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Real Women Approved: 40+ Self-Care Ideas!

self-care ideas and tips

Happy Friday from Buffalo, NY! We’re here for our friends Andrew + Emily’s wedding this weekend–YAY! (We go to Spain NEXT week–our snaps from Niagara Falls really confused a lot of you yesterday! HA ?) I’m excited to pop in with a new Real Women Approved post today! 

These are often my favorite posts to write— I learn so much from your amazing suggestions and ideas, and I’m especially excited about today’s topic: self-care. This is one you guys have been asking for, and I thought this was a PERFECT topic for a RWA post! 

I think it’s important to point out that self-care looks different for a lot of us. It’s not a one-size-fits-all situation, and it can change as we grow and enter different seasons of life. What works for one person may not work for another, so it’s helpful to try out different things to really figure out what helps you to de-stress.

Amazing idea: Create a self-care menu:

I think perhaps the best advice I’ve ever heard regarding the topic of self-care is thanks to my friend Hitha, who shared this great interview with Amanda Nguyen on MM LaFleur’s blog. (They have GREAT articles on their blog, “the M-Dash” by the way!) 

She recommends creating your own self care menu, which consists of Hors D’Oeuvres (something very small and quick–like a face mask, 5 minute Headspace meditation, a quick tidy-up, etc), Small plates (a bit more time consuming, like hanging out with a friend, watching an episode of Bravo, or reading a chapter of a book) and Soul Food Entrees (a hobby or activity that takes up more time but goes a long way to “refill your cup”–maybe its playing the piano, working on passion project, or traveling.) 

I hope these self-care ideas can help inspire you to create your OWN routine that works best for you! Whether you’ve had A DAY, a stressful month or maybe a particularly tough season.

So, let’s get into those ideas so you can create a self-care menu of your own, yes!? 

*Note- this post focuses on less obvious ideas around the topic of self-care. Working out, taking a bath, getting acupuncture and seeing a therapist are all givens and proven methods we all know about––but what I was interested in are the LESS obvious ones. Maybe the ones that take up less time, that are easier to incorporate even when you feel like there isn’t possibly ONE more thing you can squeeze into your day. 


Do something with your hands: 

A says “doing something with my hands, like knitting or calligraphy keeps my mind focused and calm!” 

Hitha recommends, “Needlepoint! I’m a granny!” ?(No you aren’t, Hitha!) 

Chandler looks for paper activities that get her off devices– “I doodle, draw, use coloring books and lettering.”

Sarah says, “I like to journal in a meditative state.” 

“Painting my nails always de-stresses me!” Alicia suggests. 

While this one might be season-specific, C swears by gardening to melt the stress away! 

Many of you swear by an amazing home-cooked meal to help relax and unwind. (I happen to know a good place to find a lot of easy, good home-cooked meals. ?) 

Do something productive:

SO MANY of you said cleaning is your #1 way to unwind: “I clean my apartment, it helps me feel sane when I’m stressed!” said Sarah. Autumn says, “Clean my place! It puts me in a good headspace knowing I have a clean apartment.” 

Deanna swears by making a to-do list and just doing it. She says, “If I’m stressed because I have things to do, a mask won’t help!” FAIR POINT, Deanna! 

Marissa says, “I sit and plan in my paper planner. It makes me feel prepared for the week.” (By the way, I swear by my friend Steph’s 15 Minute Planning Method! I also love Brendan Burchard’s High Productive Habits planner!) 

Nina says, “clean my purses out!”–so cathartic! 

Ask for help when you need it!

I feel like so many of us have trouble asking for help, or simply outsourcing the tasks because “we can do it better/faster ourselves” but this can often lead to burnout! Asking a friend for a favor or hiring help can make SUCH a huge difference in your wellbeing! 

Celia recommends “hire a cleaning lady to do the grunt work once a month!” (This is what I do, and it’s so worth it, trust me!) 

I also love J’s plan AFTER the house is clean: “Hire someone to clean my house and then plan to simply sit and drink a coffee and do nothing else in said clean house.” ?AMEN. 

Even asking your spouse to take the kids for a one on one date so you can have some alone time helps! I say, “I send out my husband with our daughter and they go on a date and I get quiet!” 

Show gratitude: 

Kelsey recommends sending an impromptu thank you note to someone you appreciate. 

Ashley makes a gratitude list. “I go through what I’m thankful for that day.” 

Note: I highly recommend the 5 Minute Journal–it’s an awesome gratitude journal that you take a few minutes to fill out every morning and night. It’s so helpful for putting things into perspective and changing your mindset! 

Legs up the wall:  

J says her go-to is “legs up the wall” for 10 minutes. It’s an effective yoga pose that can really help you reset! It’s linked to lowering your heartrate, which slows down your heart rate, which helps you relax and can even help you sleep better! Mind Body Green wrote a great article about the benefits of this pose and the basics of how to get started. (Hint: It’s very easy–even if you don’t do yoga!) 

Change the sheets: 

I never would’ve thought of this one, but Leigh’s suggestion was so spot-on: “Change your bedsheets. Weird, but helps give you a new perspective!” Changing your sheets always feels like a much-needed reset. 

