With the start of a new year (and decade), the pressure is on as we set high goals for ourselves. I reached out to eleven girlfriends and asked them to reflect on the question, “How do you practice self-care?”  

We all struggle with self-care, and as women, we face a ton of stress from societal pressures and expectations which differ from men. And we often find ourselves restless from spending an overwhelming amount of time and energy taking care of others. That’s why I initiated this collaboration—as a gentle reminder for all of us to take better care of ourselves.

Here we share practical self-care tips and our not-so-perfect routines:

Recognize signs of burnout

“For me, self-care always starts with recognizing that I’m burnt out. As an introvert, the week can sometimes be mentally and emotionally exhausting with a lot of social interaction, so I’ll plan ahead and find a day to set aside where I can be on my own to recharge. My “me” day involves doing exercise to get some much-needed endorphins, a pampering session (getting my nails done, doing a face mask), and being productive by getting some errands done. I’ll also usually break up the day by throwing on YouTube or Netflix and doing some painting. By the end of the day, I’m usually pretty eager to get going on stuff for next week.”

—Anita Kumar, Optometrist, Toronto, ON

Write to self-reflect

“Writing in my journal is a very big part of my self-care routine. Finding time to have these moments of self-reflection helps me make sense of situations I encounter in my daily life. When I’m able to write down all my thoughts, it’s easier for me to see things more clearly and find solutions to my problems. In addition, having the freedom to express myself in writing allows me to get things off my mind in one of the ways I feel the most comfortable. I would say having this type of self-care is essential to maintaining my mental health.”

—Karen Pun, Food Safety and Quality Assurance Specialist, Toronto, ON

Schedule in self-care activities

“I have an outline of my self-care routine and I like to switch it up to keep it interesting. I block out 3-4 days ahead of each month and make a list of activities I’m going to do; going to a dance class or trying a new recipe. The evening before my scheduled self-care day, I allocate a few hours to catch-up and make a list of outstanding family or work responsibilities that I will put to the side to clear my mind. I go to sleep early without an alarm and I make my favourite coffee first thing when I wake up. It isn’t perfect but creating and owning this entire process helps me mentally ease into the day and enjoy my self-care activities.”

—Gloria Tang, Registered Nurse, Toronto, ON

Try new things

I practice self-care by trying new things. It could be as simple as going to a new café or restaurant with friends and ordering something I’ve never tried before. If it’s my turn to cook dinner at home, then I browse for new recipes I can make with whatever ingredients we have, like the Food Network show, ‘Chopped’. If there’s an event happening that I’m interested in, I try to attend it. Don’t be afraid to try something you’ve never tried before because you never know if you’ll like it.”

—Maica Jimenez, Office Administration, Montreal, QC

Take care of your body, mind and soul

“Self-care is a vital exercise everyone should practice as a part of your daily routine. I practice self-care by taking care of my body, mind, and soul. Body: I practice self-care with my body is by eating healthy, exercising and treating myself to foods that bring me happiness. Mind: I practice self-care with my mind by never taking things to heart and trying to stay within a happy mindset. Reminding myself that life is short and not to hold onto grudges. Soul: I practice self-care with my soul by always thinking positively and throwing good vibes into the universe by forgiving those who have wronged us.”

—Erim Faroque, Program Officer, Brampton, ON

Say no to commitments

“Sometimes self-care comes in the form of bubble baths, face masks, keeping up with my favourite fashion blogs, or reading a good book. Other times it comes in the form of saying no to commitments that will push me past my limits. And on some days, when there just doesn’t seem to be enough time for everything, I try to really enjoy things that I do regularly anyway. Whether that’s taking a shower, applying skincare, or choosing my outfit for the day, I try to be present in that moment, and be thankful for all the wonderful things in my life.”

—Zahra Razavi, Pharmacist, Waterloo, ON

Take better care of your skin

“There are many types of self-care, but one that I’ve been more diligent within the past year is taking better care of my skin. When my skin looks and feels good, I feel good. I exfoliate my skin at least once a week and use a special treatment such as wash off mask, sheet mask, sleep mask or my newest edition the LED therapy mask for a minimum of every two days. Sure, using wash off mask, sheet mask or LED therapy mask requires a dedication of 15 minutes where some may think it’s a waste of time, but I like to see it as spending some quality ‘me’ time and to meditate. Taking care of your mind is as important as taking physical care of your body. Love yourself by taking care of both your mind and body.”

—Donna S, Accountant, Toronto, ON 

Exercise regularly

“I practice self-care everyday by trying to be more physically active. I exercise at least once a week and try to stand, walk, or take the stairs as much as possible. I also like to let my mind breathe, by entertaining myself with light, positive content (Youtube is great for that). I have a budget for self-care and use it for classes or hobbies of interest. Prayer is another important aspect of self-care, as it helps you release frustrations, reflect and focus on what matters most, as well as process life’s ups and downs. Self-care for me is also sharing with others when possible.”

—Francoise Keddy, Non-for-Profit Program Specialist, Toronto, ON

Practice gratitude

 “I practice self-care everyday from drinking a substantial amount of water to doing my skincare routine at night. There are many self-care practices, but not all of them are suitable for everyone. The following are examples of self-care practices that I do regularly. First, cuddling with my dog or being under a warm blanket allows me to calm my mind and live in the moment. Second, writing down at least 3 things that I’m grateful for that happened each day helps me practice gratitude and stay grounded. Lastly, singing along to songs that best express my current emotions helps me get in touch with my values and what matters to me most. I could go on with all the self-care practices that have a long-term effect for my mind and body, but the trick is to find something that you genuinely enjoy that fits with your lifestyle and values.”

—Mary Duarte, Library Staff, Mississauga, ON 

Manage your energy

 “Take the time to reflect on how you feel and why you feel a certain way. Be honest with yourself. As someone who constantly wants to maximize my time and accomplish as much as possible, I am sometimes guilty of taking on too much. I am learning that it is equally important to manage your energy as you do with your time. Listen to your mind and body. It is okay to take things slowly. To recalibrate. Sometimes, the key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities based on what you need and how you feel.”   

– Baris L, Policy Advisor, Toronto, ON 

Practice positive self-talk  

“I practice self-care by making a conscious effort to be positive when I speak about myself to others. When people ask me to reflect upon my accomplishments, I say positive things. Yes, modesty is cool but I never try to bring myself down. Same goes with my failures – I try to stay positive and encourage myself. I’m a strong believer that our minds register EVERYTHING we say. This is especially true when I talk to myself because even if no one else is around, a very important person is still listening – ME!  Eventually, positivity has become a part of my everyday speech, mannerisms, and thoughts and has led to my overall happiness. This practice of self-care doesn’t just benefit me but also the people around me, because let’s face it…a positive, happy person is way more fun to be around than a buzzkill.”

—Anna Koshy, Project Manager, Montreal, QC

I also reflected on my own question and came up with this:

Build self-awareness

“It all starts with the mind. Any time I catch myself overthinking or clouded with distorted thoughts, I do my best to reframe them into positive and actionable ones. Leaning on my support system and practicing gratitude through journaling helps me put things into perspective. Having a routine and tracking down my progress also helps me look at the bigger picture to see what works for me and what doesn’t. This allows me to create better habits and boundaries for my physical, mental, and emotional well-being. I try to focus on quality sleep and regular exercise, so finding accountability partners helps me stay on track. At the end of the day, I remind myself to take things one day at a time and to honour my growth and progress, rather than seek perfection.”

—Tina Chow, Content Creator, Toronto, ON