Finding time for self-care can be tricky. We may be self-isolating, but for many of us, life is as busy as it’s ever been. We’re working, taking care of family members, babysitting grandkids via Skype, not to mention worrying ourselves silly about the pandemic.

Our ‘always on’ world doesn’t help matters either. Whether it’s watching the news or scrolling obsessively through our social media feeds, we’re spending a lot of time glued to our screens.

Creating me-time to do the things that keep us healthy, happy, and emotionally stable is more important than ever. But how do we do that and what do we prioritize?

Michelle Segar — author of No Sweat and one of the world’s leading researchers in the science of sustainable health behaviors— says one of the most important things we can do is identify the one thing that keeps us energized, plugged in and ready to face the world.

That One Thing Is Your #1 Self-Care Habit

Michelle’s #1 self-care habit is sleep, and her husband’s is exercise. Mine is also exercise. If I don’t break a decent sweat at least six days out of seven, my chances of having a bad day increase. A lot.

Likewise, when I do work out on a regular basis my life improves exponentially. Coupling exercise with a morning meditation practice knocks it out the ballpark, but so long as I get my daily fix of endorphins, I’m good.

It doesn’t matter if it’s getting a good night’s sleep, exercising, meditating, or eating well, we all have that one self-care habit that ensures we’ll have consistently great days. Days that make us feel like everything is right with the world.

Why Is Self-Care So Important?

First, let’s look at why self-care matters. Putting yourself first is often seen as selfish, especially when you’re a parent or a caregiver. Even in a relationship, it’s sometimes frowned upon to make yourself a priority.

Our human instinct to nurture causes us to put the needs of others first. But common sense tells us otherwise. Compromising our health, happiness, and wellbeing isn’t a smart move. After all, you can’t give what you don’t have.

What’s Your #1 Self-Care Habit?

If you already know what your #1 self-care habit is good for you, feel free to move right along to the next section. If you don’t, it’s time to do a little digging to find out what it is.

According to Brian Johnson – the founder and leader of Optimize.me, an online learning platform that promises more wisdom in less time – the easiest way to do this is to ask yourself two questions:

  • What’s the one thing you do when you’re most on? The thing that helps you ensure you have a great day?
  • More to the point, what’s the one thing that if you DON’T do, you risk having a really bad day?

When I have a bad day, I look to what I did (or didn’t do) the day before for clues. For example, drinking too much red wine with dinner leads to a hangover, which results in me skipping my morning run.

Figuring out your #1 self-care habit isn’t that difficult. The tough part is being honest about the things you’re doing to sabotage yourself.

Let’s say getting a good night’s sleep is what stands between you and an awesome day. If you insist on binge-watching Netflix until the early hours, you’re not going to have a so-so day, let alone an awesome one.

You already know this, so it’s more a matter of prioritizing what’s important. Sometimes you have to give up something good to get something better. For me, having a great workout is way more rewarding than a few glasses of organic Shiraz.

How Can You Incorporate Self-Care into Your Daily Life?

If you’re in a relationship, start by looking at how you can help and support one another in your self-care efforts. For example, if sleep is important to you, ask your spouse to watch TV in the lounge instead of in bed.

Likewise, if an early morning meditation practice is their thing, you can commit to keeping a low profile until they’re done. Sticking to your self-care habit is much easier when you have support, so figure out how best to make it happen.

If you’re flying solo, then it’s on you to make your #1 self-care habit stick. Avoiding bad habit triggers helps, but it’s important to have a clear idea of what your ‘why’ is as well.

I know that I want to remain fit and active for as long as possible. If exercise doesn’t take precedence, I’ll run the risk of not being as mobile as I’d like when I’m older. The thought of that motivates me to stick to my #1 self-care habit no matter what. (Even if it means giving up red wine.)

Habit maestro James Clear suggests changing your environment as a way to make new habits stick.

Going back to our Netflix example from earlier, you could move the TV out of the bedroom. Taking it a step further, set the timer to turn it off at bedtime. Sure, you could just turn it back on again, but you’re not going to do that, are you?

For additional inspiration, take a look at TED.com’s playlist on the importance of self-care, which includes thought-provoking talks from the likes of Brené Brown, Kelly McGonigal, and others.

As the playlist descriptor says, if you’re too busy to take care of yourself these talks offer simple ways to stay healthy – both emotionally and physically.

How much importance do you place on self-care? Do you make it a habit to take time out for yourself? Or are you in the habit of always putting others first? Let’s have a conversation!

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