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How to create a self-care routine that actually sticks

Plus, a free downloadable self-care planning worksheet and tips to get you started.

Curology Team Avatar
by Curology Team
Updated on Jul 6, 2023 • 7 min read
Medically reviewed by Nicole Hangsterfer, PA-C
Man enjoying skincare routine as part of self care routine
Curology Team Avatar
by Curology Team
Updated on Jul 6, 2023 • 7 min read
Medically reviewed by Nicole Hangsterfer, PA-C
We’re here to share what we know — but don’t take it as medical advice. Talk to your medical provider if you have questions.

Self-care is not just a buzzword—it’s the act of taking the time to do things that improve your overall quality of life. Self-care is an essential part of creating a healthy lifestyle. A self-care routine can help you navigate stress, foster resilience, and improve your health. If you (like us) believe skincare = selfcare, it may even help address skincare concerns like stress acne or wrinkles

What is self-care? 

Self-care is any action you can do to take care of yourself so you can balance and maintain your emotional, mental, and physical wellbeing. This can include hygiene, nutrition, and medical care, or talking to a therapist, practicing mindful movement, and taking time to relax. Think of self-care as showing yourself small acts of kindness to create balance between the mind and body. 

A key to self-care is that it relies on heightened self-awareness. Knowing yourself better means you have a strengthened ability to break negative patterns by practicing positive routines.  Being more self-aware also helps you identify what brings you joy. In other words, self-care improves your overall chill ✨.  

8 areas of self-care 

Since we all have different wants and needs, self-care looks different for everyone. It can take some time and effort to figure out what may benefit you. However you decide to practice self-care, consider activities that balance several different areas of your life, like mind, body and spirit too.

Infographic: The 8 types of self-care

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)  lists 8 main areas of self-care: 

  1. Physical acts of self-care for the body can include nutrition, exercise, and getting enough sleep.

  2. Psychological (intellectual) acts of self-care challenges your mind can include pursuing education, reading books, or doing brain teasers. 

  3. Emotional acts of self-care improve mental health can include joining a support group, starting a daily journal, or exploring deep breathing techniques.  

  4. Social acts of self-care revolve around creating connection with others by having an interest in and concern for their needs. 

  5. Professional acts of self-care provide a sense of purpose and reflect personal values, interests, and beliefs.

  6. Environmental acts of self-care improve the world around you and can include adopting sustainable living practices at home, spending time outdoors, or tending to your own home.    

  7. Spiritual acts of self-care can include meditation, practicing mindfulness, or studying religion and spirituality.      

  8. Financial acts of self-care can include drafting a budget, starting in a 401K, or making smarter choices about your finances. 

Why is self-care important? 

An effective self-care routine has a number of proven health benefits, including:  

Even small acts of self-care in your daily life can have a positive impact on your physical and mental health. 

Why is mental health important?  

The National Institute of Mental Health defines mental health as the condition of a person’s emotional, psychological, and social wellbeing. Mental health is neurological, so it affects the way you can think and feel on the inside, but also how you act and interact with people on the outside. 

Mental and physical health are equal partners in your overall health. Nearly 1 in 5 adults in the US live with a mental illness each year. These include  anxiety, depression, eating disorders, post traumatic stress orders, and psychosis. While a self-care routine may not cure a mental health challenge on its own, it can help you cope with symptoms. 

Seeking professional help for a mental health concern

If you think you may be experiencing a mental health challenge, help is out there! Reach out to a trusted friend, family member or a medical provider to share your feelings. Virtual options in healthcare, including coaching and therapy, have made mental health care more accessible than ever. 

If you need help right now, these resources are free: 

  • Mental Health America

  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline  (988): a 24/7 confidential hotline to support people in emotional distress.

  • SAMHSA (800-662-4357):  a 24/7 confidential hotline to support people in substance abuse recovery. 

  • Crisis Textline (741741): text a crisis counselor to get immediate help, even when you can’t make a call. 

  • Psychology Today: search online to find a therapist or psychiatrist licensed to practice in your state—many have sliding scales and offer telehealth visits!

  • Apps like BetterHelp or Talkspace

(These numbers are only available in the United States. If you’re in another country, search Google for similar resources available to you.)

How to create a self-care plan 

A self-care routine takes time, effort, and consistency to work. A monthly plan gives you the opportunity to regularly evaluate what’s working or not working. Once you find a groove, it’ll be easier to create a long term self-care plan.   

Free Self Care Routine Planning Worksheet for Adults

Next, download our self-care planning worksheet or use a personal notebook to jot down your notes. 

Step 1: Evaluate your current habits

What’s happening in your life? Take a moment to consider how you're currently feeling and what you're doing to cope. Acknowledge your stressors and potentially negative coping mechanisms. 

Step 2: Identify your self-care needs. 

On your self-care planning worksheet, write down a goal you would like to achieve by practicing self-care. This can include a list of all your physical, mental, and emotional needs. Consider what you value most in your day-to-day life when developing this goal. 

