By Tyler Calder

Disclaimer: We’re in no way shading face masks here. When the world feels heavy, they make us feel light and glowy; when everything hurts, they feel like a face hug; and when life is hard, they’re an easy way to feel like we’re doing something right.

There’s a lot to love about them; however – and this is a big however – they’re not the be-all, end-all of self-care. They’re a skin boost, a photogenic moment, and an easy way to illustrate wellness, but lately, we can’t help but think about the self-care methods and rituals that don’t lend as easily to a photo opp. That’s where the good stuff truly lies – and that’s why it’s worth exploring.

1. Drink every time you read the word “self-care” in this piece.

And by drink, we mean take a big ol’ swig of water. We’re kidding, but the point stands. You need A LOT more water than you think, and there’s a million reasons to take this simple tip to heart. Your skin, your workout libido (yeah, that’s what we’re calling it), and your sleep schedule will thank you. The easy trick we’ve been following: Take your weight in pounds and use that same number in ounces (If you weigh 160 lbs., you’ll be working with 160 oz.), then divide that in two (80 oz., for example’s sake), and that’s the amount of water that should be your goal consumption. Easy? No. Good for you? Yes.

2. Make those doctor’s appointments, girl.

I know, I know. They’re so easy to push off. You’re busy, you hate needles, the doctor’s office smells weird. If you have a flexible work schedule, a self-care major key is taking a sick day (in advance!) to knock out 3 or 4 annual visits. If that seems like tew damn much and a stressor more than anything, there are alternatives. Take a morning to schedule an appointment once a month for the next few months. Put your GP, your dentist, your OB-GYN, your derm, and your optometrist at the top of the list, and build (as needed!) from there. Knowing these are scheduled and you’ll have full transparency into your health is what self-care is all about.

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3. Recalibrate your social schedule.

Some weeks, you’re on your grind and God help the soul that tries to come between you and your yoga mat after work. Other times, the loneliness is real (and sitting like a rock somewhere in your gut) so you could use a couple good girls’ nights or catch-ups about town. You’re human, and wanting different levels of socializing is normal. If you’re feeling especially alone or overwhelmed any given week, take a moment to recalibrate. Sign-up for a workout class WITH a friend, or reschedule a happy hour because you need some you-time. Listen to your body, and if you have the option to act on what it’s telling you, by all means, do it.

4. Eat a balanced meal (and, no, a glass of rosé in each hand doesn’t count).

Make a mental note if any of these behaviors sound like a day in the life of you: a) Skips breakfast because who even has time; b) Back-to-back-to-back meetings means forgetting to eat lunch… yet again; c) Tackles breakfast and lunch, but when happy hour evolves into a night out, dinner ends up being of the liquid variety; d) Who needs meals when snacks are so much fun?!; e) some combination of the above. Anyone else here guilty? It’s really easy to fall into one of these categories and build a habit around it, but this weekend, resolve to give next-week-you a fighting chance. Make a grocery list that’s rich in color (from produce, not gummy snacks), look up a new recipe or two, and meal prep your way to feeling way better throughout the week.

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5. Call someone you wouldn’t normally speak to on the phone.

Or better yet, write a letter. Speaking to your person – friend, family member, or someone who just gets you – is a great opportunity to get to the bottom of some heart-feels. There’s something to be said about speaking your feelings into existence or having to write them down. When you don’t have the perks of ctrl-z or a delete button at our fingertips, you really can get to the core of what you may been be feeling in a very raw, unfiltered way. Having the ability to write our own narratives on social media and via text is nice, but you’d be surprised how good-for-the-soul a good old-fashioned call or letter exchange can be.

6. Practice gratitude or give back.

As much as we love spending time with ourselves, framing our experience within the outside world can go a long way in our own self-care journeys. That’s why we’re really into the gratitude exercises, like the one in our take care journal, which can give us the opportunity to reflect on the positive even when things are just plain blah. Not in the mood to reflect? Finding an opportunity to give back (this resource is super helpful) is always a nice way to step outside yourself, connect with others, have genuine conversations about something you care about, learn, and grow.

Lede image artwork by @steph_angelis. Tennis image of @nycxclothes by @rachhanon via @outdoorvoices.

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