Sustainable Living

What is Sustainable Self Care and How to Practice it

The start to this year has been tough. Add in the fact that we’re years into a pandemic and things feel exhausting. This is why self care has been at the top of my mind lately as I’ve been in serious need of it. Self care these days seems to be synonymous with “treating oneself,” which has gotten me thinking about what sustainable self care looks like.

Can self care be sustainable and eco-friendly? I’m sharing a few thoughts on why I think sustainable self care exists.

Sustainable Self Care
Photo via Pixabay/tinytribes

What is Self Care?

First, let’s break down some details on what self care is.

Self care will look different for everyone, but the goal will be the same. Self care is actions you choose to take for the benefit of your mental, physical, and overall well-being.

Why Practice Self Care?

Practicing self care means that you are giving yourself time, support, and nourishment so that you are able to be fully present in all areas of your life.

Woman in window seat
Photo via Pixabay/iqbalnuril

What Does Self Care Look Like?

Each one of us is beautifully different and that means we will need different sources of replenishment. What works to bring me rest might not be what works for you and that’s okay! Some people will relish in the thought of a luxurious, candle-lit bubble bath; others will cringe at the thought of having to sit in a tub.

Giving yourself time to explore and experiment with different self care ideas is in itself a self care practice. Since these things take time and time is a precious resource, some reflection can help zero in on where to start your self care journey.

Questions to ask yourself to discover what self care looks like for you:

  • When do I feel most at peace?
  • What activities leave me feeling rested? (and/or Energized? Relaxed? Calm?)
  • What helps my brain disconnect from the busyness of life?
  • What or who helps me process the tough moments in my life?
  • Who do I think of when I need help?
  • What sights, sounds, and smells bring me joy?
  • When was the last time I was most relaxed, happy, and/or fulfilled? What was happening in those moments?
  • What is my guilty pleasure?
  • What do I need a break from?
  • What do I wish I made time for?
  • What hobbies or activities do I miss doing?
  • Where in my day can I find 5 minutes to give to myself? 10 minutes? An hour?

What Self Care is Not

Self care seems to have become retail therapy. If we look any advertisement, it will be selling us some sort of peace of mind. But self care is about more than a purchase.

Here are some thoughts on what self care is not:

1. Self care is not large, elaborate purchases or experiences (it can be, but this is not a sustainable self care practice if done all of the time).

2. Self care is not expensive, causing harm to your pocket book or self.

3. Self care is not something that always has to be done alone. Sometimes being alone is good, but sometimes being with supportive people is good too.

4. Self care is not always done in large chunks of time. Sometimes brief moments are enough of a loving gesture to oneself and can be more impactful.

5. Self care is not an instant fix to all the stress and problems in life. Instead, it is an ongoing practice that can help build resiliency and can help you through the messiness of life.

nature path
Photo via Pixabay/VenusMars86

What is Sustainable Self Care?

Sustainable self care is a shift away from the mindset that “stuff” is what we need to practice self care. Self care goes much deeper and much further than a simple purchase. I’m certainly guilty of a bout of retail therapy in my life, but it’s important to acknowledge the fleeting positive impact that shopping has on our mental health when compared to the financial and environmental cost of impulse purchases.

My Sustainable Self Care Routine

For me, self care is a continuous and ongoing process. It is small moments through my day as well as larger intentional actions I take for myself. My needs and wants may change from time to time, but I wanted to share some of my self care actions to hopefully encourage you to think about how you care for yourself.

My smaller self care actions can look like this:
– Drinking my morning coffee out of my favourite mug.
– Turning off the news for a day (or longer, if needed!).
– Naming/identifying big emotions when I feel them and acknowledging that the feelings are there.
– Stopping to look out my window and seeing how the trees are growing or which birds are visiting.
– Making to do lists with larger tasks broken down into smaller pieces so I can see and acknowledge my progress.
– Preparing healthy lunches to take to work.

My larger self care actions can look like this:
– Going for a long walk.
– Daily yoga videos or other exercise at home.
– Scheduling an appointment with my counsellor.
– Setting aside time every morning to drink my coffee and write in my journal.
– Spending time refinishing furniture and upcycling items.
– Planning time to read books during my day.
– Watching a cheesy dance movie.