Step 3: Write down practices that can support these needs

Using the 8 areas of self-care, brainstorm a list of potential activities that could bring you energy, joy, peace, relaxation, or satisfaction. You can add as many or as few activities as you’d like. Don’t set yourself up to fail though; keep the list achievable. 

Step 4: Pencil them into your daily or weekly schedule

Find time throughout your day or week to practice any of the activities identified above. Start small (one activity per week) to avoid overwhelming your schedule with events and increase your frequency as needed. Choose rewarding activities to start as a way to stay motivated.

Step 5: Make a list of your supporters

Write down a short list of friends, family, or community that you can lean on to support your self-care goal. If there are people that can cheer you on from the sidelines, walk with you on your journey, and hold you accountable, then you’re much more likely to stick to your plan. 

Step 6: Remove any barriers

A barrier is an unproductive or potentially harmful coping mechanism that may get in the way of your self-care plan. You’ll need to reduce and eventually eliminate them one by one. Start by picking the most detrimental habit and replace it with a self-care practice instead.

how to build a self care routine in six simple steps

How to find time for self-care

  • Remind yourself that self-care is all about taking care of you! Accept imperfection, practice self compassion, and treat yourself with small acts of kindness.  

  • Find activities that bring you joy, feelings of fulfillment or relaxation. Try to avoid doing things you don’t feel motivated to do. 

  • Plan and schedule ahead. Spontaneity is great, but you’re more likely to stick to a routine if you dedicate time and space to the activity. If you find that you're neglecting a certain aspect of your self-care, adapt your plan to accommodate. 

  • Self-care doesn’t have to break the bank. Yoga retreats and spa treatments are a treat, but there are plenty of smart and savvy activities you can try that won’t cost you a dime.  

One of the most common reasons people give for not participating in self-care is a lack of time or energy. You may feel overwhelmed by an already demanding schedule or just feel like spending time on yourself is selfish. 

We’re here to remind you that self-care isn’t selfish; it’s an act of kindness and self-compassion. Studies show that practicing self-compassion may increase motivation and make it easier to deal with stressful situations. Investing time into your self-care practice can improve your quality of life in more ways than one.

Self-care routine ideas

To get you started on your self-care plan, we’ve compiled a short list of self-care activities you can use to inspire your own routine: 


  • Exercise for 30 minutes every day 

  • Get 7-8 hours of sleep every night  

  • Add fresh fruits or vegetables to every meal to up your nutritional intake 

Psychological (Intellectual) 

  • Practice mindfulness 

  • Pursue a special interest (cooking, drawing, sewing, team sports, anything goes!) 

  • Challenge yourself to a brain teaser (crossword, puzzle, or sudoku)  


  • Compile a list of everything you are grateful for

  • Meet with a mental health professional

  • Journal your thoughts and feelings to process your emotions 


  • Call a friend to catch-up 

  • Spend quality time with loved ones

  • Make friends by trying a new activity like volunteering


  • Celebrate your academic or career milestones  

  • Learn a new professional skill or certification

  • Update your resume


  • Clean your home or work environment

  • Plant an indoor or outdoor garden 

  • Try forest bathing


  • Meditate for 10 minutes every day  

  • Read inspiring books to expand your perspective 

  • Practice a chant or prayer  


  • Meet a financial planner to learn about financial health

  • Keep a budget

  • Start an emergency or “rainy day” fund 

Skincare as self-care

Regularly practicing a skincare routine can be a part of self-care. Skincare routines are a purposeful way to honor the body by taking the time to care and tend to its needs.

Skincare routines can be mindful. Enjoying the sensory experience of different textures of our products, layering soothing moisturizers or oils, and massaging tense facial muscles are just some of the ways skincare can benefit us, inside and out. If you’re consistent, you’ll likely start to see positive physical results, which should keep you motivated to continue the ritual.

Image of Woman Holding Curology Custom Skincare Formula

If skincare is part of your self-care journey, Curology can help you create a skincare routine that addresses your skincare concerns. You can even get your first month of Curology for free* (just pay $4.95 to cover shipping and handling)! Take a quick skin quiz, snap a few selfies, and one of our dermatology providers will review your info. If Curology is right for you, we’ll send you a bottle of your Custom Formula to tackle your unique skin concerns, plus any of our recommended skincare products. 

Get your personalized skincare routine with Curology

Get your personalized skincare routine with Curology

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Ready to kick off your self-care plan? Let’s go! 

Disclaimer: The goal of this article is to provide information, not medical advice. Curology providers are here to support you on your skin journey, but they cannot diagnose or treat mental health conditions. 

*Cancel anytime. Subject to consultation. Results may vary.

• • •
Our medical review process:We’re here to tell you what we know. That’s why our information is evidence-based and fact-checked by medical experts. Still, everyone’s skin is unique—the best way to get advice is to talk to your healthcare provider.
Curology Team Avatar

Curology Team

Nicole Hangsterfer Avatar

Nicole Hangsterfer, PA-C

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