Self-care activities

A self-care activity is an activity that you do for yourself and for your mental, physical and emotional well-being.

Not every activity on this list will be for you. For example, running is peaceful for some, unenjoyable for others. You won’t want to do these activities all the time – instead, you’ll find that you want to do different ones depending on your needs. Use this list as inspiration for your own self-care.

Ask for help

Tell other people in your support circle what you need. Having help will take the stress off of you.

Attend a religious service

If you are a religious person, engaging in prayer or other religious services/activities can help you care for your spirituality. Faith helps to build community and connect with others who share similar beliefs. Religious beliefs can also help people to make sense of experiences in life.

Attend support groups

Support groups for people with brain injury are available across the country at a variety of organizations/centres. A good place to start is at local brain injury associations. Support groups have a lot of social benefits, including developing new friendships and being able to help others.

Attend therapy

There are several different types of therapy (such as psychological or cognitive-behavioural therapy) that many people find beneficial for their mental health. It could be a regular part of your self-care routine. To get started, speak with your doctor – they may be able to provide a referral.

Avoid things that cause stress

It can be challenging in day to day life to avoid experiences that are stressful, or that cause our bodies to react negatively. For example, a lot of activities now take place online, and screens can be stressful for some people. But by carving out some time each day or week to avoid what causes you stress, you’ll be helping your mental health - and maybe even your physical health!

Bake

The process of preparing cookies, cakes or other baked goods can be incredibly relaxing. It’s also a good option for people who prefer sweets to savory flavours.

If baking is something you need help with, don’t be afraid to ask someone to bake with you.

Build routines

Routines can be soothing, particularly when you feel like there’s not a lot in your control. Start by forming morning and nighttime routines - these will be a series of actions you complete every day. There will be no guesswork and after a while the actions will be like second nature. This consistency and the predictability can help if you’re struggling with stress or decision-making.

Check in on your negative thought process

Are you feeling particularly negative? Are you using words like “can’t”, “shouldn’t”, and “won’t”? Check in on what you’re thinking. If you’re thinking negatively about yourself, your rehabilitation, or just in general, practice re-focusing on the positives.

For example: Change “I can’t do this” to “I’ve made a lot of progress”.

Clean your house (or have your house cleaned)

There’s something incredibly satisfying about a clean living space. Take some time to clean your house thoroughly. If cleaning isn’t something that feels good for you, pay a housecleaner or company to do it. It’s a wonderful way to make yourself and your environment feel good.

Cook for yourself or your family

Trying new recipes (or cooking old favourites) is a good way to care for yourself while nourishing your body and your mind. We have more information about nutrition and brain injury.

Cooking can also be a good way to practice focusing or following instructions, as well as relearning motor skills.

If cooking is something you need help with, ask a friend or family member to cook with you. Cooking together can be another form of self-care, as it gives you an opportunity to connect with someone else.

Craft & create

Crafting, sewing, painting, drawing, and other forms of creative expression are all excellent ways to take time for yourself. Not only does it count as an act of self-care, but it can also be incredibly therapeutic and may help with other rehabilitation efforts.

Create an emotional safe zone where you can express yourself

Sometimes we need to let out our emotions. We need to laugh, scream, cry, and otherwise express ourselves. By creating an emotional safe zone (your bedroom or spare room, for example) free from judgement, you have a place to go when you need it.

Remember, it’s okay to feel! Not every moment is going to be positive, just like not every moment is going to be negative.

It’s also okay to let others know that you are not feeling happy or positive at that time, and that you need them to either give you some space, or be with you while you express yourself. An emotional safe zone is a judgement-free zone. It doesn’t mean you have to be alone to express yourself.

Create an inspiration collage

Sometimes we need external visual aids to help us feel inspired or positive. Inspiration and positivity collages are not only a great crafting project, but they can help you stay connected with what matters to you. Maybe it has pictures of your goals; words of affirmation; photos of your family; articles about people you admire. Your collage can be absolutely anything.

Here are some introductory tips on making an inspirational collage board.

Daydream

Your thoughts may be a tool for your self-care. Daydreaming is not only a form of escape; it can be incredibly inspiring and relaxing. You can daydream about fictional stories you make up; fabulous trips you want to take; what penguins do when no one is looking. There is no limit to what you can dream up.

Declutter and donate

We don’t know about you, but we’ve noticed that the more space we have, the more we fill it up with stuff. Clothes, furniture, books, knick knacks: it all adds up. It can make you feel cramped, particularly if you’re spending a lot of time at home.

Taking some time to declutter your home will not only improve your living space, but gives you an opportunity to pass on your items to others who may need them. You can do this through local donation centres, buy nothing groups on Facebook, or through organizations that accept item donations.

