Alright, Nico. Why are you sitting around in bed? How useless. You’re wasting your time. Again. Why can’t you control your own thoughts and emotions? You know, rationally, that nothing will come of moping around all day. And yet. And yet.
These are words I spoke to myself just the other day. I was having an off day. This may mean different things to different people, but for me it was a day when I felt too down to get out of bed and perform any typical daily task. This unfortunately is one intermittent manifestation of depression, but even while knowing that, it was difficult for me to forgive myself for how I was feeling.
Even for those who are not experiencing any form of mental illness, having an off day is usually an unwelcome addition to one’s journey through life. Maybe you feel less productive than usual. Maybe you feel frustrated about a specific situation, or a general overarching pattern that you feel stuck in. In any case, it is easy to fall into the rut of self-criticism on days like these.
Let me remind you of one important fact that is often forgotten. Human beings are not machines. We react, make mistakes, feel emotions, and we need breaks. I’m not just talking about a trip out with your friends or taking a nice walk. Those are important too, but I’m talking about mental breaks – breaks you give yourself purely out of self-forgiveness. This is meaningfully saying to yourself, “Hey man, I know it’s been rough lately, but you’re doing a great job, and you will get through this”.
I get it – it can be tough to show this self-love to yourself. It’s a deeply embedded habit to berate yourself and “kick your butt back into gear”. Habits are difficult to replace, especially when they take the form of a mental automatic thought pattern. This is why I believe that when the going gets rough, we should give time to immerse ourselves in practice – through a self-care date. Instead of kicking (just) our butts back into gear, we should gently maneuver our whole bodies, butts and all, toward a healthier, rejuvenated, and motivated state.
Photo by Alexandra Gorn
What is a self-care date?
A self-care date is a set period of time that you schedule to perform mindful, pleasurable activities. There is no right or wrong way to do this, as long as you do your best to remain focused on your self-care activities throughout your set period. Personally, my self-care dates usually are at least half a day, and I try to have them about 4-5 times a month.
”LOL Nico, I don’t have time for that.”
You handle so much on a daily basis. You interact with other people, you get bombarded by society’s expectations of you pretty much everywhere you turn, you have responsibilities, and you try your best to maintain some form of balance in your life. You deserve to give yourself a break when one day feels off to you.
You do have the time. It behooves you to nurture yourself before your “off” day becomes an off “week” or an off “month”. Forgive yourself. You have likely had plenty of times where you felt much better about how things are going – and those times will come again. I promise. What better way to support this positive trajectory than nurturing yourself for some time?
”No, seriously. I have 3 midterms to study for, 4 final projects due, and a massive pile of paperwork for my club activities.”
That’s exactly why a self-care date is necessary! It’s a warmup for life – whatever is flooding it at the time. You will perform better if you take time for yourself.
”Actually, I’m the opposite – I’m feeling ‘off’ because I don’t have much on my plate. I don’t know where to go from here.”
A self-care date will help you to realign with yourself, and this can lead you to discover new goals and actions you’d like to take.
75 Self-Care Date Activities!!
- Mindful meditation
- Create a vision board
- Write a list of habits you want to build (morning, afternoon, evening) and create a habit tracker
- Journal (stream of consciousness)
- Let your dog walk you around your neighbourhood
- Use a bath bomb or essential oils in your bathtub and soak (maybe with some of your favourite tunes playing)
- Curate a Spotify/Apple Music/Soundcloud (etc.) playlist
- Vent art
- Cuddle with your pet(s)
- Read your favourite childhood book
- Make your bed
- Spring cleaning
- Organize your computer folders
- Change up your desktop picture and phone backgrounds
- Practice calligraphy
- Discover new music (“Discover Weekly” on Spotify is one good source)
- Clean out your closet and donate old clothes
- Aromatherapy (lavender is fantastic for relaxation)
- Use Noisli to create your own unique blend of white noise
- Do a DIY project (focusing on the process)
- Have a dance party (this can be completely solo)
- Create an aesthetic images board with different themes (Pinterest or We Heart It works well)
- Compile a list of motivational and self-love quotes
- Watch empowering TED talks
- Cook a completely new recipe – or an old favourite!
- Bake cookies!!
- Recycle old papers that you don’t need anymore
- Go for a walk and take pictures of things that inspire you or pique your curiousity
- Buy something to spruce up your living space. Like a plant (heh). I personally love bamboo and succulents because they are easy to care for and they are beautiful!
- Fold origami
- Dust all the dusty things (I don’t know what it is about dusting, but it’s so therapeutic)
- Use a face mask and lie down
- Play a PvE (probably not PvP) game that you enjoy
- Practice self-massage
- Rearrange furniture in your living spaces
- Sew a plushie using a free online template (my personal favourite: mochi plushies)
- Try a new makeup look (even if you aren’t planning to go out)
- Take a mindful shower and then use body oil or body lotion
- Purchase new stationery (pens, notebooks, etc.)
- Delete unused phone apps and discover new ones
- Organize phone folders
- Order delivery of your favourite takeout food (pho is my personal fave)
- Yoga (I highly, highly recommend Yoga with Adriene)
- Wipe screens (laptop, monitors, TV, phone, etc.)
- Take inventory of your clothes (I use an app called StyleBook)
- Spend time with a loved one (e.g., a family member, a friend, a significant other)
- Burn a nicely scented candle
- Write a short story (you do not have to post it anywhere)
- Practice mindful eating
- Check out some #girlboss youtube playlists
- Create a daily, monthly, and/or yearly intention
- Unfriend/unfollow people who do not inspire you or fill you with joy
- Get a colouring book and enjoy the process of colouring mindfully (it’s okay if you colour outside of the lines!)
- Do a tarot card reading
- Clear your computer of unused/old applications & files
- Plan a road trip with some friends
- Write a poem
- Take a social media break
- Grab a small canvas and get painting! (Watercolour or acrylic works great for beginners)
- Put on a new outfit (does not have to be new clothes, just a new outfit) and take some bomb selfies
- Light some incense
- Make yourself a cuppa joe or a cup of tea (or if these are not your…cup of tea… then lemon water works too!)
- Order delivery of your favourite food and eat it while watching your favourite movie or TV series
- Join a Discord server to talk with like-minded people (this may be more suited for my generation)
- Alternatively, join my Facebook group! We are a supportive mental wellness community that talks about self-care strategies!
- Get your task list organized for maximum productivity (while maintaining maximum self-care!)
- Play a musical instrument (if you already play, play a song that you love outside of the RCM. If you’re a massive geek like me, check out Ichigo’s Sheet Music)
- Learn how to whistle or practice whistling in tune (I have a friend with perfect pitch who can whistle the most difficult musical phrases and here I am unable to create even one note)
- If you are a blogger or YouTuber, take a look at your old content/videos to see how far you have come! Overcome that cringe! 😉
- Make handmade cards for your loved ones’ birthdays or special occasions
- Take a free Myers Briggs Type Indicator test online to find your personality type (if you’re curious, I am an INFJ)
- Sketch your ideal home or living space, and see if you can implement some of your vision into your real life space
- Air out your home by opening the windows for a while (only if you don’t have the heating/AC running)
- Record yourself saying affirmations, and listen to them (ThinkUp is a free cute little app for doing this)
- Write your own personalized self-care date list 😀
Always remember to BKTY (be kind to yourself),