Show of hands: Who practices self-care regularly? You might be thinking, “Of course I take care of myself—I eat, sleep, bathe, and pay my bills.” While these things are necessary parts of life, they aren’t necessarily self-care if they aren’t performed in a loving way.
What Is Self-Care?
Self-care is any activity we do in an effort to take care of our physical, emotional, and mental health. Examples can include meditation, working out, eating real foods, not streaming an extra hour of shows and going to bed earlier, and more. Self-care is highly individual, but here’s a good guiding principle to discover what type of self-care proves meaningful to you: Does the action provide you with a sense of calm and peace—do you feel rejuvenated after completing the act?
What Self-Care Is Not
Self-care is not forcing yourself to do an activity that feels painful, awkward, stressful, or unenjoyable. If you don’t like yoga, half-heartedly performing yoga poses can cause more stress and bad vibes than you probably need. Choose to take a walk instead, or ride a bicycle in the sunshine if that brings you more joy.
In short, self-care means discovering the right ratio of choices that positively impact your well being with choices that allow you to indulge.
Depending on your values, there may be synergy between decisions that impact your positive well being and allow you delight; other times those two may oppose yet compliment one another in a type of yin-yang balance. Some people rely on the 80/20 principle to help them discover the right ratio for them: 80 percent of the time, they make healthful choices, and 20 percent of the time, they eat the treat. No FOMO, no stress that eating a slice of cheesecake might throw you into a junk-food bender, but rather the confidence that comes from being in control of the decisions you make. That velvety, cloud-like cheesecake with the drippy honeyed blueberry topping can’t drive you to make compromising choices because it’s just a piece of cheesecake.
How to Start Self-Care
The best time to start self-care? Today.
How do you start a self-care practice? Identify an activity that’s relaxing, calming, and brings you joy. Set aside at least five minutes to do that activity a few times a week. Once you’ve integrated this new activity into your weekly routine and it feels easy, add some extra time to that activity, or try practicing the activity every day until that becomes second nature. Add an additional activity or practice for a manageable amount of time every few weeks until practicing self-care becomes a habit.
What if you don’t know which self-care ideas will work for you? The following checklist can help:
- Create a list of things that feel stressful to you. Examples can include: running, rising early, checking work emails after a specific time in the evenings, etc. Once you’ve finished this list, you’re well on your way to knowing which self-care ideas won’t work for you.
- Create a list of things that feel relaxing to you. Examples can include: hiking, cooking, drawing, knitting, talking to a friend, etc. Once you’ve finished this list, you’ll have a list of self-care ideas that you can start implementing today.
Additional general self-care ideas:
- Soak in a warm bath with candles lit and soft music, white noise, or nothing playing.
- Breathe deeply for a few minutes. Sit still and close your eyes. Inhale slowly for a count of four, then exhale slowly for a count of four. Repeat 10 times, then open your eyes.
- Lie flat on your back with your bottom close to a wall. Extend your legs straight on the wall. Close your eyes and try to clear your mind and breathe slowly for five minutes.
- Take a stroll—not a speed walk to raise your heart rate, but a relaxing pace that gets your blood flowing. Leave your phone at home and observe the nature and life around you.
- Try a guided meditation. There are many apps, videos, and books that you can use to learn to distance your mind from distractions.
- Invent simple mantras to remove stress from situations. For example, if you have racing thoughts, repeat: “I am not my thoughts,” until you are ready to move on. If you eat when stressed or emotional, repeat: “Food is nourishment, not comfort,” until you are ready to move on.
- Employ the 3x5 method. When you feel stress, anxiety, or fear building up, pause and look around the room. Identify five things you see, five things you hear, and five things you smell.
Read on for more self-care ideas you can do at home to care for your skin, cook vitalizing recipes, move your body, and calm your mind.
Do-it-Yourself at Home Self-Care Ideas for Your Skin
If you would like a chemical-free way to replenish, hydrate, and calm your itchy, dry, or chapped skin, avocado oil is an all-natural solution. This oil-based moisturizer will feel different on your skin compared to water-based lotions, but, consequently, it will take less avocado oil moisturizer to soothe your skin.
Sloughing off the dead skin cells from the top layer of your skin can reveal skin that’s refreshed with a rosy glow. With just two fragrant ingredients, you can make your own face and body scrub at home.
This all-natural, do-it-yourself, chemical-free eye serum makes an unexpectedly elegant gift, or an easy way to simplify (and economize!) your beauty routine at home.
Self-Care Recipes for 80 Percent of the Time
This quick, tasty lunch or dinner can be whipped up with leftover cooked chicken cubes, rotisserie chicken, or even canned chicken. Crisp some bacon; slice grape tomatoes, avocados, lettuce; mix cooked chicken with mayo made with avocado oil, fresh lemon juice, and chopped chives—you won’t miss the bread in this salty, satisfying salad.