There are several ways to approach decluttering your home. Here’s an introduction to some different methods.

Do a puzzle

Puzzles take time, and can be scheduled into your day as part of your self-care. Depending on what you need, you can work on it alone or with others. You can choose smaller, simple designs or large, complex ones.

Do something purely for fun

A lot of our daily tasks - work, grocery shopping, cooking, and even rehabilitation - may be enjoyable, but they’re also necessary. We have to do them.

Sometimes it’s nice to do something that is purely for fun, not for necessity. For example, go on a drive; fly a kite; take a language lesson. Anything that you don’t have to do, but want to try!

Dress up

When you spend a lot of time at home, it’s tempting to wear ‘home clothes’: for example, sweat pants or t-shirts. But if you’re in need of a quick self-care act, try dressing up. This could be as simple or elaborate as you want. You can even take it to the next level and add accessories and makeup.

Drink lots of water

This one is pretty self-explanatory. Humans need water, and many of us do not get the amount we need. Drinking water is good for you and your health.

Eat your favourite comfort food

You may have a favourite meal that makes your belly feel warm and cozy, that your parents made for you on the weekends, or that your significant other cooked for you on a date. Comfort food is called that because it brings you a sense of peace. Eating your comfort food is a way to show yourself some care.

Exercise or engage in physical activity

Exercise and physical activity is important for mental health as well as physical health. Check out our resources on guided exercises.

Garden

Gardening gets you outside, working in the soil, and is a long-term project that lets you see growth and change - and may result in some yummy food if you grow fruits or vegetables!

Get a colouring book

Adult colouring books have become a popular way for people to relax and unwind. There are lots of different books with different designs and different complexities. Whether you want something incredibly detailed or something simple and quick, there’s a book for you.

Get a pet

A pet is a big responsibility, so you really have to think about whether this is a good choice for you. Pets can be a source of companionship, encourage you to go outside, and provide a lot of love.

There may also be therapy animals available to visit if you aren’t able to own a pet yourself.

Go through your clothes

Many of us have a lot of clothes, and these can take up a ton of space. By going through your clothes once or twice a year, you can not only claim back some space, but you can donate to people who may need some clothes.

Here’s a tip: after you sort your clothes, put the hangers in your closet backwards. When you wear something, switch the hanger back to the front. Then 6 or 12 months later, check what hangers are still backwards - these are clothes you haven’t worn, and it can help make the decision-making progress easier.

Have a bath with special products

Baths aren’t just for personal hygiene. They can be a way to get some much-needed alone time and to pamper yourself. Elevate your bath with some fancy products (be careful if you have any allergies or sensitivities, and read the ingredients). This can include bath bombs, bubble bath, scented soaps, or even candles (lit and placed safely).

Have some technology-free time

Technology has become a big part of daily living. That being said, “unplugging” can be an act of self-care. Turn off your phone, leave the living room, and do something that involves no screens whatsoever.

Journal

Writing down your thoughts and feelings can be a wonderful way to express yourself, vent frustrations, or record your joys.

Keep relationships that are nurturing, not harmful

Relationships can be complicated, and sometimes as we grow, there are relationships with family and friends that are no longer positive. Many of us hold onto relationships because we’re worried about upsetting others or changing. But if there are relationships that are toxic to you, now may be a good time to revisit them.

It can be challenging to end a relationship, and it may be a little heartbreaking - but there are ways to do it that are respectful. Here is an introductory article on ending toxic friendships.

Light some candles

Setting a pleasant atmosphere with some candles can brighten your day and your mood. If you want, you can choose scented candles for an extra treat.

Listen to music, an audiobook, or a podcast

There are so many great ways to consume audio content. You can close your eyes and listen to some music, an audiobook, or a podcast. It’s a nice way to treat yourself to some quality alone time, learn something new, or engage in your favourite stories.

Make your bed with clean sheets

Making your bed everyday is a great way to kick-off your morning - but if you really want to treat yourself, make your bed with a set of freshly-laundered sheets. There’s nothing quite as cozy as sliding into a fresh bed at the end of the day.

Nourish your body with healthy food

Eating a healthy balanced diet is a great way to nourish your body, but also your mind.

Order takeout or eat food from your freezer.

Sometimes we just don’t feel like cooking - and when that’s the case, ordering takeout is a great option.

Takeout may not be a possibility depending on where you live. But if you are able to, fill your freezer with some pre-made meals that you can reheat when you don’t feel like cooking from scratch.

Paint or draw

Painting and drawing can be helpful with mental health, hand eye coordination, and skill development. It’s fun, relaxing, and a great way to occupy your time. There are so many different materials and mediums in which you can work, which means there are endless combinations you can use to create.

