Self-care is a hot button topic in a society that can emphasize productivity at the expense of mental wellness. It’s quickly become somewhat of an industry, with corporations selling all sorts of often superficial products to us under the umbrella of self-care.

What does self-care actually look like? The truth is, self-care is unique to the individuals caring for themselves. Some forms of self-care can involve activities. Getting engrossed in particular creative and methodical processes can pull you away from a stressful place.

Our contributors shared some of their favourite ways to actively ground themselves. Read on for some authentic self-care stories!

Laura’s Pick: Houseplant Care

One of my favourite self-care activities is taking care of my (many) houseplants. The 15-30 minutes I spend tending to them each day are an opportunity for me to slow down and be mindful. I water, prune, dust, mist, and monitor for pests each evening before I go to bed, giving me a break from screens and pausing the noise of my busy schedule and to-do lists.

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Make your own oasis – indoors! Photo by Laura Thorne

Touching the plants, putting my hands in the soil, and noticing new growth grounds me and allows me to catch my breath. I currently have 28 varieties of houseplants and am slowly working my way to joining the 100+ plant club! Learning about new plants and their quirks is another way I take a break and take care of myself.

If I’m having a rough week, I head out to one of my favourite plant spots for an extended self-care moment. I highly recommend popping into Floral Theory on Richmond or out to Heeman’s Garden Centre to walk through their vast collections.

Sammy’s Pick: Journaling

When I’m feeling scattered, one of the first things I check is whether I’ve been journaling. I’ve made journaling a habit over the past four years. It helps me organize the thoughts bouncing around in my brain, and I also use the journal as a bit of a memory dump.

A few years’ worth of journals. Photo by Sammy Roach.

It’s also a creative outlet for me. I have amassed a ridiculous amount of pens, markers, and stickers that I use to embellish my daily pages.

I’d like to say I journal every single day, but life gets in the way! Sometimes I will let days or even a week pass without picking up the pen. Taking a little time on a weekend to catch up, reflect on the week, and write down my memories and moments helps me pull everything back together.

Mark’s Pick: Songwriting

For as long as I can remember, music has been an important and influential part of my now 35-year old life. In the seventh-grade, I picked up my father’s old, dusty Yamaha acoustic guitar. I taught myself to play a few basic chords and began songwriting. At the time, I didn’t realize the immense gift I was affording myself. Youthful dreams of fame, fortune, and success obscured the true healing value of writing music.

The ingredients for creativity. Photo by Mark Milanovic.

Songwriting is a powerful creative outlet that allows me time to process personal struggles, thoughts, and feelings. It’s an exercise of realignment and re-orientation that removes me–even for an hour–from the hectic and often complicated world. Writing music steers my overwhelmed, hurt, or disillusioned state of being towards a place of realness, calmness, peace, and fortitude.

Now, I don’t say this often, but thank you, younger self. You made a wise decision.

Romeo’s Pick: Music, Backgammon, and Travel

In an Art Therapy session, the therapist had us find labels on our clothing. She pointed out how care instructions exist for many things — except ourselves! She instructed us to create “Self-Care” tags as reminders of what we need.

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A collection of self-care favourites. Photo by Romeo Desmarais.

Highlights of mine include music (especially choral), backgammon, and travel. Generally, they all reflect my being an extrovert who needs his alone time. I’m often listening to music, but I also create it, especially by participating in local choirs, which makes it even more special.

I play backgammon online against fellow global gammon lovers. I also play on my hand-crafted set with my sister, who gifted it to me and is one of my most treasured possessions.

Travel can be simply getting out of the house, but seeing the world is living a dream! I spent December visiting my brother, who teaches in Cambodia, and it was absolutely unforgettable.


Whichever types of self-care appeal to you, remember that what is fundamentally important is creating time for yourself! Make music, prune your plants, paint a picture – but do it with the goal of putting aside everything else during that time. Self-care time is always valuable time.

Also, you are not weak if you need help getting to a place where self-care is manageable. You can get connected to mental health services by calling the CMHA Middlesex Reach Out service at 1-866-933-2023 or using their webchat service.

Featured Image by Laura Thorne.

1 COMMENT

  1. Thank-you, