How often do you practice self-care, and are you using a self-care checklist to help you stay focused on your self-care routine? If your answers are, “Not very often” and, “No,” you’re not alone. According to the 2019 Harris Poll, developed by Samueli Integrative Health Programs, less than 39% of people reported that they practice self-care regularly. Furthermore, 44% answered that they believe self-care is only possible for people with enough time. And 35% thought self-care is only for those with enough money .
But do time and money really inhibit our ability to take good care of ourselves and develop healthy habits? To answer this, it’s important to define the meaning of self-care.
While some may correlate self-care with spa days and manicures, true self-care goes beyond face masks and massages. (Though you can absolutely add these things to your self-care practice if they feel right to you.)
For instance, self-care includes the way you speak to yourself in the privacy of your own mind. It also includes allowing yourself to step back just to breathe when you’re feeling overwhelmed. And it means unfollowing social media accounts that cause negative feelings within.
Keep reading if you want to learn more about the meaning of self-care, the health benefits of maintaining a regular self-care practice, and the importance of keeping a self-care checklist. You’ll also learn how to create your own self-care planner or checklist to serve your mental, emotional, and physical well-being.
Definition of Self-Care
According to author Laurie Buchanan, self-care is “a deliberate choice to gift ourselves with people, places, things, events, and opportunities that recharge our personal battery and promote whole health—body, mind, and spirit.”
The World Health Organization’s definition of self-care focuses on physical health and wellness as an indicator of a person’s life quality: “Self-care is the ability of individuals, families, and communities to promote health, prevent disease, maintain health, and cope with illness and disability with or without the support of a health worker.” 
And the Global Self-Care Federation defines self-care as “the practice of individuals looking after their own health using the knowledge and information available to them.” 
While these definitions may appear different on the surface, they are all built on the same foundation: your ability to maintain control over your own health, using practices that support your entire well-being. Using this as a basis, we can therefore define self-care as the combination of practices that we use in our daily lives to support our physical, mental, and emotional well-being.
Some Self-Care Practices And Their Health Benefits
Self-care may sound like a good idea, but does it actually work in the long run? The short answer is yes! And luckily, there’s plenty of research to support the importance of self-care.
Here are some of the health benefits of a few of the most common practices in a self-care plan:
- Meditation. After assessing 47 clinical trials and 3,515 total participants, a review in JAMA Internal Medicine found evidence of improved anxiety and depression in patients over a period of eight weeks . Another study found that mindfulness meditation practices can improve people’s immune function . And finally, there has been more research showing that regular meditation can improve people’s stress levels .
- Mindfulness. A 2012 study showed how a regular mindfulness practice can help reduce “cognitive rigidity,” which means a resistance to change in beliefs, attitudes, or habits. This allows for more creative problem-solving and the ability to “think outside the box.” 
- Exercise. You may be aware that regular exercise has many physical health benefits, but did you know that it’s also linked to a longer lifespan and increased quality of life? A recent study has found that women’s depressed mood decreased following a 30-minute exercise session. The best part? The intensity of the exercise didn’t matter. That means you can still receive the positive mental health benefits of exercise even at a lower intensity .
- Journaling. Journaling can positively influence both your mental and emotional health. A 2018 research article published by Baikie and Wilhelm showed how writing about stressful, emotional, or traumatic events for 15 to 20 minutes on 3 to 5 occasions resulted in better physical and psychological outcomes. The article also found longer-term benefits of expressive writing to include reduced blood pressure, improved mood, and improved working memory. 
- Alone Time. If you need time to yourself to recharge your battery, know that solitude isn’t selfish; it’s a pivotal part of your self-care practice. One study found that when people chose to spend time in solitude, their stress decreased and they were able to relax better . Other studies have linked solitude with increased creativity, freedom, intimacy, and spirituality  .
How To Start A Self-Care Routine
Your personal self-care journey will be unique to you and your individual needs. For instance, if you need alone time to recharge your inner battery, then your self-care plan might include quiet time for self-reflection in the evenings. But if you feel renewed after spending quality time with others, then you might schedule more coffee dates with friends.
Questions To Ask Yourself When Starting A Self-Care Routine
- What practices best serve my physical health?
