Exercise, of course, is pretty great, but self-care is more than just treating yourself. Self-care is not a reward, though sometimes, that could be part of it. It’s a vital piece of the ongoing process of being a human. Self-care is an attitude that says; I am responsible for myself. In other words, I am my responsibility, and I will honor that responsibility as I would anything else that is precious to me. So, let’s make a plan for using self-care to make our lives better. First, it is okay to take care of yourself; maybe it’s not just okay; it’s smart. Self-care helps prevent burnout, reducing the adverse psychological and physical effects of stress, and helps us to refocus on what’s valid and essential. This may seem intuitive, but it makes you more productive and not less to set time aside for yourself. Regardless of your productivity levels, it is important to recognize that you are a human being, which is enough to warrant compassion and kindness. Next, Ideally, before the need strikes, research outwardly and inwardly what self-care means and what works for you. There are self-care actions that can pretty much help everyone, like getting proper nutrition, exercise, enough sleep, hydrating, and taking small breaks throughout the workday. We’re linked to a list of almost 50 self-care actions, but each of us is unique. So we have to ask what actions make me feel better. It could be journaling, texting something nice to a friend. Maybe you like watching videos of Pug puppies, doing a bunch of push-ups. Whatever makes you feel better. One possible self-care action from me to you is, creating a warm and fuzzy digital file. Fill this file with good compliments you’ve received online, good memories, and favorite photos. I have to admit that I get a lot out of the positive things people say about me on the internet. To know I helped someone and am helping others makes me feel good inside and helps get me through the day. Being able to look through this file when you’re feeling down might bring you back up. You want this list to be both ample and flexible, and you may even want to put it into different categories of self-care actions. You can organize it by type of experience. After all, the self-care you need while you’re depressed may not be the same self-care that helps when you’re overwhelmed with work. Also, if other people are involved in your self-care actions, it would probably be cool to let them know that they are part of your action plan. They may not always be available, but odds are if they are a good friend, they will do their best to be available. Next, it’s best to recognize the warning signs before you need some self-care and before going into the red zone. When I have a ton of work to do and start to get overwhelmed, this is a sign that I should go for maybe a little walk to recharge the batteries. If you’re keeping a journal, you might notice a pattern or two in your behavior. Perhaps you’ll see a depressing mood to the normal or disturbed sleep. Either way, once the need becomes apparent, consult your list and follow through. That’s all I have for you right now, but please let me know if you have any other self-care tips. I would love to hear from you. In the meantime, take care of yourself, your friends, and your neighbors. It’s the right thing to do.