Self-care habits are deliberate actions that benefit our mental and physical well-being. Self-care can take the form of many different activities. A few examples are meditating, eating well, exercising, setting up social dates with loved ones and friends, reading, getting a massage, or taking a relaxing bath. Really, any activity that adds to our health and well-being counts as self-care. So what makes self-care habits different than any other healthy habits? Intent.
By setting a specific intention behind our healthy activities, and by intending them to be completed as an act of self-care, we turbo-boost the satisfaction gained from them. That’s because we demonstrate self-love to ourselves. Through intentional self-care activities, we increase our perception of self-worth, self-esteem, and self-efficacy. Self-efficacy—the belief in your own capacity to deal with life situations (usually challenges)—is one of the greatest predictors to successfully maintaining an exercise or nutrition plan .
Can you benefit from self-care without planning ahead of time?
While it’s great to take even last-minute opportunities to prioritize your well-being, the planning aspect of self-care is key. Specifically setting time aside for yourself is part of what confirms your intention to give yourself self-care. This can be challenging, given that most of us with busy schedules often put ourselves last, which makes us less likely to follow through on self-care. Carving out time in your schedule and sticking to it (regardless of last-minute plans that arise) is essential to self-care.
Why build good self-care habits?
There are many benefits to both mental and physical health with habitual self-care. Aside from building self-efficacy and self-esteem, self-care practices have been proven to decrease anxiety and stress, as well as improve self-knowledge and productivity. Bonus points: if practiced regularly, you can build your resilience. Resilience is the capacity to recover quickly from adversity, challenges, and difficulties. In other words, resilience is your capacity to bounce back from being knocked down…faster than a kid in a bouncy castle.
Resilience is one of the best outcomes of regular self-care practice. It supports the importance of this activity as a habit, rather than a band-aid practice. Often when we’re stressed, we forgo self-care, and instead turn to less-effective methods for dealing with our stress, like overindulging in food or alcohol. What we often don’t realize is that these are the times when we should be doubling down on our self-care routines—not abandoning them.
Self-care has been shown to be one of the best means of combating stress. In fact, a study of students showed that a program entailing some components of mental, physical, social, or nutritional self-care practices prevented stress from increasing throughout a semester of school .
Similarly, psychologists-in-training that undertook Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) demonstrated significantly lower stress levels, had higher burnout resistance and were more resilient to stressors .
What is the best way to incorporate self-care habits into client programs?
First and foremost, self-care should be one of the fundamental habits for any beginner habit builder. Why? Self-care can take the form of any health activity or action. Rebranding healthy habits as self-care will give your clients higher self-efficacy, which in turn makes them more likely to maintain their habits (1). This shift in perception will really help set your clients up for success!
The best place to start is to choose something small, something that your client likely already engages with in some capacity. It will help if this is something they really enjoy, like taking a bath! This first small step will help lay the foundation for other habitual behaviors and self-care actions.
What challenges might come up while trying to adopt good self-care habits?
Your clients may have trouble with the “self” part of self-care—doing things just for themselves. These clients will often put other people’s expectations and priorities ahead of their own, self-care will be a rather new concept to them!
They may be hesitant to forgo the priorities placed on them by others. However, these clients stand to gain the most from both your guidance and a tracking and accountability program like Trainerize. Knowing they are accountable to you will keep them on track!
In addition to habit tracking, use groups or direct messaging to check in on your clients’ progress, and make them feel like they are being held accountable.
Self-care in a nutshell:
- Self-care habits are planned healthy behaviors intended to improve one’s well-being.
- Self-care activities provide improvements to mental and physical well-being, including improved self-efficacy and resilience to daily stressors.
- Using Trainerize as a habit tracking app will help clients plan and execute self-care.
- Using Trainerize’s communication tools and groups feature with clients will help those who struggle without accountability.
- R.M. Ryan, H. Patrick, E.I. Deci, G.C. Williams. Facilitating health behaviour change and its maintenance: Interventions based on self-determination theory. (2008). The European Health Psychologist, 10.
- Marney A. White a , Margaret Mayera , W. Michael Vanderlindb , and Dana Allswede. Evaluation of a Behavioral Self-Care Intervention for Public Health Students. (2018). AMERICAN JOURNAL OF HEALTH EDUCATION, VOL. 49, NO. 1, 40–47
- Shapiro, S. L., Brown, K. W., & Biegel, G. M. (2007). Teaching self-care to caregivers: Effects of mindfulness-based stress reduction on the mental health of therapists in training. Training and Education in Professional Psychology, 1(2), 105-115.