January 31, 2020

4 Steps To Creating Self-Care Habits That Actually Stick

By Kristin DeCou

Many of us love the idea of self-care. We focus on it for a few days, renewing our desire to take time for ourselves. Then, before we know it, life gets in the way. Self-care is more than just getting a mani-pedi or booking that single massage. Self-care is about becoming the type of person you want to become. How can you design self-care habits that stick? Try these four simple steps.

Step 1: Prioritize What “Self-Care” Means to You

Self-care is “any activity that we do deliberately in order to take care of our mental, emotional, and physical health.” It’s personal. To identify which self-care habits are ideal for you, begin by asking yourself what you value, when you feel most cared for, what makes you feel most refreshed. Be specific about activities. Do you value independence and love being in nature?  Maybe you like taking a walk outdoors or going on a weekly hike. 

When you feel stressed or overwhelmed, what helps you calm down? It might be listening to music, journaling or meeting a friend for coffee. Identify the top three to five activities that help you feel like your best self, even when everything else feels out of control. These should reflect your values and what brings you a deeper sense of calm and peace. Keep those in mind as we head to Step 2. 

Step 2: Use Three Simple (But Powerful) Words

We can thank Martha Beck for pointing out how three simple (but powerful) words can help you achieve your goals. To start, think of what you really want for yourself this year. Not just what you tell others, but what you truly desire. Now, look into the future, let’s say six months down the road, and ask yourself how your life would be different if you had what you desire. 

Keeping what you desire in mind, list three adjectives that describe how you feel in your ideal scenario (this is the most important part). “For instance,” shares Beck, “If your New Year’s resolution is to lose ten pounds — a noun-verb goal — but your adjectives are strong, confident, and healthy, you might realize that your actual aim is to get fit…Thanks to adjectives, you can fine-tune your strategy: Swap a fad diet for a meeting with a nutritionist, and sign up for weight training classes at the gym.”

By changing the language of what you want, you’re changing your identity. Your identity has the most powerful influence over your ability to generate and keep good habits.

Step 3: Make It a Habit

If you’re a business owner, one of your goals may be to automate your business. We often forget that habits are the best tools for automating your life. As Gretchen Rubin explains, “With habits, we don’t make decisions, we don’t use self-control, we just do the thing we want ourselves to do — or that we don’t want to do.” 

“Goals are good for setting a direction, but systems are best for making progress,” writes James Clear in his book Atomic Habits. So, how can you turn your self-care desires into a system? 

  1. Reminder: When you find yourself in a stressful situation or feel depleted, remind yourself that you have a choice! Set an intention to do one of your self-care activities.  
  2. Routine: Add the activity to your calendar and make it a routine. Set aside time to do those activities on a regular basis.
  3. Reward: Treat yourself. Let the activity be the reward, or find ways to make it extra special, including getting your inside world – your mind and heart – put right. 

When you have systems for staying consistent, when you have alarms and accountability, you’ll be amazed by what you can achieve. All it takes is creating an environment where you can be consistent.


Used with permission of @heyamberrae 

Kristin DeCou, founder of Modern Refresh. Courtesy of Kristin DeCou.

Step 4: Be Gracious With Yourself

Don’t let yourself get bogged down trying to “do it all”. That rarely works. Narrow your self-care habits into a few good things that nourish your body, mind, and spirit.  The important thing is to be gracious to yourself, and make self-care a part of your life. Otherwise, avoiding self-care can lead to burnout and unnecessary stress on mental health.

It is possible to make self-care a consistent part of your life. Lean into self-care and the power of habits. You will feel how challenging it is to keep good habits going for more than a few days, but once your habits are established, they can stick around forever. Keep in mind that you also have permission to switch things up and do something else that energizes you, even if it’s something different from the activity you have scheduled.

May this year embody more of the things that make you feel alive and refreshed – cultivating a more “care-full” YOU ready to take on the world. 

Kristin DeCou, founder of Modern Refresh and Certified KonMari Consultant, helps women – from moms to solopreneurs – organize and uplift their space to make room for what matters most. Inspired by Marie Kondo, live in the LA area and want to get organized? Start here.

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