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27 Self-Care Ideas for People Who Have a Hard Time Loving Themselves

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We often talk about how important it is to “love yourself,” with phrases like: “Self-love is the best love,” “Fall in love with yourself first,” “Love yourself first,” or “Self-love is not selfish.” But when you’re struggling with your mental illness — or just going through a tough time — finding love for yourself can sometimes feel next to impossible.

That’s why we asked our Mighty mental health community to share with us some ways they’ve learned to take care of themselves when loving themselves feels hard. Because as cliche or overrated as “self-love” can seem, when you’re in the throes of mental illness, you do deserve to take care of yourself — even if that means just one tiny thing that gets you through a difficult day.

Here is what they had to say:

1. “I take screenshots of messages/conversations I have received from friends and loved ones. Sometimes it’s a meme or they said something that really captured what I was trying to explain. Often, it’s words of encouragement and support and when I am not feeling particularly fond of myself, I read through them. It often helps.” — David L.

2. “I try to remember that hating myself never brought me happiness, and realize that even if I can’t ‘love’ myself at that exact moment, I have to at least find the strength to accept myself for what and who I am because that is the first step.” — Katherine F.

3. “Every two weeks I have a ‘me’ night. Usually it’s on a Friday night when everyone is out of the house. I draw a warm bath with a book and a glass of wine. Afterwards, I do a face mask and watch my favorite TV show with a lit candle. Just the little things help a lot sometimes.” — Hayley J.

4. “I’ll force myself to shower because a lot of times when I’m feeling down on myself it’s hard to even get up to shower. Being clean makes me feel a little better. And I recite daily affirmation to myself.” — Violet S.

5. “Dying my hair or doing my makeup. As weird as it may sound, I consider both of these as hobbies because I love doing them, especially when I can experiment and try new, different looks!” — Konstantina P.

6. “One time I had this therapist and as I was explaining my fears to her, she stopped me and said ‘How would you respond to someone if they came up you and said the things you’re saying about yourself?” And in that moment I was kind of stunned. And I was like, well I would tell them they do matter and they are awesome and that it’ll be OK. And she told me I need to practice being that kind to myself. Ever since I left her office that day, when I get in that place, I start talking to myself like I would a friend: ‘It’s OK. You’ll try again. You’ve got this. You’re strong. People love you.’” — Maranda R.

7. “Making notes and alarms for everything. Just as an example — I constantly forget to take my medicine. It’s almost an everyday struggle for me. In turn, I started posting notes on my mirror and also making a timer to remind me to take my medicine. I want to take the medicine because it helps me feel better, but my illness(es) cause me to forget almost everything.” — Kayla B.

8. “Sometimes it’s hard to know what it is that I actually need from myself, because depression and anxiety simultaneously can cloud my mind and make it race at the same time. On those days, I’ve found that taking day trips are the most relaxing. They give me the physical distance I need from my day-to-day life to process everything and rebuild myself.” — Stuart M.

9. “I find that painting my nails seems to make a slight improvement. Also accomplishing a simple task such as brushing my teeth or making an effort to comb my hair out.” — Clarissa B.

10. “I learned to crochet, so now I make things and even if I can’t love myself, I made a thing. And it’s squishy and happy.” — Erin L.

11. “By taking care of someone else, I help care for myself when I can’t possibly imagine doing something good for myself. Checking in on a friend, caring for my pets or sending a friend who I know is struggling a distraction, can make me feel like I’m doing something significant and feel a little bit better.” — Ariana M.

12. “The best way I have learned to self-care, is to start each day by asking myself the same question: ‘What do you need today?’ There is a lot on our plates every single day and living with mental illnesses can make it extra challenging. If I start my day with my own needs first, it will help me carve out the appropriate amount of time for self-care. Some days it might be a walk around the block or dinner with a friend, others it might be to stay in bed a little while longer.” — Charlotte E.

13. “I remind myself it can also be a choice. I can choose to practice self-care even if I don’t feel like it. Sometimes, although not always, the practice can help initiate a positive internal response, so it’s worth maintaining healthy habits whenever possible.” — Kaycie Z.

