The 5-min self care plan

Posted on April 27, 2017


I was speaking with a client about a month ago. She lives with chronic pain, and has had two surgeries. She is caring for her mother living with dementia, who also has chronic health conditions. She was also supporting her father who had dementia and died of cancer few years ago. Oh, and my client herself is 65-years old. She was an active member of the community. Had a career. Does very interesting things. However, with increasing issues with her health and caregiving responsibilities, she feels stuck. She is depressed. She tries to make plans with her friends, but ends up cancelling because she has no energy.

We brainstormed for a few minutes and together arrived with the following plan for week 1:

  • 5-minutes daily would be spent in self-care
  • While doing her chores, play music and try to sing
  • When there is sun out, sit outside with a cup of coffee
  • Walk for 5 -10 minutes after lunch for at least 2 days
  • Write down one sentence about how doing this made her feel

All of us know that eating healthy, exercising, meditating, volunteering, spending time in creative pursuits, etc. are important. The question is, how do we get started!


My goal: meditate again

Some people may struggle with mental health issues, some with physical. Some have extremely stressful jobs. Some people are caring for a family member living with a chronic illness. Some have simply developed living patterns that just don’t support development of positive habits.


One thing is clear to me. Everyone wants to. Not everyone knows where to start. So often I see folks struggling with a lofty diet or exercise plan. To me, that’s the goal, not the starting point. Life style changes are hard. But taking baby steps helps us in getting stronger, feeling better and ready for the marathon of life.

First, let’s define self-care:

A. It needs to make one feel good.

B. It should be something that is *not* harmful. (I will smoke 20 cigarettes / day is not self-care. BUT — I will smoke 2 less cigarettes / day is!)

C. It should be in line with our vision of life. It is separate from the size of our bodies or how much we earn. This is more about how we feel inside. Independent of others.

Here are the cardinal rules of *starting* self-care:

  1. Build it into your existing life.
  2. Start extremely small to set yourself up for success. One day at a time. One small thing at a time. If it didn’t work today, go smaller, till you have success.
  3. Begin with things you actually enjoy.
  4. Use things that are only dependent on you. (Buddies are great — if that works for you, great! It derails me. You can definitely have role models, but your actual self-care should preferably be independent.)
  5. Reward yourself — with something that won’t undo your self-care.

Adopt an attitude of:

# Forgiveness — change is hard. Consciously forgive yourself for skipping.

# Encouragement — tell yourself you can and will do it.

My client called me a few days ago to say she is feeling better. She is still not able to increase her walking time, but she looks forward to her DAILY 10-min walk. She finds herself reaching for the music and actually enjoys her chores. She said that she feels less irritable. She went through with a plan to play Scrabble with her friend. To me, this is success.

Over the years, I have applied these principles to my life for several things. Giving up alcohol, processed sugars and to start eating better, working out. I have also used it to develop positive habits like listen to music, journal daily and be more grateful! For the next few months, my goal is to build meditation back into my self-care plan. I will keep you updated on that!

What are your self-care habits? What helped you get there?