My self care routines usually involve bubble baths, 12 face masks, a manicure, shopping for a new outfit, and a trip to the sauna. Frequently, when we think or talk about self care it’s with an emphasis on looks.

Search for “self care routines” on Youtube and you’ll find no shortage of Lush bath bombs being thrown into fancy tubs, lemon water in mason jars, and product placement galore.
Self care is defined as, “the practice of taking an active role in protecting one’s own well-being and happiness, in particular during periods of stress.”

It’s the new buzzword going around in the last few years, and various advertisers and companies have jumped into the self care parade, marching along, batons twirling, while they make tons of money.

In June, Birchbox released “The You-Time Report” in conjunction with their “You” campaign showing the self care behaviors of Americans. Many of the findings were not surprising. For example, “three in five people agree they often feel overwhelmed by everything that needs to be done.”

But, what is also not surprising is that companies like Birchbox are using these findings to advertise products geared toward improving the looks of consumers. Katia Beauchamp, CEO and co-founder of Birchbox said, “You deserve to enjoy the minutes you’re spending washing your hair or applying your skincare routine. We want you to be nice to yourself. We often hear from customers who tell us that their Birchbox is like a monthly gift to themselves-an indulgent moment of ‘you time.’ We were inspired to explore that further with this campaign and add a more nuanced perspective to the self care conversation.”

While I don’t disagree with her that we should always enjoy the time we spend grooming ourselves or putting on makeup, there is more to self care than beauty products. The biggest problem with self care is the lack of focus on mental health. When we’re in a dark place or suffering from a condition like depression, a body scrub will not make even the tiniest dent in making you feel better.

Not only that, but self care is now expected to look as perfect as everything else in our lives so we can show it off on Instagram. #selfcare has 18 million posts as of this writing with the majority being moisturizers, motivational quotes, and palm trees.

What can you do to make sure you have a well-rounded self care routine?

1. Decide what self care is to you

Just because you’ve been told that self-care means journaling, meditating, or eating chocolate cake, doesn’t mean you have to do those things. Maybe you hate writing, can’t sit still for more than 10 minutes and prefer vanilla ice cream.

Forcing yourself to sit and write even though you hate it would be the exact opposite of what you’re trying to do. If it’s causing you even more stress or negative feelings, don’t do it!

2. A healthy diet, and exercise you enjoy

Sometimes eating some junk food and watching your favorite movie can absolutely be self care. But, on a daily basis, how much you’re moving and what you put in your body to fuel it can have serious consequences on your mental and physical health. You don’t see Usain Bolt eating a pound of Twizzlers washed down with Dr. Pepper before sprinting down the track do you?

A March study by T.H. Chan School of Public Health found a 26% decrease in the risk of depression if someone runs for 15 minutes a day or walks for an hour.

Incorporate healthy recipes you find tasty, and exercise you truly enjoy to your self care routine. Why not yoga? It’s awesome for your mental and physical health.

3. Check in with yourself

Most people dread Monday mornings, and the week goes by in a blur of activity before they spend all weekend in their pajamas, eating a giant bowl of Captain Crunch, and binge watching Netflix, only to do it all again next week.

We can get quite complacent at times when we get used to a routine, and we frequently forget to stop and ask ourselves how we’re feeling, what our goals are, and if we’re really on the path we want to be on.

Take some time to really check in with your mental health and ask yourself if you truly feel happy on a daily basis; if the answer is no, then focus on the reasons why.

4. Listen to uplifting things

Every morning while getting ready I love to listen to uplifting videos that teach me something, like Lewis Howes “The School of Greatness” on Youtube. In it, he interviews every author, speaker, and wise person you can think of; listening to these people will give you the boost you need to start your day off right.

Music is also extremely inspirational and can give you the pep you need in your step, especially if you’re just not feeling it after rolling out of bed. My current favorites are:

Rise up: Andra Day

You Say: Lauren Daigle

5. Read things that will improve your life

If you’re in need of some inspiration that goes beyond a quick song, these books will help you:

Year Of Yes: Shonda Rimes

Yes, THE Shonda Rimes. The one who created Grey’s Anatomy, and Scandal. This badass woman wrote a memoir in which she details what happened when she promised to say “yes!” to everything that scared her.

The Little Book of Hygge: Meik Wikiing 

I wouldn’t normally list this under any kind of self help article, but practicing self care can be a heck of a lot easier when your environment is happy and cozy.

While the words “self care” are too often thrown around in a shallow manner, a massage or bubble bath can do wonders for the soul. However, don’t forget to include mental health and real inner work to your routine.

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