A variety of colors, textures, and tastes, this Primal Harvest Bowl combines peppery raw arugula with sweet sliced apples and roasted vegetables that get doused in lightly sweet and savory honey mustard dressing. Top with pecans for added crunch and creamy, nutty flavor.
This recipe takes some extra time—as most homemade lasagna recipes do—but the effort means you’ll have many slices of dairy-free, low-carb lasagna leftover to heat and eat in following days, or freeze for later.
Rugged kale, cool cucumber slices, creamy avocado slices are combined with sliced grilled or roasted chicken breast to create a simple yet substantial salad. Drizzle with acidic, balanced Avocado Oil & Vinegar Vinaigrette and sprinkle with your favorite seasoning blend.
In this Mediterranean version of chicken and rice, we keep the carbs low by subbing cauliflower rice instead of regular rice, and bump up the flavor and texture with sweet, chewy sun-dried tomatoes, briny, salty olives, and sharp, creamy feta cheese.
This seven-ingredient spinach salmon salad is an easy-to-assemble weekday lunch. Even if you don’t have already-baked salmon, it’s easy to roast fillets in the oven for 12–14 minutes while you prep the salad ingredients.
This quick-cooking soup uses the AirFryer and a parchment pack to make a flavorful soup for rainy or chilly days when you want a beefy soup that doesn’t take much time. No bone broth or stock needed—the Sesame Ginger Marinade combines with the natural juices from the meatballs and vegetables to create an umami broth.
Our version of garlic and olive oil pasta is keto-, Primal/paleo-, and Whole30-friendly, low-carb, and gluten-free, as the “pasta” part of the dish is actually made from hearts of palm. This ingenious noodle substitute provides a soft, noodle-like texture with a mild flavor that absorbs whatever sauce or aromatics you toss it with.
Self-Care Recipes for 20 Percent of the Time
Creamy, rib-sticking meaty, mounds of swirly noodles… beef stroganoff is a comfort-food trifecta. It’s a one pot meal that can be made on the stove in a dutch oven, in a slow cooker or an Instant Pot.
Our version of shrimp alfredo comes together quickly and easily with our No-Dairy Roasted Garlic Alfredo Sauce, spiralized zucchini noodles, fast pan-seared spiced shrimp, sliced grape tomatoes for a pop of color and a burst of acidity, and a liberal amount of chopped fresh parsley for an herby edge.
These donuts have everything you’d expect from a traditional cake recipe: a tender and moist crumb from the egg white, butter, and pumpkin puree trifecta. The warm cinnamon-spiked finish encases each ring in a cozy hug and the granulated texture of the Swerve adds a slightly crunchy contrast to the yielding interior.
This simple Primal/paleo (and even keto) burger with butter lettuce, tomato, bacon, red onion, and avocado slices would be delightful topped with traditional ranch, but we can’t leave well enough alone. We love how the hickory, peppery notes compliment the herbaceous buttermilk flavor in our BBQ Ranch Dressing.
Not much need for explanation here—everybody loves crisp, salty french fries. Learn how to pan-fry thinly sliced matchstick potatoes at home with avocado oil. Get extra ketchup for dipping—the Primal Kitchen Ketchup delivers a balance of sweetness and acidity without honey, dates, maple syrup, or high-fructose corn syrup.
For those days when only a slice of cheesecake will do, this no-dairy blueberry cheesecake with a rich, sweet, crumbly crust delivers. Freeze-dried blueberries give the fluffy filling a violet hue, and frozen blueberries dot the top of the cake, giving each slice frosty pops of fresh berries.
This lower-carb pizza crust doesn’t require that you fuss with bits of riced cauliflower—simply combine almond flour with egg, salt, mayo, and avocado oil. Top with whatever you love on pizza; we made a supreme version, using pepperoni instead of sausage.
Whether you can eat dairy or not, this gluten-free garlic bread recipe offers an oozy version with melted mozzarella cheese, and a dairy-free version that’s crisp and golden with plenty of extra virgin olive oil.
Deeply chocolate-y with the same touch of bitter, woodsy undertones you get from coffee, truffles taste like sin but melt on your tongue like angelic snowflakes. Our truffles include the creamy, lightly sweet and nutty flavor of hazelnut combined with dark chocolate and shredded coconut.
If you’ve never tried the Baja version of fish tacos—lightly battered white fish covered with slaw and a creamy, lime-tinged sauce, and cocooned with a corn tortilla, meet your next craving.
Our Air Fried Guacamole marries the classic chips and guac combo into a handheld showstopper appetizer—no double dipping or browning-in-the-bowl guacamole concerns necessary.
