Feb. 5. 2018
Written By:
McKel (Hill) Kooienga
McKel Kooienga, MS, RDN, LDN

McKel Kooienga, MS, RDN, LDN

Founder of Nutrition Stripped® and the Mindful Nutrition Method™

A reminder that taking care of yourself can be simple — you don’t need to go out and buy anything.

Happy February! The concept of self-care and self-love is top of mind here at NS this month. While neither of these topics is exactly groundbreaking, they can be revisited, refreshed and reinspired often. February is always a nice time to check in about how you’re treating yourself — from literal self-care in a physical sense with the health of your body, spiritually, and mentally with goal setting. It’s also a great time to reiterate that…

the love you show others starts with the love you show yourself.

Remember the concept of simplicity over superfoods, a simple approach to self-care can be extremely refreshing. Instead of encouraging us all to rush out to buy a fancy new beauty product or a luxe massage service — here’s a gentle loving reminder that you don’t have to do any of that because taking care of yourself is at your fingertips right now. Simplify with the little details that ground you, keep you centered, and make you feel like your best self every day.

Sometimes this may look like making a warming cup of tea, putting on your favorite pajamas, going outside to be in nature, and reading a self-development book. That meal planning you’re doing on the weekend? Self-care. Eating nourishing meals that fuel your body? Self-care. Setting boundaries and saying no to opportunities that don’t serve you? Self-care.

A Refresher Of Self-care

Self-care can be summed up as the intentional actions you take to nourish or maintain yourself, physically, mentally, and spiritually. While most of us think of self-care as purely physical such as manicures and massages, it actually starts from within the mental and spiritual realms of our everyday lives too. Self-care sums up the acts of love you show for yourself.

You’ve most likely experienced this too, but self-care can be the first thing that goes out the window when you’re stressed, busy, or feel spread too thin. A throwback to the 2017 Annual Letter to the Community, where I shared the biggest learning lesson from 2017 was about my health. I found myself putting everything else first, before taking care of myself — and mostly work. I wasn’t frustrated nor surprised that these lifestyle-related health struggles were showing up because I wasn’t dedicating enough time for self-care. Luckily, I have a mental, emotional, spiritual toolkit to get me right back on track, what would this toolkit look like for you?

Self-Care Will Look Different for Everyone

Self-care, to me, meant revisiting my Morning Routine, adding meditation more frequently, reading self-development books at night, and focusing on saying no to opportunities/meetings that don’t serve me on all levels.

Your definition of self-care will be different because we all live different lifestyles, have different priorities and challenges, the key is knowing what yours are and coming up with a toolkit to help you bounce back if you fall of the self-care wagon. A couple ideas to get you started:

  • saying no more to after-work commitments
  • investing in your future by starting a savings account
  • putting your feet up after a long day with a glass of wine
  • putting on a face mask and watching your favorite show on Netflix
  • talking on the phone or grabbing coffee with a good friend to catch up
  • putting away distractions, like the phone, to just be

The key is looking inward, and taking inventory of what it is your body and mind deserves. Here’s a hint: it’s usually the simple things that cause us to slow down and recenter. It’s very cool to see people prioritizing self-care now more than ever — there are 4.2 million posts associated with the hashtag #selfcare on Instagram!

Discover Your Self-care Toolkit

What relaxes and rejuvenates you might not have the same effect on your best friend or sister. That’s okay! It’s called “self-care” for a reason — it’s for your self! For many of us, our favorite ways to show our minds and bodies some TLC is obvious. Though if you’re still unsure about how to get started, try this exercise: grab a paper and pen and ask yourself the following questions. Write down whatever comes to you, and let the thoughts flow onto paper!

What’s your favorite thing to do by yourself? If you had a whole day to yourself, what would you do? What things calm you when you’re feeling frazzled? What things ground you when you’re feeling out of control? If you’ve had a long day at work, how do you chill?

Pull this paper out the next time you feel yourself getting off the self-care wagon and need a little guidance.

