You can’t scroll Instagram or read a lifestyle blog without coming across recommendations for acts of self-care. And with good reason–self-care is important and necessary.

a woman wearing untied Doc Martens walking through a field with the text "17 Unpopular Acts of Self-Care"

But here’s the thing about self-care.

It’s not easy. At least, most of it isn’t.

I love a good bubble bath, and sleeping in always feels great. But for me, self-care is more than that. It’s the stuff you do to actually take care of yourself and keep yourself healthy.

But all those things tend to be super unpopular acts of self-care.

Unpopular Acts of Self-Care

Taking care of yourself is easy when it’s fun. But when it’s boring or monotonous, or anything you can put off in favor of a Netflix binge, it’s hard to do.

With that in mind, here’s a look at 17 unpopular acts of self-care that are super necessary for a happy and healthy creative lifestyle, but are definitely a lot harder to execute than a bubble bath.

001: Waking up at the same time every damn day.

This is probably not going to earn me any friends, and I’m happy to acknowledge that there are times when sleeping in is the self-care.

But if you want to cultivate a routine–another unpopular act of self-care–you need to wake up at the same time every day. Doing this not only makes it easier to wake up at the same time regularly, but it helps to regulate your sleep cycle.

I will acknowledge that there are definitely seasons of life or situations where this isn’t exactly possible. But if you can make it happen, it’s a game changer.

Take it from me, that super obnoxious person that wakes up at 5:15 every morning.

002: Not fighting bedtime.

I love to sleep. It’s my favorite. And because I wake up before everyone in my house, I don’t mind going to bed before them because I know I’ll have my alone time in the morning.

I know there’s this pull at bedtime to stay up a little bit longer or to grab more time for yourself. I used to feel that pull too. The thing I realized about it was that it just made me unhappy. I can’t function well without enough sleep, so staying up or fighting my self-imposed bedtime only hurt me.

And I get it. Not everyone wants to go to bed early. I’m not saying you have to. I think respecting your own bedtime is as simple as making a promise to yourself. You can break it, if you want.

But when you break promises to yourself, you’re more likely to let others break promises to you too.

Maybe I’m making a big deal about bed time. It’s just a big deal to me.

003: Setting yourself up for success the night before.

Every night, I set the coffee maker and make sure my water bottle is full. I set out my workout clothes, and have everything ready to go for the next day as soon as my alarm goes off.

it’s a few simple steps that take less than five minutes, but doing them makes the morning go so much more smoothly.

I will also add that putting my alarm in another room is a great way to set myself up for success too. Because I can’t hit snooze and just lay back down. I have to get up to turn it off, and once I’m up, I’m up.

004: Turning off the Wi-Fi or blocking apps.

There’s a lot of distractions out there in the world, and if you’re not careful, you’ll distract yourself into a frenzy and never get anything one.

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I think there’s a lot to be said about willpower, but there’s also a lot pushing against my willpower at any given time. There are times that YouTube or Twitter is a harmless indulgence that I can check and then walk away. And sometimes, I have to do something a little stronger.

So, if you find yourself unable to get things done or even start working, it may be time to turn off the Wi-Fi or at least block some sites or apps.

Letting myself get too distracted is a recipe for getting behind, and I just can’t handle procrastination adrenaline the way I used to, nor do I want to. And going someplace without Wi-Fi or using apps like SelfControl to block certain sites keeps me focused on what I need to do.

005: Putting the boring parts of life on autopilot.

I’m all about habits. I hate having to learn them, or unlearning the bad ones. But I do love how a good habit can put something on autopilot so I don’t have to think about it.

It saves me so much mental bandwidth.

One of my habits I have on autopilot is taking my morning vitamin. I do that when I make breakfast, and I keep the vitamin by the oatmeal so I never forget. I have a similar routine with my night time supplements. I keep them on my nightstand so I can take them right before putting on my bed time lip balm.

If I don’t set up little systems like this, I will forget. Or worse, I’ll try to remember by setting out Post-It Note reminders all over the place that then get lost or ignored because they blend into the background.

006: Prepping your fruits and veggies.

Wanna eat more fruits and veggies? Make it easier to do so.

When I bring vegetables home from the grocery store, I like to take some time to wash and chop them so they’re easy to eat. Then, I have clean fruits and veggies ready to go and it makes the option of eating them seem a lot easier.

Admittedly, prepped produce can’t call to me louder than the siren song of Cheez-Its or any type of potato chip. But I also try not to bring those things into the house too often.

007: Throwing your phone into the sea.

This is probably not an option for you. It’s not an option for me, but only because I live in Oklahoma and we are super landlocked.

Instead, I recommend putting your phone on Do Not Disturb for the vast majority of your day. And you’ll never regret turning off all social media notifications if Do Not Disturb isn’t an option.

008: Being honest with your people.

Look. I have secrets that I will take to my grave, and when I die, no one will know these things. But some things you should share.

If you have close friends and family you can trust, be honest with them. This could be as simple as just sharing what you’ve been working on, or as complex as talking about difficult feelings you’ve been having.

Everything is always heavier when you carry it alone, even the good stuff. So if you can share with someone, do it. Of course, make sure they have the capacity to hold it first.

And on that note, be honest with them about the capacity you have too. Friends aren’t catch-alls for difficult stuff, especially when they’ve got difficult stuff too.

