The Monthly Self-Care Review: What It Is & Why You Should Try It

The first few weeks after New Years are undoubtedly my most restful of the entire year. With the holiday season behind me & classes not starting until the end of January, I can focus my attention wholeheartedly on doing all of the things that recharge my body & mind. 

While the pace of life always inevitably speeds up, I am always searching for a way to recapture the bliss of those early weeks of the year. I may not have the luxury of being on vacation but I still do my utmost to ensure that I remain mindful of what I need to be able to perform at my best, whether that’s a nap or two on the weekend or getting a massage. It’s not always easy to make the time for these rejuvenating activities which is why I practice a monthly self-care review.

A Monthly Self-Care Review

What is a Monthly Self-Care Review?

A monthly self-care review is a simple evaluation of those activities that improve your mental & physical wellbeing.

It’s an opportunity to take a deep breath & evaluate how successful you were in the past month in making time for what you need most for your physical & mental health. This conscious assessment interrupts the tendency we have to be on auto-pilot as work & family responsibilities dictate much of our waking hours. 

In the course of living, we are constantly being evaluated but more often than not the metrics & outcomes are not necessarily going to make a huge difference in your life. You may be great at meeting deadlines & your work evaluations reflect that but if you’re constantly feeling burnt out, your health will ultimately suffer. If you do everything else, but you neglect to practice self-care on a regular basis, failing to make it a priority on par with work & family commitments, you will find yourself on a treacherous road in the long-term.

Why You Should Do a Monthly Self-Care Review

The monthly self-care review then provides an indispensable opportunity to slow down & exercise some agency over how you spend your time on the things that matter most. The wonderful thing about it is that even a short amount of time spent on it will reduce the stress in your life as you will actively be involved in crafting a life that is more aligned with your values in a positive way.

How to Practice a Monthly Self-Care Review

Ready to conduct your first monthly self-care review? Here are the four easy steps to follow to get started. 

Step 1

In a small notebook or in your favorite device draw a line down the middle of a page & on one side write down the type of activities that you find relaxing & peaceful, listing as many of them as you can. Whether sharing a meal with friends, getting a mani/pedi or having 30 uninterrupted minutes to read a magazine, write anything & everything that you would enjoy doing more of.

Step 2

Once you have your list, on the blank part of the page write down the frequency with which you would like to engage in each activity. Do you want to meditate for five minutes a day, five times a week or have one long session on the weekends? Ideally your list will be fairly varied so that you have a good mix of activities that range from a few minutes to a few hours. Don’t be afraid to have activities on your list that are even longer. Going to a bed & breakfast for the weekend is on my list, & the frequency is twice a year, so think short-term & long-term for a list that will have maximum impact.

Step 3

Choose at least one or two items from your list & put them in your calendar for the week. This step is key because it increases the likelihood that you will actually engage in those activities rather than daydream that one day you will have enough time to tackle that 500 piece puzzle that’s been sitting on your shelf. 

Step 4

Use your monthly self-care review to assess how well you did in keeping the wellbeing appointments with yourself throughout the month. This will give you an opportunity to identify any challenges or impediments in taking that time for yourself. Were you wanting to attend a yoga class three times a week but found that you only had energy after work for a single weekly session?

Focus on the positives as well, which will increase the likelihood of continuing to do what brings you joy. Was volunteering at the animal shelter so therapeutic that you would like to increase the amount of time you spend there?

Use the time allotted for your monthly self-care review to add new things to your list of activities that bring you joy, & weed out anything that may no longer be practical in whatever season of life you find yourself in. Even just 15 minutes a month planning out your self-care can pay great dividends over time keeping you feeling motivated no matter the time of year.

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Monica is a PhD candidate in Biology attending the University of Illinois.

She struggled with burnout after her first semester in graduate school when, like many people, she took on too many responsibilities while neglecting to practice self-care. However Monica was able to dramatically improve her outlook after incorporating writing & wellness practices into her daily routine. Monica now shares her insights into self-care on her blog & Twitter to encourage others on their own personal development & wellness journeys.