6 Simple Acts of Self-Care (That You May Already Do!)

No. 1 — Cook Healthy Meals

Ever since I launched the Guide to Master Meal Planning a few years ago, I’ve seen the concept of batch cooking help millions of people across the globe set themselves up for better eating choices. Meal prep can be a form of self-care in my book; it’s the intentional plan to help your future self out by making healthy meals easy to enjoy later.

No. 2 — Buh Bye Screen Time

Too much “screen time” affects you both mentally and physically. Care for your well-being by limiting the time you spend on your phone, computer or TV, especially at night. The artificial “blue light” emitted from our phones can suppress melatonin, (1) the hormone that lowers blood pressure, glucose levels, body temperature, as well as help us unwind for a good night’s sleep. Another kicker? Excessive time spent on social media has been linked to higher levels of anxiety, depression and lower self-esteem. (2)(3). Do yourself a favor by limiting the time you spend online.

No. 3 — Move Your Body

Studies have found that taking care of yourself physically and working out both lead to higher self-esteem. (4)(5) Naturally, this makes sense; we feel good when we treat our bodies with respect and love. Moving your body every single day is a no-brainer way of showing self-care in a physical sense. It’s also the best way to cultivate gratitude for a healthy, working body.

Find a way to move your body in a mindful way and in a way that makes you happy, whether that’s spin class, a walk around the block or an impromptu dance party in the living room. Movement is one of the simplest ways to care for yourself every day.

No. 4 — Invest In Yourself

As this Forbes article challenges us to do, picture your future self — would they regret some financial choices? It can be difficult to imagine yourself in the future, and you might feel detached from that person, but this simple exercise is key to remind us of the importance of saving and investing in life yet to be lived. By picturing future milestones, we’re less likely to avoid or postpone important financial choices now. Self-care doesn’t look like racking up thousands of dollars in debt. Self-care is respecting yourself and setting yourself up for success down the road.

No. 5 — Be A Student

Self-care can be as simple as teaching yourself something that you didn’t know before. When you learn something new, you’re optimizing yourself mentally. Reading self-development books and taking online courses from sites like Coursera and Lynda are great ways to do this. Find a topic that you enjoy — whether it’s for a professional or personal reason — and dive in. Your future self will thank you.

No. 6 — Hydrate

Maybe the simple on the list, but maybe one of the most important: hydrating. Drinking enough water throughout your day every day ensures that your mind and body function properly. What’s a better form of self-care than that? Read more about the benefits of water here.


  1. Figueiro MG1, Wood B, Plitnick B, Rea MS. The impact of light from computer monitors on melatonin levels in college students.
  2. Brian A. Primack. Ariel Shensa. César G. Escobar-Viera, Erica L. Barrett, Jaime E. Sidani, Jason B. Colditz, A. Everette James. Use of multiple social media platforms and symptoms of depression and anxiety: A nationally-representative study among U.S. young adults.
  3. Ethan Kross, Philippe Verduyn, Emre Demiralp, Jiyoung Park, David Seungjae Lee, Natalie Lin, Holly Shablack, John Jonides, Oscar Ybarra. (August 14, 2013). Facebook Use Predicts Declines in Subjective Well-Being in Young Adults.
  4. Patzer GL1. Improving self-esteem by improving physical attractiveness.
  5. Mingli Liu, Lang Wu, Qingsen Ming. How Does Physical Activity Intervention Improve Self-Esteem and Self-Concept in Children and Adolescents? Evidence from a Meta-Analysis.


Inspired by all of this talk of self-care and self-love? Keep reading about this important part of feeling amazing by clicking on these additional resources.

  1. Self-Love Isn’t Selfish, Nutrition Stripped
  2. Practicing Self-Care Is Important: 10 Easy Habits to Get Started, Forbes
  3. The Millenial Obsession with Self-Care, NPR
  4. 9 Easy Ways to Practice Self Care This Week, Health
  5. The Importance of Self-Care, TED Talks

What Do You Think?

What are your favorite forms of self-care? What effects have you seen in your life after practicing self-care? Comment below — it may be just the thing that someone else needs to read! Connect with NS on Instagram, too, by tagging @NutritionStripped and #NutritionStripped.