When my self care ideas take the form of a purchase, I try and shop small and local and also look into sustainable purchases, like my cork yoga mat.

Person writing in notebook
Photo via Pixabay/iqbalnuril

Sustainable Self Care Ideas and Inspiration

If you’re needing inspiration because you are in a self-care rut or because you are unsure where to get started, here are some ideas to inspire you. I really encourage you to write down ideas as they come to you and to try them out as you have time. Not everything will be nourishing for everybody, so cross out what doesn’t work and move onto the next thing. You are worth taking the time to care for yourself.

Here are some ideas to start inspiring your sustainable self care routines and habits:

10 ideas when you have only minutes

  1. Do some stretches.
  2. Take some deep breaths.
  3. Think of a few things you are grateful for.
  4. Make a to-do list of the things you’ve done already and cross them off–celebrate your wins!
  5. Dance to your favourite song.
  6. Watch a video that makes you laugh.
  7. Check out your favourite meme account on Instagram.
  8. Journal down some thoughts.
  9. Get outside into the fresh air.
  10. Close your eyes (or not) and identify what you’re feeling in the moment.


10 ideas for when you have longer stretches of time

  1. Journal your thoughts.
  2. Go for a long walk, run, or to the gym for some exercise.
  3. Take yourself somewhere that helps you feel relaxed or energized.
  4. Get creative–paint, draw, colour, craft, scrapbook, dance or whatever creative medium works for you.
  5. Cook yourself your favourite meal.
  6. Make your favourite beverage and relax with a good book.
  7. Explore resources that help teach self compassion.
  8. Call someone who lifts you up and have a phone or video date with them.
  9. Book an appointment with a therapist or counsellor.
  10. Listen to a guided meditation.

For even more ideas, Molly at Transatlantic Notes has some self care tips and ideas for when you don’t have the energy to do anything. Check out her post to read more here.

Sustainable Self Care for You

Self care doesn’t have to be big and extravagant. It doesn’t have to look like the stereotypical image of a candle lit bubble bath (though there’s nothing wrong with that!). Sustainable self care simply needs to help you nourish your well-being.

What does your sustainable self care routine look like?

Cork Yoga Mat

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13 Comments

  • Michelle (Boomer Eco Crusader)

    This is sich an excellent post with some great ideas. I agree that self care doesnโ€™t have to cost a ton of money or take a lot of time. For me, listening to music, getting outdoors for a walk or discovering a new YouTube workout are the best forms of self care.

    • A Sustainably Simple Life

      Thank you Michelle! ๐Ÿ™‚
      Those are great self care ideas. Music really can work wonders some days!

  • katejones73

    What a great post! I often think the term ‘self-care’ is overused, and agree that it doesn’t need to be extravagant or expensive. For me, a walk in nature, a yoga class or taking a book to a coffee shop are my favourite ways to care for myself : )

    • A Sustainably Simple Life

      Thank you so much! ๐Ÿ™‚
      I’ve really missed taking a book to a coffee shop since Covid started. I can’t wait to get back in that habit again!

  • Caroline

    I love these ideas! Drinking tea out of my morning tea cup is one of my forms of self-care too ๐Ÿ™‚ I love the suggestions you gave for different lengths of time x

    • A Sustainably Simple Life

      Thanks Caroline! I’m glad to know I’m not the only one with a specific morning cup. I swear it makes a difference to the drink! ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • Em

    This is one of the best posts I’ve seen about self care! The questions to ask yourselves you’ve written down really resonated with me, and the ideas also (I also love a good dance movie……) I’m saving this post, thank you so much for sharing x
    Em – earthlyem.co.uk

    • A Sustainably Simple Life

      Thanks so much Em! Thatโ€™s really kind of you to say. Iโ€™m so glad some of these questions and ideas resonated with you ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Stuart Danker

    I love the thought of finding out what self-care means to use, because one person’s care might be another person’s torture. But I also believe that self-care isn’t about shopping or going to the spa, but doing the necessary stuff that may suck sometimes, like exercising. Anyway, thanks for this post!

    • A Sustainably Simple Life

      Thanks Stuart!
      I totally agree with that sentiment. I intentionally exercise as an act of self care but that definitely isn’t for everyone

What are your thoughts? Let us know in the comments!

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