009: Thinking about why you feel the way you feel.

You got some tough feelings? Some anxiety creeping in? Some hard memories rearing their ugly heads?

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Let yourself actually feel those feelings.

It’s tough, but if you take the time to just sit with an emotion, it usually passes and is gone in like 90 seconds. This is definitely preferable to the feeling of constantly trying to outrun a feeling every time it pops up for the next decade.

Some stuff won’t go away though, and it’s worth figuring out why you think that is, and if you need a professional to help work through that.

And I won’t say that it’s easy to do this every day. Instead, on a day off, take some time to relax and let yourself feel your feelings. It probably won’t take all day, and you’ll still have some time to chill on the couch with some Netflix.

010: Cleaning your space.

If you’re feeling stressed and anxious, cleaning will do a lot. I honestly think the reason “procrasti-cleaning” is a phrase that exists is because people get really stressed about a project, and cleaning their homes makes it easier to work on the project.

You don’t have to do a full-on deep clean. You can clear your desk off. Or put away the laundry. Sometimes dusting makes me feel like a brand new woman.

Is there a particular cluttery mess that’s been bugging you? Clean it up and see if your mood changes.

And don’t forget–spring cleaning can be self-care too.

011: Downsizing your nonsense.

If you’ve got random stuff that’s always in the way or that you don’t use, just get rid of it.

Sure, you can play the “what if I need it in the future” game. And some of it you might. But I have found that getting rid of the most egregious nonsense feels really good.

For example, I get rid of books regularly. If I’ve read them and don’t care about them, they get sold to a used books store. And you’ll never regret getting rid of clothes that you don’t wear or that don’t fit who you are.

You deserve the space in your place for the stuff you love. And the bonus is that after you get rid of stuff, you can then surround yourself with new stuff you love.

012: Planning ahead.

Every Sunday morning, I take some time to figure out what I need to do over the next week. I look at the appointments, and figure out which day I’m doing what.

This is a pretty short task. I have a lot of moving pieces in my life, but it’s not like I need to analyze all of them at once. I just like to sit down and make a weekly spread in my planner so I know what’s on the menu so to speak.

This helps me set the tone for the week, and keeps me from missing important stuff.

013: Taking breaks when you need them.

I’m the worst at this, and I tend to want to keep going, even if I’m about to fall asleep at my desk.

But getting up and walking around, or getting a cup of tea, or grabbing a snack can do wonders. Sometimes, I get up and play with the dog for a while. Other times, I take the break and just don’t come back to my desk.

I work for myself, so I do have a lot of freedom in my schedule, and I know this isn’t the case for everyone. But if you can get up and move for a few minutes, it makes a world of difference.

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014: Doing something for fun.

Sometimes you just need to do something for fun. You don’t monetize it, or worry that you’re not good enough.

This is the basic premise of artist dates in The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. Give yourself some time to play and it helps your brain to be more creative.

I have been known to make a friendship bracelet, or to read a book that is neither enriching or something I would tell people I’m reading. You can play video games or go for a walk.

Just do it. You don’t owe anyone an explanation for it. Having fun is enough of a reason to do it.

015: Working out.

Before I dive into this, I want to acknowledge that working out isn’t the same for everyone. Everyone’s body is different, and you can’t expect everyone to jump into an aggressive Cross Fit regimen immediately.

In fact, you may never work up to that aggressive Cross Fit regimen, and that’s cool.

So, when it comes to working out, pick a way that you enjoy moving your body. It can be anything, like this Star Trek workout I used to do.

I like a good weight lifting circuit workout. But I’ve also been known to do some hula hooping. Playing Supernatural on the Occulus Quest 2 is super fun and a ridiculously good workout. And I’ll never say no to a good walk.

So find something that feels good when you do it. And don’t pick something based on what I’ve listed here. I’ve been lifting weights since I was 13, and I played varsity sports growing up. I like some stuff that is way more high intensity than some.

016: Going sober(ish).

This is not a suggestion meant to shame anyone, nor to assume that this is an easy thing for most folks.

Also, I would just like to say that I think it’s kind of stupid to go sober for a whole month only to quit as soon as the month ends with a big ol’ alcohol binge. (Looking at you, Dry January and Sober Tober.)

And I think we should delineate between sobriety as a lifestyle, and just not drinking. Because there is a lot more that goes into sobriety, and people who are sober make choices that people who are simply not drinking don’t even have to think about.

Anyway, all this is to say that choosing not to drink or consume other intoxicants may be a difficult ask. But in the long run, you will feel better for it. I know from experience. And even though I wasn’t drinking a ton before the pandemic, I’m drinking way less now.

My sleep is better. My skin is better. I feel better.

No regrets here.

017: Getting outside.

This is not something I’m great at, especially in the winter time. But if you can experience a little bit of sunshine, you’ll feel so much better.

You don’t have to go on a marathon jog or do tedious garden chores. You can simply sit in a chair on a patio with a good book, if you’d like.

Enjoy some vitamin D and watch as the neighborhood squirrels put on a show for your entertainment.

What Acts of Self-Care Do You Recommend?

What kinds of self-care have been game changers for you? How do you take care of yourself? What’s the most unpopular self-care act that you recommend?

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