- What practices best serve my mental health?
- What practices best serve my emotional health?
- When do my mind, body, and spirit feel most in alignment?
- What activities make me feel good?
- What activities bring me joy?
- What activities bring me peace?
Possible Practices To Include In A Self-Care Routine
Self-Care For Physical Health
- Eat fruits and veggies
- Stretch your body
- Brush your teeth
- Apply skincare
- Rest when needed
- Go to a medical check-up.
Self-Care For Mental Health
- Practice mindfulness
- Decrease screentime
- Journal your thoughts
- Do a creative project
- Read a book
- Talk to a therapist.
Self-Care For Emotional Health
- Practice gratitude
- Repeat positive affirmations
- Hug someone
- Tend to your garden
- Listen to music
- Watch funny videos
- Spend time in the sun.
Why Use A Self-Care Checklist For Personal Growth
The purpose of having a weekly or daily self-care checklist is to empower you to prioritize your physical, mental, and emotional health.
By using a self-care planner, you recognize that caring for yourself isn’t frivolous. Rather, it’s an integral component in the health and well-being of your mind, body, and spirit.
A weekly or daily self-care checklist also helps you to keep healthy habits, track your progress, and hold yourself accountable to your self-care plan. When you see your checklist, you’re more likely to complete the tasks, as they’re right there in front of you. (And who doesn’t love the feeling of checking an item off a list?)
How to Create Your Own Self-Care Checklist
To start a self-care checklist, write down the following categories: Physical Self-Care, Mental Self-Care, and Emotional Self-Care.
Brainstorm self-care practices for each of these categories. Try to come up with a variety of “little” and “big” tasks that are important. For instance, brushing your teeth is a small, but important task you can add under physical self-care.
In contrast, exercising is a bigger task that will take more time and dedication. From the beginning, define how many days or hours a week you want to complete these bigger activities. For instance, you might set a goal to exercise three days a week as opposed to all seven. (Remember that rest is also an important part of a well-rounded self-care routine.)
Note that some of the practices you come up with may fit under more than one category. When this happens, write the practice under the category where you feel it fits best.
Review And Update Your Self-Care Checklist When Needed
If you find yourself avoiding any of the items on your self-care checklist, don’t immediately label this as a bad thing. There may be a simple, easy-to-fix reason for your avoidance.
First, ask yourself if you’re avoiding it because of the time and energy it takes to complete the activity. For instance, if you haven’t been checking off the boxes next to daily movement, is it because you’ve built it up in your head as a really big thing? Do you associate moving your body with arduous workouts and long runs? If so, allow yourself to make this activity smaller and less overwhelming. What if daily movement looked like a twenty-minute walk around the neighborhood or a walk in the park with your dog?
You might also find it helpful to re-label this category, “Daily Movement That Feels Good to Me.”
Now, what if you added something to your list that doesn’t actually make you feel very good? For instance, maybe you put on your list that you want to cook big meals in the evening. You thought cooking would help you unwind, but you’ve found it’s actually stressful for you.
If this is the case, allow yourself to change your expectations! Remember that this is your self-care planner, and you’re empowered to include in it only those items that truly serve and support you. So, if cooking big meals doesn’t feel good to you, replace this idea with something else that does.
Download Your Free Self-Care Checklist With 44 Extra Ideas To Try Out
To help you create a well-rounded self-care plan suited to your needs, we created a printable self-care checklist for you to download today!
The free template gives you space to check off what self-care practices you completed each day of the week. You’ll find self-care practices for physical, mental, and emotional health. You’ll also find spaces to fill in a couple of your own favorite self-care activities under each category.
And you’ll receive suggestions for 44 extra self-care tips you can add to your weekly self-care checklist and try out if you want.
Download your free SELF-CARE CHECKLIST here!
The Bottom Line
Self-care is a life skill that you can learn and develop over time. There are many different practices and self-care tips you can include in your self-care journey. Meditation, mindfulness, physical exercise, and journaling are just a few examples. It can also help to keep an individualized self-care checklist that you can review and update according to your personal needs. If you’re looking for a great template to use, follow this link to download our printable self-care checklist today!
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