In this fast-paced, ever changing world, rest and rejuvenation have now become a necessity. Use my self care menu ideas to find the best options for you.
Interested in all things self care? Then, check out these beautiful self care quotes to keep you from feeling guilty about taking time.
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Self care menu
You can categorize this self care menu with options for starters, appetizers, mains, desserts, and drinks for a fun and literal spin on a menu. Or you can divide it according to what takes the least to most time. It all depends on how you want to set up your own menu.
For this post, I’ll be listing everything based on time.
5 minute self care ideas
Here are quick self care ideas to bring you a little peace as soon as possible.
Inhaling activates the sympathetic nervous system (associated with flight or fight responses) and exhaling activates the parasympathetic nervous system (associated with rest and relax responses). So, breathing exercises, especially ones where exhaling is longer will have positive effects on the body.
Here’s the evidence. This 2023 Stanford study showed 5-minute breathwork exercises (including cyclic sighing and box breathing) done once a day for a month showed improvements in mood, anxiety, stress and heart rate. The study is a great read!
This quick Tiktok from Headspace is an example of box breathing. Repeat it a couple of times and you should feel more relaxed when you’re done.
2. Funny videos
Who doesn’t love funny dog reels on Instagram? Follow a hashtag that always makes you smile no matter what and pull it up whenever you need a laugh or a dopamine hit.
Set a 5 minute timer and enjoy a couple videos so you can get relief without getting sucked into doom scrolling.
Positive affirmations when repeated often can reinforce positive beliefs, improve confidence and overcome negative self-talk. But, this 2009 Canadian study found affirmations may not be effective if you don’t believe them!
Words do have power as is shown by the rice experiment about being nice, mean or neglecting rice. Almost always, the rice subjected to meanness developed mold.
So, if affirmations are your thing, be nice to yourself and believe the words you are saying to get a positive benefit. I have a bunch of positive affirmations you can check out too.
4. Your favorite song
What’s the one song that always uplifts you? Create a self care playlist with all of your favorites that make you happy and want to dance.
5. 5-4-3-2-1 grounding
This is a great technique for bringing you into the now, outside of your thoughts and stressors. To do it, simply search around for:
- 5 things you see that you won’t normally notice,
- 4 things that you can touch,
- 3 sounds around you,
- 2 smells
- 1 thing you can taste.
6. What are you grateful for?
Gratitude has been shown to improve happiness, sleep, anxiety, stress, immunity and overall physical and mental wellbeing. This Gratitude and Well Being paper (2010) explored studies that showed letters of gratitude, counting one’s blessings, and gratitude journaling all had positive benefits.
So, in just 5 minutes, think about someone you are grateful for, or focus on the day’s glimmers and positive experiences. Quick, easy and effective for your self care menu.
Self care menu – longer ideas or “mains”
7. Do something creative
This isn’t a 5 minute self care idea. It takes a lot longer and involves you allowing your inner artist out to play and create something unique and beautiful. Drawing, coloring, writing, designing, sculpting and building all get our creative juices flowing, distract us, pull us into the present moment and allow us to express ourselves.
8. Create newness in your life
If you’re feeling stuck, how about actively creating newness in your life. This can be as simple as moving about furniture, adding new décor pieces to the room or trying a new product. It can also include actively searching for new places to visit, new foods to try, new social spaces to check out and new hobbies to start.
9. Get outside
Exercise and getting sunshine are beneficial for our health and so great self care activities for the menu. Besides strengthening your body, exercise also releases endorphins (the body’s natural painkillers), dopamine (the reward hormone that regulates pleasure), serotonin (the calming hormone), and brain-derived neurotrophic factor or abrineurin (a protein linked to neuron growth and good memory).
Sunshine allows for Vitamin D production in the skin, which causes better calcium absorption, immunity and mood regulation. Sunlight is also linked to higher levels of serotonin and endorphins in the body.
So get moving for your own strength, physical health and mental benefits.