Pamper yourself with at-home spa treatments

Everyone deserves a little pampering - and there are plenty of ways to do that. Soaking your feet, giving yourself a manicure, or doing a face mask are examples of at-home spa treatments you can use to get some me time.

Here are some additional ideas you can use for at-home spa treatments.

Perform acts of kindness for others

Doing something for others is a great way to make yourself feel good as well. The COVID-19 pandemic is incredibly stressful for many of us, and those simple acts of kindness and goodwill may make a huge difference in a person’s day.

Play board games or video games

Games can be stimulating, encourage interaction with others, and be entertaining. Board games, card games, or video games are all examples of ways you can play.

Practice positive daily affirmations

We often get caught in these negative thought cycles that can be hard to break. We tell ourselves “can’ts”, “shouldn’ts”, or “nevers”. It’s bad for our mental health, but it’s sadly something almost everyone does.

Would you say the things you say to yourself to your best friend? The answer is probably no. That means you shouldn’t say it to yourself! Break this cycle by reading or reciting positive affirmations to yourself every day when looking in the mirror.

Here are some affirmations split into categories that you can use as a starting point.

Purge your social media accounts

Over the years, you may have added lots of friends and liked lots of pages for businesses or groups on social media. But we change as we grow, and some of them may not be serving you anymore. For example, someone you were friends with from camp in grade seven may not be someone you connect with now. Or a page you used to like when you were younger may be contributing to a toxic online environment.

Take some time to go through your social media and unfriend, unfollow, or unsubscribe from the people, groups, and places that are not contributing positively to your social feed.

A couple other social media tips include:

  • Don’t read the comments. People can be incredibly mean and hateful in the comments on public posts (such as news stories). This can be incredibly harmful to your mental health.
  • If someone tags you in a comment or responds to a comment you made, try to be respectful if you choose to respond.
Read a book

Books are vessels for imagination, knowledge, history, and more. They are a great way to pass the time and give yourself an escape if that’s what you need.

If reading is stressful for your vision, you can try audiobooks or ask someone to read to you.

Reorganize your space

Changing things up in your home space can be a way to keep things fresh, particularly if you have been at home for a long time. Reorganizing can include changing your furniture, art, or decorations.

Schedule in some unscheduled time

When we make schedules, we often try to pack in as much as possible because we feel we have to be productive. But productivity can also include taking breaks.

Make sure in your daily schedule you set aside some time to do whatever you want. Everyone needs a break now and then.

Set boundaries

Sometimes people will ask for help, vent their frustrations to you, or in general lean on you for support. Personal boundaries are important: there may be instances where you are not in a mental or emotional place to say yes or to cope with someone else’s problems. Learning to say no or setting boundaries on what you can do at the time is a good way to care for your own wellbeing.

Here is a more in-depth article on types of boundaries.

Set up chats with friends and family

Friends and family are important, and during the pandemic it’s challenging to stay connected with them. If you need more communication, set up regular chats over virtual platforms such as Zoom, Google Meets, FaceTime, Skype, or Facebook video calls.

Share some good vibes through compliments or reviews

Giving someone an appropriate compliment or leaving a local business a supportive review is a great way to spread some positivity.

Sing and dance

Having a little karaoke dance party is a great way to let loose and have fun. It can be a moment of pure joy. Or if you need to belt out a sad ballad, do that! It’s your concert.

Sleep in

While setting an alarm and getting up early can be an important part of your routine, it’s nice to treat yourself to a no-alarm sleep-in every once in a while.

Spend some quiet time in nature

Nature can be tranquil and a great escape from your day-to-day routine. Plan an excursion outdoors (following COVID safety) and pick a place where you feel connected to nature. You can take a walk, snap some pictures, sit and sketch, or just relax.

Stretch

Our muscles need to stretch, and our brains need a break. Stretching is physically and mentally rewarding, and there are tons of modifications for people with altered mobility.

Take a break from social media and news

You’ve purged your social media and stopped reading internet comments - but sometimes that is not enough. Taking a full break from social media platforms and news is healthy and cleansing.

Some people feel guilty if they don’t stay up on the news or ‘stay connected’ through social media. Remember there are ways to stay connected that don’t include social media.

Take a mental health day

While little acts of self-care are all good and important, sometimes you need more. A mental health day is a full day where you do what’s best for you and your health.

It’s important to discuss the need for mental health days with your family, therapists, and your employer. Communication is key, and people are generally understanding when you say you need a break - particularly during a pandemic.

Take a nap, rest, or meditation

Naps aren’t just for kids - they can be a good way to recharge, particularly if you haven’t been sleeping well. Sleep after brain injury can be challenging, but here are some tips on how to manage it.

