When's the last time you gave yourself an entire hour of self-care time? Spending even one hour without distractions, demands, phones ringing, emails dinging, and anything else that drains your time and energy is essential. But figuring out what to do and how to squeeze in time can be a challenge.
Defining self care is different for every individual, but according to clinical psychologist Natalie Christine Dattilo, PhD, it should include more than just sleep, eating well, and finding connection. "Beyond the basics are activities that we don’t often associate with self-care, the internal ones: the way we think about ourselves, the way we talk to ourselves, the beliefs we have about what we are capable of, the ideas we have about our worth, our sense of self-confidence and self-respect," she says.
Whether you're focusing on the basics or beyond, self care is crucial to our overall well-being. "Without self care, we compromise our mental wellness and our ability to cope with life’s inevitable curveballs," says Dr. Dattilo. Keep reading below for more reasons to create an uninterrupted hour of self care and how to find what type of self care best fits your needs.
3 benefits of taking an uninterrupted hour of self care
Self care improves resilience and prevents burnout
When the pressures of work, deadlines, and other life commitments build, it's usually the hardest time to give yourself a break. But doing so is key to helping prevent burnout and promoting resilience when times are tough. "Carving out time each day for self care helps us develop greater self-reliance; strengthens our sense of empowerment, autonomy, personal control, and self-efficacy; and better protects us against the psychological wear and tear of never-ending obligations, responsibilities, and deadlines," says Dr. Dattilo.
Self care boosts self-esteem and self-worth
Self care is one of those things that tends to get pushed to the back burner. To some people, that's an act of selflessness. But in reality, according to Dr. Dattilo, not allowing yourself time for self care is a sign that you should check in on your sense of self-worth.
"When we practice self care and make our wellness a priority, that behavior sends an important message back to us. It says we are doing okay," Dr. Dattilo says. "It also says we are worth the time and effort it takes to do these things."
Staying well helps others
Now more than ever, we understand that every person's health has the ability to affect other people. Prioritizing mental health and self care is essential when you are a caretaker, parent, or just want to be there for the people around you. "We often take better care of each other when we take better care of ourselves," says Dattilo.
How to use the ESCAPE acronym to find what self-care practice fits your needs
Doing an hour of self-care sounds great. But what about those days when you finally find an hour to yourself and aren't sure what you really need? Enter the ESCAPE acronym, aka the six science-backed self-care buckets to turn to when you have an hour of uninterrupted self-care time. Dattilo says she uses this as a checklist when she wants to be reminded about the self-care practices that work.
"All of these are available to us without any special equipment or appointment, are free, and can be done at home with as little or as much time as you have," says Dattilo.
Breaking down the ESCAPE acronym
Exercise or physical activity
Moving your body is one form of self-care, and it can look like a lot of different things. The key is doing what you want, or what you feel moved to do that day. Exercise does not have to mean white-knucling your way through a HIIT class if that's not your thing. Go for a walk, bike ride, swim, dance—really, anything that gets you moving counts.
Sleep or rest
I don't know about you, but when I'm sleep deprived or tired, I'm definitely not my best self. Besides the health reasons you don't want to skimp on sleep, when it comes to mental and emotional health, sleep helps you live your best life. Don't forget that sleep and rest are not the same thing, although both deserve places on your self-care list.
Connect with others or myself
It's natural to crave connection as humans, and these days, finding a true sense of connection can be really hard. Connecting with others can happen over screens, sure, but nothing beats the feeling of connecting with someone you love IRL. But if that's not possible, virtual connections beat not connecting at all. That goes for your relationship with yourself, too. Make time to do whatever helps you feel connected to yourself, whether that means journaling or doing something you love.
Appreciate or gratitude practice
Gratitude journaling can be a powerful tool, but it's not the only way to practice gratitude. Telling others you appreciate them is one way, as is reflecting on the things you are most thankful for.
Play or pleasure
Play is one term that adults don't throw around enough. Find out what feels playful to you and make that your self-care practice. (Here are 20 ideas to get you started if you're stumped.)
It's no secret that sexual pleasure is also a vital part of wellness, and pleasure is most definitely self-care.
Focusing on breathing, whether it's a single breathing exercise in a stressful moment or adopting a full-on practice, can help you calm your nervous system. Take some time to find a breathwork practice that works for you. Breathwork meditations, for example, can help you feel more calm and collected throughout your days, and only take a few minutes.
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