brain, and soul. Of course, these three things are inextricably linked and nothing falls solely into one category - but for the sake of this blog post go with me, OK?

Self-care for your body

  1. Prioritize your sleep (know how many hours YOU need to function your best and commit to it)

  2. Go to physical therapy (and do your exercises at home)

  3. Spend some quality time with your foam roller

  4. Take an Epsom salt bath 

  5. Schedule a massage

  6. Take a dance class in a new style and let yourself be bad at it

  7. Establish a skincare routine (at the very least wash the sweat and makeup off your face every single night)

  8. Work with a strength trainer

  9. Drink a glass of water

  10. Pack snacks in your dance bag and be proactive about eating them

  11. Focus on your breath

  12. Go for a walk/hike

  13. Get a facial 

  14. Take a yoga class (or just roll out your mat and do a quick flow in your living room)

  15. Take time for a dynamic warm-up before dance class

  16. Get a yearly physical (preventative care!!!)

  17. Take the day off when you’re sick

  18. Do some gentle stretching

Self-care for your brain

  1. Listen to a podcast

  2. Go outside and get some fresh air

  3. Recite positive affirmations 

  4. Write in your journal

  5. Do a guided meditation

  6. Meal prep for the week ahead

  7. Ask for help early and often (don’t wait until you’re drowning)

  8. Clean out your dance bag and restock any essentials

  9. Decide once

  10. Go to therapy

  11. Take your medication

  12. Write down your corrections (get them out of your brain and somewhere concrete you can look at before your next class/rehearsal)

  13. Write down all the compliments you received in class

  14. Set and stick to your boundaries

  15. Do the thing you’ve been putting off for months that will only take 5-20 minutes

  16. Set SMART goals for yourself

  17. Do a crossword puzzle/sudoku/wordle/my currently personal fav word game from NYT, connections

Self-care for your soul

  1. Curl up with a good book

  2. Pamper yourself with some eye patches or a face mask

  3. Make your favorite beverage and savor every sip

  4. Watch a new (or old favorite) show on Netflix/Hulu/Apple TV

  5. Call or Facetime a friend

  6. Take a vacation (or staycation) and actually unplug

  7. Go out to eat at your favorite restaurant 

  8. Try a new hobby or revisit one you’ve not made time for lately (my favorites are crocheting and calligraphy)

  9. Listen to your favorite album 

  10. Give someone a compliment (a stranger or a friend!)

  11. Unfollow social media accounts that make you feel bad

  12. Buy a new leotard you feel amazing in

  13. Turn your phone off for a day (or just unplug from social media)

  14. Throw on your headphones and sing at the top of your lungs and/or have a dance party in your bedroom

  15. Be silly (this is arguably the most important of all the ideas)

  16. Buy yourself flowers

  17. Order takeout 

  18. Bake cookies

  19. Get a mani/pedi (or give yourself one at home!)

This list is incredibly varied in terms of time/resources/accessibility. For all you type-A perfectionists reading this blog post (ahem, every dancer), please don’t try to go out and do these all or feel like you have to do something every day for 2 hours for it to count. Self-care shouldn’t be one more thing to add to your to-do list and further stress you out. On the contrary, it should be something that makes your daily life easier, that gives you the space to breathe, that calms your nervous system. If it’s having the opposite effect, can you really call it self-care (even if it’s on the list)?

I don’t think so. 

Because I think it bears repeating - the best type of self-care is proactive. Things like taking a few hours to meal prep on Sunday because you know it will make your entire week less stressful or doing your physical therapy exercises every day even though they feel hard and tedious. The things that will make everything else run smoother. The small amounts of self-care you do consistently are going to help you create a life that you don’t feel the need to regularly escape from.

Establishing a self-care practice that works for you is absolutely paramount for a long, happy life. Use these ideas to hone in on a routine that is sustainable and that most importantly, works!

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