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“I don’t know how to take care of myself!” In today’s world of modern technology, it’s easy for people to forget that they’re not machines. American culture in particular teaches that individuals should be bottomless resources of energy and innovation.
However, human beings are complex, and rest is an essential part of their make-up. Without it, people can’t function the way they should. Learning to prioritize rest and self-care is an important part of gaining maturity as an adult.
Self-care can be challenging, especially since personal needs and circumstances are constantly changing. If you don’t know how to take care of yourself, that’s okay. Here are five ways you can start:
- Befriend Yourself
Learning to be your own best friend is essential for self-care. Many individuals struggle with self-care because of low self-esteem. When people don’t respect themselves or think they’re worthy of care, they don’t prioritize taking care of themselves.
Here’s an easy test to evaluate how you’re treating yourself. Consider what you think when you look at yourself in the mirror in the morning. Which one of these options sounds the most like you?
Option 1: I am so loved. I’m proud of myself and excited for this day. I am going to grow from my mistakes yesterday, not feel guilty about them. Today I am going to be brave and kind.
Option 2: I look terrible today. I’m not good at this subject/project, and I’m going to fail. Yesterday I embarrassed myself, and I’m afraid that’s going to happen again today. I’m stupid, and no one likes me.
Option 3: I avoid making eye contact in the mirror.
Try writing down your thoughts when you wake up tomorrow morning. Then, ask yourself if this is how you’d treat a good friend. How would you speak to a friend? What would you want for them? It may be time to re-evaluate the way you’re thinking about yourself.
- Invest in Physical Health
Many individuals forget that they have physical needs, like getting enough sleep and drinking water. When people neglect their physical health, the effects will trickle down into mental and emotional challenges. Often, addressing physical needs can restore balance to the body and resolve other issues.
For example, if you are running on coffee and have insufficient sleep, your stress levels will be much higher than they should be. Changing your rest and nutrition habits can decrease stress, especially if you have a busy, high-paced lifestyle.
For optimal health, people need plenty of sleep, rest, and water. Exercising and eating a whole foods diet boosts brain health and helps the body function properly. Healthy lifestyle habits combat mental and physical challenges, including brain fog, fatigue, anxiety, and mood swings.
- Find Community
Another way to care for yourself is to build meaningful community. Connection with others is a human need, but it’s often ignored in today’s fast-paced society. Smiling at strangers, talking about life with others, and having deep conversations with close friends positively impact mental and physical health.
Loneliness can leave humans in a state of stress which wears on their health and saps meaning from their lives. People are not meant to live alone, but it’s easy to become isolated when busy or tired from your usual routine.
Unfortunately, loneliness tends to make people feel trapped and unable to reach out for connection. If you’re feeling lonely, you’re not the only one. Keep reaching out, and you will find a group of people who will support you and do life with you.
- Develop Hobbies
Another way to care for yourself is by developing personal interests outside of school. Making time for hobbies can be challenging if you have a busy schedule, but it’s excellent for mental health and can help you learn more about yourself during a busy season of life.
Hobbies provide a welcome relief from what you “have to do” and improve your brain health by stretching you in new directions. Having a hobby is also a great way to build community by connecting with others who enjoy the same pastimes.
Some particularly good hobbies for mental and physical health include outdoor activities like hiking, running, and canoeing. Artistic pursuits like playing music, painting, or embroidery can also help you express emotions and process life in a healthy, productive way.
- Ask the Hard Questions
As you start to engage actively in your own life, you may realize that some things are routinely bothering you. Everyone experiences some form of internal stress, whether that be baggage from a past relationship, chronic stress over school, or anxiety over the future.
Although it’s not fun to think about what is bothering you, it’s ultimately healthier than keeping it all inside and trying to carry it on your own. One excellent form of self-care is to ask yourself questions about what’s bothering you and then listen to your answers.
Journal about what you find, and give yourself time to process your thoughts and emotions. It’s also an excellent idea to talk over your thoughts and concerns with people you trust. If you’re able, speaking with a therapist can help you move toward healing and gain a new perspective on your life.
Self-care is a skill you can practice, and it has many facets. Taking care of yourself doesn’t need to be perfect, and each step you take is an investment into a healthier, happier version of yourself.
Even if you don’t know how to take care of yourself, you can use these five steps as a springboard to start investing in your mental and physical well-being one step at a time. You are worth the time and energy it takes to care for yourself.