10. Meet up with friends
Have you seen the Netflix documentary Live to 100: Secrets of the Blue Zones? The documentary follows centenarians in different parts of the world exploring the secrets of their long life. One of those secrets is social connection. Unwinding and relaxing with friends and family, enjoying food, drinks and dancing together formed part of the centenarians’ daily and weekly life.
It makes sense. When we hang out with people we love, we enjoy the benefits of the happy hormones like oxytocin, dopamine, serotonin and endorphins. They’re enough to help us feel rested and rejuvenated for some time.
11. Focus on skin care
Developing a great skin care routine is a wonderful way to self care. Dealing with acne is linked to better self confidence and self esteem (2017 study) and massages help with blood circulation, lymphatic drainage, and relaxation.
Using a gua sha, sheet masks, serums, creams, essential oils, body oils, dry brushing, and steam are all great items to add to your self care menu. Going to the spa and getting a massage are fun too.
12. Listen to brown noise
If you find yourself overstimulated by surrounding sounds, try listening to brown noise, which sounds like inside an airplane. I’ve found it incredibly soothing and it helps my brain switch off from ruminating about the day. There are other “colors” of noise too like white (sounds like static), pink (sounds like waterfalls), red (sounds like rumbling), blue (sounds like hissing) and green (sounds like a stream).
13. Learn something new
Learning something new has been linked to new neural connections, greater cognitive function and improved memory, especially when it’s something you’re curious about (source: 2018 study).
Listening to podcasts, watching documentaries, taking up art classes, attending trivia nights and exploring museums are great ways to feed your mind.
14. Talk to your doctor
It is possible that what you are feeling is something more than what simple self care activities can help with. Reach out to your health care professional and start asking important questions about your general physical and mental health. Have your blood work done to check hormone levels and other health indicators. And talk about vitamins and supplements that could improve your quality of life.
If there’s a lot on your mind that can get in the way of your self care, try writing them down in a brain dump. Letting everything out and onto paper is a great way to free up your mental space for some r & r.
You can journal about your day, try journaling prompts, create goals, bucket lists and so much more.
16. Care for your hair
Whether it’s shampooing, conditioning, adding treatments or even cutting and styling, hair care is an important part of feeling good and confident. So, this is definitely one to add to your self care menu.
Waxing, threading, shaving and lasering can be other options too.
17. Try bilateral stimulation
Ever heard of bilateral stimulation? It’s where you can alternate between stimulating the left and right sides of your brain through eye movements, tapping, and certain sounds. This changing stimulation activates the parasympathetic nervous system and so helps to relax the body.
I love crossing my arms and alternating tapping on them. It causes me to yawn within a couple seconds and helps me feel more relaxed. I also enjoy ASMR, especially the ones with side to side eye movements. This is definitely on my self care menu.
18. Start tracking what’s important
It may be helpful to start tracking your mood, feelings, glimmers, gratitude list, hours of sleep, water and vitamin intake, mindfulness, exercise, and more. Bullet journaling is a great way to get started and the data could help you identify trends and areas to work on. Notion and Microsoft Excel are other platforms to try for digital trackers.
Sleep has so many restorative benefits. It is linked to better mood, immunity, memory, focus, and less stress and risk of major health problems. Sleep is the best thing you can give your body, especially when you are sleep deprived. So, be sure to prioritize it for self care.
20. Curl up with good entertainment
Whether it’s watching TV with your family or curling up on the couch with a good book, taking time to get lost in a storyline can be incredibly relaxing for your mind and body. Stay in the present and enjoy what’s in front of you.
What else would you add to your self care menu? Here are a few more things you can try:
- go shopping
- take a shower
- have nutritious food
- get dressed up for fun
- go on a solo date
- call a friend
- reminisce on the good times
- take a phone break
- detox from social media
- soak in a tub
- play with animals
- enjoy aromatherapy
- try acupuncture
- join a yoga class
- hike in nature
- go for a swim
- give yourself a hug
- have some tea
If you’re struggling with stress, check out these tips for reducing stress fast.