Shower in the dark: 

Alyson recommends “Shower in the dark. So relaxing and a great way to mellow the overstimulation of stress.” (Jess’ tip: Drop some Eucalyptus or Lavender essential oil in the shower–it infuses with the steam and feels like a spa experience!) 

Unplug from social media: 

Carissa recommends “stepping away from social media (hours, days, months) to reset.”

I LOVE Kell’s suggestion– “I put on a podcast or audiobook and do a puzzle- no screens + totally relaxing.” 

B says, “I move my photos app to where Instagram used to be so I scroll through memories instead.” (Genius idea!) 

C recommends “The Duolingo app! Like a mental exercise. A complete break that feels good and productive.” 

SO many of you raved about the Headspace app! (I agree–it is a GAME CHANGER!) 

Reading was a VERY popular suggestion (which I agree with, it’s my #1 way to recharge!) If you need book reccos, check out this post! 


SO MANY people recommended trashy reality (usually Bravo) TV with a glass of wine. Sometimes you just need a good laugh! 

Martha loves to unwind by watching a nostalgic movie/show. (This is totally Friends for me!) 

I loved S’s suggestion of “checking out local standup comedy shows. It feels so good to sit in a dark room and belly laugh.” 

Get out of the house: 

Sarah recommends “a device-free walk outdoors with some breathing techniques, or the best — a good old-fashioned nap.” 

I also love D’s simple suggestion–”just sit on a bench at a park and read.” (I’m 100% going to do this this fall!) 

TONS of you guys highly recommended going on a hike–or getting lost in the park–anything that is near nature!

Sometimes it can feel impossible to get out when you have kids, but I loved M’s suggestion: “Schedule a babysitter and just LEAVE the house, without a plan!” Not only is a break every so often necessary, but the spontaneity is good for the soul! 

Speaking of, my best friend Kate’s mom, Jacki (whom our group of friends looks to for ALL advice on life) said they always had a standard babysitter on Tuesday nights and Saturday nights, without fail. (If only for an hour or two!) They often wouldn’t have a plan but it forced her parents to have time for themselves and also spend time together. I think a “standing night” that becomes part of your schedule is such a great idea! If a sitter isn’t in the budget, consider doing a weekly swap with a friend! 

Plan a getaway: 

Shelbee says, “Get on the Hopper app, find a cheap, fun, getaway vacation!” (I love this app! It’s so helpful for traveling on a budget!) 

Protect your time + create more white space in your schedule: 

H advises, “schedule time for yourself. Actually write in your schedule ‘don’t make plans!'” 

On that note, Kate says, “schedule a ME DATE! Whether it’s lunch, a movie, shopping, whatever–just ME.” 

“Don’t work through lunch- take the time to give yourself a mental break!” ––Heather 

“Say no to anything you don’t want to do/don’t have the emotional energy for.” ––Anna 

Mila swears by starting your day early to watch the sun rise! 

Sarah loves going to the movies solo. “Something fun/not heavy or sad and buy popcorn and candy!” 

Amy recommends looking into ways to volunteer, donate or tune into an activist cause.

Mila loves getting up early to watch the sun rise. “It makes me feel so good when I give myself a slow morning!” 

Prioritize time with friends: 

One of the self-care ideas you always hear is “start saying no” but Shay makes such a good point when she suggests, “Don’t cancel fun plans- seeing friends always makes me feel lighter!” Sometimes a good girls dinner can make a huge difference! 

Let it go: 

Alex says “straight-up screaming in a car after a stressful day. It can be hard to let go, but feels so good once you do.” 

SO MANY of you recommended a good cry session. As Nina put it, “Give yourself permission to cryw hen you need to. Some days it’s okay not to be strong!” 

On the flipside, Marissa recommends “Sing along to power ballads!” I love this suggestion!! 

Talk it out: 

I loved Emily’s suggestion: “Be vulnerable and talk to your friends about what you’re going through.” 

Paige says “Call someone you love and haven’t gotten to talk to in a while. That always gives me good energy.” 

Take time to reflect: 

Ashleigh says, “It’s helpful when I think back to when I wished so badly to be where I am now––remind yourself how far you’ve come!”

I think Paisleigh may have given my favorite advice of all: “I always ask myself what I would say to a friend who was feeling like this?” 

Plan for rainy days: 

Putting the “self care menu” into action, Annie recommends making a self-care plan. “That’s what makes it feel intentional to me,” she says. 

Madeline says, “I made a meditation playlist that I’ll play in my headphones to keep me grounded and centered.” 

Do something that makes you feel brave:

I loved Cindy’s suggestion–”Do something brave and feel badass. It doesn’t have to be huge!” 

Get a good nights sleep: 

I was so happy to hear several of you are having such a good experience with Equilibria CBD after my recommendation! Neha says, “SLEEP! Equilibria CBD drops, Headpspace sleepcast (she loves the “Midnight Launderette” one and so do I!) and lavender pillow mist” to set her up for a restful night of sleep! (Note: Use code JESSKEYS for 20% off my favorite CBD! Read my whole post on it right here!

Laura also loves “a mini face massage with CBD cream before bed.” This is what we did at my Yoga + CBD reader meetup and it was SO WONDERFUL. Even just massaging a bit onto your temples is sooo soothing! 

I hope this post gives you lot’s of self-care ideas to create your own self-care menu! Loved this post? Click here to read more Real Women Approved!