Exercise and Movement Self-Care Ideas
Walking or hiking: Moving your legs in the fresh air—ideally in a trail or in a park surrounded by trees and twittering birds, or by the seashore while staring at the blue horizon—can calm any frayed nerves. If you can’t get outside or are short on time, pacing back and forth in a small space or walking circles around a large piece of furniture can do the trick. Try to take deep, slow breaths while you walk so your pace doesn’t become frantic.
Forest bathing: Immerse yourself in nature, ideally in a forest with tall trees if you can get to one. Stroll the entire time, or walk to a place where you can embed yourself in the nature thriving around you—notice the sounds of the animals, the rustling of leaves, the crack of footsteps on leaves or pine needles, look up at the greenery shading your head, inhale deeply and smell the musky scent of dewy bark. Research shows that observing a forest setting decreased blood pressure and sympathetic nerve activity.
Running or jogging (for some): If you’re fit and accustomed to the high-impact nature of running, going at a steady or slow pace can prove stress-reducing for some. To be a calming activity, the pace should be kept conversational and probably slower than some more competitive athletes might be comfortable with.
Yoga and/or mobility movements: Yoga combines relaxing breathing patterns with poses that lengthen the muscles, tendons, and ligaments, but it’s not everyone’s fave. If you fall into that camp, mobility movements can help keep your body limber. Here are some yoga and mobility exercises to try:
- 7-Minute Pre-Bed Yoga Flow
- A Power Yoga Flow to Improve Functional Strength
- 7 Relaxing Yoga Poses to Unwind
- How to Improve Thoracic Spine Mobility
- How to Regain and Maintain Hip Mobility
- How to Improve and Maintain Wrist and Ankle Mobility
- How to Maintain Shoulder Mobility
Strength training: If lifting weights the size of boulders is your jam, that’s great—there are many physical benefits to be gained from doing so. But, this isn’t most people’s idea of a relaxing time. To dial the intensity back a bit, try bodyweight strength moves:
- 20 Easy Bodyweight Exercises to Build Functional Arm Strength
- Glute and Hamstring Workout
- Arm Workout Without Weights
- How to Plank
- How to Do Pushups
- How to Do Pull-ups
- How to Do Squats
The following quotes either spoken or selected by Primal Kitchen staff will hopefully motivate you to start your self-care journey today.
“I have few absolutes in my routine, but one of them is this: I honor my circadian rhythm. The pleasure I get from consistently sleeping well trumps anything that would disrupt it.”
"Every morning you are born again. What we do today is what matters most."
"You are never too old to set another goal or to dream another dream." —CS Lewis
"Woo girl, need to kick off your shoes, got to take a deep breath, time to focus on you."—Lizzo
"Feel what you need to feel, and then let it go. Do not let it consume you."
"If the ocean can calm itself, so can you. We are both saltwater mixed with air."
"Love [is] the thing that has no fear or anxiety." —Cleo Wade
“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” —Maya Angelou
"Most people think rest and work are opposites. They're actually synergists. The more you rest, the harder you're able to work. And the more you work, the more rest becomes essential. Rest equals quality work, and quality work leads to needed rest." —Jade Teta
“The power of healing is within you. All you need to do is give your body what it needs and remove what poisons it. You can restore your own health by what you do—not by the pills you take, but by how you choose to live." —Terry Wahls
"Forgiveness doesn’t excuse the behavior, but it prevents the behavior from negatively affecting us." —Jay Shetty
“The simple act of moving your body will do more for your brain than any riddle, math equation, mystery book, or even thinking itself.” —David Perlmutter
"I now understand what it means to honor oneself, how to respect my time, my energy, my space, my soul, body, and mind. I also know when to let go of expectations, how to accept things as they are, and as they will be. I have an overwhelming amount of gratitude for my current mental, physical, and spiritual awareness!" —Michelle Frustere
"When you're feeling down, dim the lights and dance your heart out in front of the mirror." —Raquel Hernandez
"When life gets blurry adjust your focus." —Selene Ponce
"Put yourself at the top of your to-do list every single day and the rest will fall into place." —Tori Bredehoeft
"Don't forget to drink water and get some sun. You're basically a houseplant with more complicated emotions." —Dillon Lammers
“I realized that the foundation of everything I did began with how I took care of myself. Changing my thoughts changed my life. I workout my soul and spirit daily just like I move my body, get sleep, and fuel myself with nutritious foods, and the results have been powerful.” —Danika Brysha
Special offer: Get a free 30-minute live stream self-care class to learn skills like visualizing, manifesting, habit forming, goal setting, meditation, and more with Danika Brysha, self-care coach. Visit Self Care Society and use code PRIMALKITCHEN at checkout to grab your free class.