Have you ever told someone it’s not selfish to practice self-care? On the other hand, how often have you prioritized your own self-care? Be honest. Even if it’s not as often as you’d like, that’s okay. As we move into winter breaks, holiday travel, and wrapping up another year, personalized self-care is hard. I’m struggling with it, too. Let’s talk about how we can make it better.
Know Your Needs and Options
In essence, effective self-care requires honestly identifying our needs. Overwhelmed without clear deadlines? Cranky without dedicated time for emails? Pain points often indicate self-care opportunities. To that end, name your stressors. Then, list what helps. Whether it’s a clear list of projects or bright colors in your workspace, these things add balance.
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by self-care options. Common areas to explore include health, emotions, connection, spirituality, hobbies, physical spaces, finances, and work. As you explore, you’ll find some good fits and some failures. To that end, allow enough time and space for objective evaluation. If it doesn’t resonate at first, a second try might help. However, strong negative reactions or zero momentum are cues to move on. Similarly, explore more strategies in areas that strongly resonate. Consider a mix of active and passive strategies.
Keep Several Strategies in Your Toolbox
There is no magic, one-size-fits-all, works-in-every-situation self-care solution. Even with some go-to strategies, your needs will likely vary day to day. Sometimes you’ll want to be alone, while other times you’ll need connection. Outside forces like weather can also impact effectiveness. Stocking your toolbox with extra tools lets you choose the best one for each situation.
My Personalized Self-Care Strategies
|Why It Works (For Me)
|Take a walk
Walk around the library or neighborhood, alone or with a friend
|Changing scenery helps me reset, while taking a friend gets me out of my own head
|Write it out
Journal or make a list of feelings
|Words and writing help me process, and naming feelings adds specificity and helps identify best strategies
|Make time for friends
Stop to chat, share lunch, or schedule something fun
|Time with friends rebuilds connections and lets me prioritize relationships
|Create intentional space
Schedule a quiet hour or block of focused work time
|Uninterrupted time lets me dive fully into projects yet remain available to colleagues at other times, while my calendar helps keep me accountable
Work on a craft or start a new hobby
|Cross stitch helps me disconnect and reset with measurable progress, while creating for others adds extra purpose
|Make a list
Create a prioritized list of deadlines or break projects into smaller steps
|Smaller steps help me see progress, while lists help me organize deadlines to decide priorities and realistically evaluate workload
|Engage your senses
Make a playlist, post favorite pictures, or enjoy a treat
|Engaging new senses grounds me in the moment, and both music and photos evoke positive memories
|Find something good
Look for and name at least one good thing in each day
|Intentionally looking for good lets me reset and reframe, especially on bad days
Schedule Your Self-Care in Small Steps
I struggle to make space for self-care, especially when things are busy. Scheduled breaks and accountability make it easier, so you can intentionally make space for what you need. For example, schedule blocks of focused work time or establish a standing lunch with a friend. I use recurring break appointments, adjusted each day to my particular schedule. I also keep a monthly record of self-care strategies. If I’m really struggling, I ask a friend to check in or give a gentle reminder.
Self-care is a continually evolving journey. Start with small steps. To begin with, you might choose one dimension to explore and identify strategies. Or, you might choose a smaller goal as a stepping stone to a larger one. It’s an imperfect process, so reward and celebrate your progress. Whether it’s honest self-reflection or a more formal tracking system, make sure you note and celebrate your little wins.
Above all, make your self-care uniquely yours. Remember, personalized self-care is all about what YOU need in this moment. Your self-care won’t look exactly like anyone else’s and that’s okay. Drop your favorite personalized self-care strategy in the comments below, and let’s fill our toolboxes together.
Jaime Eastman is a senior Public Services Librarian and Family Place Coordinator at the Harrington Library, one of the Plano (Texas) Public Library locations. She’s currently serving as a member of the ALSC Board of Directors. Jaime is also working on at least two ambitious cross stitch projects, dreaming of future travel plans, and reading far too many books at once. As a child, she wanted to grow up to be an author. Writing for the blog and publishing with Children and Libraries feel like a good start, and she regrets nothing about her adult decision to be a librarian doing storytimes who didn’t have to grow up too much. All photos are courtesy of the author.