14. “I need to dive into a good novel and get my creative imagination to distract myself. Rickard Paul Evans is usually who I go for. I try the “four, three, two, one” as well: Four things you see. Three things you smell. Two things you touch. One thing you hear. Do all of your senses four different times to ground yourself.” — Mel S.

15. “Indulge yourself in your comforts, no matter what they are, as long as they are safe. I have a stuffed dog who has been my special pal for 36 years, since I was 6 years old. I hug her and sniff her ears and sleep with her every night. While it sounds silly and I feel a little shy about it, I get an inner calm from loving on her, and I think really I’m loving on myself. My hubby is supportive and even brings her to me sometimes when I’m struggling. Such a simple thing and so effective.” — Heather H.

16. “Take a long hot shower or bath. It’s simple, but when I’m feeling really unmotivated to get out of bed or really stressed about to-do’s, the water relaxes my muscles and drowns out some of that negative inner voice. Even if I already had a shower earlier that day, when I come out, I may be that much more comfortable in my own skin. And sometimes, it can carry enough weight to be the domino to motivate and remind me to take other steps in taking care of myself.” — Emily S.

17. “I find it helpful to accept I am just the captain of the ship. My body is full of billions of bacteria. Most of my processes are automatic. Most of my thoughts are nothing to do with me. I am just the captain giving direction to this bag of bones I call ‘me.’ As captain, it is my duty to take care of it to the best of my ability. It is only when you stop thinking of who you are, who you were or who you will be that you can actually get on with the job of living.” — Paul G.

18. “I talk to my husband. Asking him to take a timeout for me can be hard, but he is my key point of support. The thought of disappointing him is more debilitating than the anxiety and depression. He helps me to give myself permission to take time for me.” — Genie D.

19. “Give myself time away. In my mind, the voices are yelling at me for not being out there working, socializing and doing anything that would be perceived as ‘normal,’ but on top of having depression and anxiety, I’m an introvert. I need to give myself time to think. I need to give myself time to separate the things I really think about myself — so I can actually work on them — and the things mental illness is telling me, the ones that make me suicidal. For me, self-care is to allow myself alone time without guilt or apologies.” — Livia S.

20. “I put fresh sheets on the bed and then I make myself take a really warm shower. I’ll wash my face and use a face mask, then put on my comfiest pajamas, crawl into bed and watch something I love on Netflix. I wrap myself in my giant blanket and put my energy into whatever show I decided to watch. It’s a lot of work but its worth it.” — Lauren H.

21. “As a part of my therapy, my counselor encourages me to not be so hard on myself. So instead of saying, ‘Why didn’t you get the dishes done?” I need to say to myself ‘You did a good job today and made progress.’ Showing compassion to myself has been impossible in my life, but I’m really seeing the changes since implementing this idea into my life.” — Kayla R.

22. “I will write down everything and everyone that makes me feel loved and happy. I will also make sure I eat, shower and get enough sleep even when I don’t want to.” — Julia H.

23. “It may seem unorthodox, but sometimes I just give in to my first want. Whether that be a little shopping spree, a pizza, taking a nap, or sometimes just ignoring all reality with music or TV. There’s always that inner voice that tells me what I want to feel better, and even if it’s something small and short-lived, it’s sometimes the thing I need to calm down and get myself back on track.” — Ash M.

24. “Working out. I jumped in a year ago and it took awhile to make it a habit. But my family now knows that it’s a daily necessity. If I don’t get a workout in, then my family starts to worry. The signs that I’m sinking are there beforehand, but I sometimes hide them well.” — Elizabeth M.

25. “Oddly enough, listening to a few goofy songs or videos to convince myself to laugh a bit and be silly. This way, I can laugh at myself and be comfortable with myself for the moment. It’s weird, I know, but it’s funny how the little things can help.” — Hayley M.

26. “By helping/taking care of my patients in the hospital — that’s enough to make me happy. Caring for somebody or a lot of people makes me happy. If not on duty, I play online games with my mates to at least divert myself.” — Jo H.

27. “I force myself to do something peaceful alone. Whether it’s get coffee and read or go have a meal by myself. I make myself slow down. I try not to do any crazy multitasking. I hate it for the first few minutes but then it sinks in that I need it.” — Sarah B.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

Lead image via Grandfailure

Originally published: October 20, 2017
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