If you aren’t in need of a full nap, a rest or meditation is also a good way to recharge.

Take free online classes or tutorials

There are plenty of free online classes and tutorials that can teach you new information or skills. YouTube is a great place to start.

Take pictures and build photo albums

Photography is not only an enjoyable hobby, but it’s an effective way to capture memories. Many of us keep our photos on a computer or phone, but photo albums will always be so special. Print out some of your favourite photos and organize them into books you can share with others.

If you want to be extra creative, you can take up scrapbooking to display your photos.

Take yourself on a date

You don’t need someone else to shower you with attention - you can take yourself on a date! While the pandemic has made dates more challenging, that doesn’t mean you still can’t have a special time. You can get yourself dinner, watch a movie, make a fun drink, or anything else that makes you happy. You can even buy yourself some flowers!

Tick a long-lived task off your to-do list

We often put off items on our to-do lists because we don’t have the time, or it isn’t a high priority. This means that a task that may only take 10 minutes isn’t done for months.

You may not think of completing something on your to-do list as an act of self-care, but it can feel really good to check things off - particularly if it’s been on there for months.

Try a new hairstyle

Our personal style and appearance play a big role in self-esteem. Every once in a while, it feels good to switch things up. One way to do that is to try a new hairstyle. Work with a hairstylist to explore the process, potential styles, and what will work best for you. You can start by doing some internet research on hairstyles.

Try deep breathing exercises

Sometimes we need to take a pause and practice some deep breathing. It’s an effective way to manage stress, refocus your thoughts, and reset your energy.

Try learning an instrument

Music plays an important role for many people. A way to deepen your connection with music is to learn an instrument. Not only is it an enjoyable way to spend time, but it may also be helpful in your rehabilitation through music therapy.

Try new hobbies

Hobbies are relaxing and enjoyable. If you’re spending a lot of time at home, now is the perfect time to try a new one. Maybe you have always wanted to try knitting, for example. If that’s the case, watch some tutorials, get some supplies, and give it a shot!

Volunteer or give back through donations

Volunteering is a great way to meet people, stay busy, and give back to the community. Some volunteer positions will have specific requirements, so if you have any questions, speak to the organization directly. There are several types of volunteering.

Skills-based volunteering

Skills-based volunteering is when a person takes a volunteer position based on their specialized skills. For example, accountants may take volunteer bookkeeping jobs. Skills-based volunteering can not only provide valuable help to an organization but can help a person hone their skills. This type of volunteering is ideal for survivors who aren’t able to return to work but still want to use their professional skills. Skills-based volunteering can be short-term or long-term.

Short-term volunteering

Short-term volunteering is ideal for people who can’t commit to continuous volunteer hours. Short-term can mean a set time period or an event. These short-term roles can be faster-paced and require more flexibility and commitment for the volunteer term.

Long-term volunteering

Long-term volunteering is focused more on maintenance and growth. The volunteer commitment generally lasts longer than 6 months, with a set number of hours per week or per month. Long-term volunteering roles are often administrative, mentoring-based, or in communications - but they can be anything an organization needs.

Micro volunteering

Volunteer Canada defines micro volunteering as volunteering commitments that are shorter and often require little to no oversight. Activities are designed to be done quickly, and the impact of the volunteer’s actions can be seen more immediately.

Seasonal volunteering

Some places or events run seasonally or require extra help around a holiday. This kind of volunteering can fall into the category of short-term and can require a varying number of committed hours. Seasonal volunteering can also require certain skills or abilities, so it’s important to check with the organization about their requirements.
Volunteer activities could be:

  • Administrative activities
  • Physical activities
  • Working with animals
  • Working with children

Donations

Donating comes in many forms. You can donate time, money, or goods. Examples of donating include:

  • Donating blood to the Canada Blood Services
  • Donating to the food bank
  • Organizing a financial fundraiser for your favourite organization
Watch television or a film

There are lots of ways to watch television shows or movies. There are also hundreds of shows and films available on platforms such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, Crave, or Disney+. While streaming platforms require monthly or yearly payments, many do have free trial periods if you want to give them a try.

Write

Writing is an excellent way to stretch your creative muscles. You can write fiction, fantasy, non-fiction - anything you want! Don’t worry about grammar, structure or whether it’s “good.” Just focus on how the writing makes you feel.

Writer yourself a letter

Futureme.org is a website that allows you to write yourself an email that will be sent to you 1, 3, or 5 years from the day you wrote it. It’s a wonderful way to not only document your progress, but it can be a highly effective journaling tool. You can provide your future self some comfort and clarity in just a few minutes of writing.