If you want to get in on the self-care trend, it would help to know exactly what qualifies as a self-care activity. “It’s something you really want—not have—to do,” says Jennifer Louden, one of the early proponents of self-care and author of The Woman’s Comfort Book. Sounds great, but still, how exactly do you go about doing it?
Especially for the wound-tight and the type A’s among us (no judgments—we’re in that category, too), it almost seems too vague and willy-nilly. That’s why we asked Louden for concrete tips on how to build a Saturday self-care routine that leaves you feeling like your mind and body’s needs have been taken care of, even if it’s just for a day.
Tip 1: Get Something Done Before You Start
Cross one thing off your to-do list that makes you feel accomplished, so there’s no self-imposed guilt about relaxing afterwards. “Choose a task or activity that’s deeply satisfying, even if you have to force yourself to start,” says Louden. Hers is a long run, and while exercise is an obvious choice here, yours could be anything from tackling that one work task that would otherwise hang over the whole weekend to finally taking those bags of clothes to Goodwill.
Tip 2: Ease Into It
Having a transition step between the accomplishment of the morning and your self-care time will help quiet your mind, so you can really listen to yourself when you’re deciding what activities you want to do, says Louden, who notes that many people skip this step. She recommends something that’s physically and mentally relaxing, like sitting on a park bench, taking a bath or cuing up a guided meditation on your phone.
Tip 3: Ask Yourself This Question
“What do I really want to do right now?” That’s the jump-start to your self-care. On Friday afternoon, you might be craving time to read your favorite book, but come Saturday, your dream activity might be totally different. So, rather than having a mental plan of what self-care activities you want to do, play it by ear. It could even be an activity that may seem like work. If you glance at your bookshelf and think about how great it would look if you decluttered and organized it, go for it. “But the second it starts to feel like a chore, let yourself stop and leave the books a mess,” says Louden.
Tip 4: Keep Asking Yourself That Question
Continuously asking yourself what you really want to be doing right now will prevent you from relying on what Louden calls “shadow comforts”—activities you fall back on when you just don’t want to deal with life, not ones that actually bring you a sense of happiness. Binge watching is a big shadow comfort for most people, says Louden. If you’re dying to see a specific show, do it, but ask yourself if you really want to watch another episode after the first one ends. Because watching The Crown isn’t a bad idea, but it’s probably not how you really want to spend your whole day.
Tip 5: Give Your Self-Care Some Structure
The easiest way to do this is to put a time limit on your self-care. Totally new to the idea and not sure how much you’ll enjoy it? Give yourself one hour. If, at the end, you’re still craving more me-time, do another hour. After a few weekends of adding time, you may find that you’re happiest when you have an entire afternoon and evening to do what you please, or that one to two hours is the sweet spot.