If you google “Self-Care Gifts” you’re going to see a whole lot of scented candles and beautifully presented spa kits show up on your screen. And while fancy body lotion isn’t a bad thing, it will only get you so far.
Rather than adding yet another bath-balm to that drawer in your bathroom that you almost never open, I am going to recommend you give yourself something that has the potential to make a more significant difference in your life. Most of these suggestions don’t cost money, but they will take time, or emotional energy or both. Still, you give your time and emotional energy to others every day, so why not give some to yourself?
This post contains Amazon affiliate links which means that if you purchase something through my link, I will earn a small commission for recommending it to you.
1. Your own Space
There is just something about having a space of one’s own. If you are single, you probably have a bedroom to yourself, but if you have a partner, it could be that all the space in your home is shared space. As much as you love your family, sometimes you just want to be alone. This does not have to be a whole big thing (unless you want it to be). It doesn’t have to be a full-out She-Shed, just a quiet corner of your very own to retreat to.
It could be a cozy reading nook with your favorite books, a side table for your teacup, a comfy throw, and of course, good lighting.
It could be a place where you can put out your yoga mat, dim the lights, light some incense, and stretch out your stress.
Maybe there is a place in your home where you can do your favorite craft – organize your supplies and leave your current project partially done until you can get back to it again (as opposed to working at the kitchen table and having to clean everything up by dinnertime).
If you live in a small home, you might have to get a bit creative. I once created a space to journal in a window seat. I put some of my favorite mementos on the windowsill and kept my journal and favorite pen under a throw-pillow.
If your space is in a more open area of your home, a pair of headphones is essential. Noise-canceling if possible, the bigger the better!
2. Time Just for You
Even if it is just a few minutes a day, give yourself some time to do what you love.
It could be the first half-hour of the day before the rest of the family is awake. It could be a 10-minute break after dinner before clean-up (or better yet, while the kids are cleaning up). Maybe you can take every Saturday morning off for yourself or Tuesday evenings or even a whole weekend if you plan ahead.
Figure out what works best for you and put it on the calendar. Then draw clear, unbreakable boundaries around it. This is YOUR special time and it shall not be sacrificed, delayed, canceled, or compromised in any way.
3. A Journal Practice
There are so many benefits to journaling! It can help you solve problems, get clarity, work out emotional distress, or just be a record of the events of your life. It doesn’t have to be a big deal. You don’t have to do it every day (unless you want to). The point is to have a place to put your thoughts when you feel the need to express them.
Ideally, it should be handwritten – not typed. Typing activates different areas of your brain than using a pen and also, the fact that writing things out takes more time often means that your thoughts have more time to develop. Still, if typing is your best or only option, you will still get plenty out of doing it.
You can gift yourself with a beautiful journal if you want or just use a notebook. I used to keep all my journals in Moleskin notebooks (softcover, no lines), but now I use my Apple Pencil in Goodnotes on my Ipad.
If you are all about the writing and really want to dig deep, you might want to try Morning Pages. If you are short on time or new to journaling, consider one of the many guided journals. Two of my favorites are The 5 Minute Journal (good if you like routine) and the Live this Day Journal (good if you thrive on novelty).
4. Hiring Out – house cleaning, meal prep, grocery delivery etc.
This does cost money, but can be so totally worth it. Ordering your groceries online and having them delivered is not all that expensive and of course, will save you a ton of time. We just started using a local service that delivers a meal for the whole family – all you have to do is heat it up! So easy!
But my favorite by far is house cleaning. I used to hate having to use my precious days off to clean house. Yes, this one is pricy, but honestly, I would cut costs in other areas to get someone to clean my house, even if it was just once a month.
When you give yourself the gift of hiring out, it’s actually two gifts in one. Not only do you not have to do a task you don’t enjoy, but you also get time to something you actually want to do. Life is short. Don’t spend it cleaning toilets if you don’t have to (unless you really dig cleaning, and I know some people do. I don’t really get it, but then I don’t really get Jazz either, so there you go).
If you can’t afford to hire out, can you delegate a little more to your kids? The new year is a great time for new chores and responsibilities!
5. Put Family Photos Where You Can See Them
We get so much joy out of family photos – baby pictures of children, vacations, holiday, beautiful sunsets etc. And yet so many of these joy-producing images remain on our Smartphones and hard drives. It’s time for them to come out into the real world to fulfill their purpose of being seen by human eyes!
There are tons of companies that make it easy to create photo albums or that will put them into easy-to-mount photo frames. Or if you are really opposed to printing, get one of those digital photo frames that will keep a running slide show (or just use a slide show as your screensaver on your computers and TV).
You could also just print them out (or get photos printed) and put snapshot on the fridge or a bulletin board or in one of those frames that holds a ton of pictures. The point is to just do something with them so they can be enjoyed. This is the gift that I am planning to give to myself this holiday season. We have a staircase that has been begging for family photos for years.
6. Create Playlists
This is kind of like the photos, but for your ears. I bet you have a lot of songs languishing in your music app, longing to be heard. Playlists are a great way to bring them into your world. You can make lists of songs you loved when you were a teenager, songs for when you are feeling sad, for working out, for family dance parties, game nights etc.
This makes a great self-care gift because music can be a mood-booster, can help calm your nerves, or help you to be more productive (think classical and instrumental). Also, creating playlists is fun!
If you want to give yourself a serious self-care gift, this is it. There is a lot to process when you forgive yourself for whatever it is that haunts you and a lot to be gained.
I think it is a huge gift to give yourself, but also one that is beyond the scope of this post to give it the attention required. This article from Psychology Today has some good guidelines and here is some more advice from the Oprah Magazine. If guilt and shame are companions that you know well, then this is a gift you should consider giving to yourself.
8. Cozy Lounge Wear
Possibly venturing into the scented candle territory of self-care, but I just can’t leave it off the list. It’s at Costco, it’s cheap and oh so warm and soft. We are all spending so much time at home these days, why not be cozy while doing it?
9. Surprise Gifts for Your Future-Self
You know that feeling you get when you put on a coat you haven’t worn since last winter and you find a twenty-dollar bill in the pocket? That is what we are going for with this one. Plant some fun surprises for your Future-Self to find.
Put a novel you don’t have time to read in the basket you bring to the beach. Do some of the work ahead of time for a unit you’ll be teaching in the spring and leave the name of the file (or whatever other info is needed ) in your planner a few weeks before you would start prepping. Make a double batch of soup, freeze it, and then set a reminder about it for a day when you know you’ll likely be too tired to make a good meal. Leave encouraging notes throughout your planner or in odd places around your house. Hide wrapped chocolates in places where only you would find them. Order flowers for yourself to be delivered on some random day in the future.
You’ll likely forget about all of it and the little surprises will brighten your Future-Self’s day.
10. Something to Look Forward to
In these days of COVID, one day can melt into the next without being punctuated by parties, get-togethers with friends, social clubs, dinners out, family outings, vacations etc. It’s easy to get into a rut. It’s easy to look at your empty calendar and feel deflated about months and months of the same ahead.
But there is still a lot that we can do. Outdoor activities, Discord game nights, or an evening of driving through neighborhoods looking at Christmas lights (which seem to be bigger and brighter than ever this year). Plan something fun. Put it on the calendar. And do it!
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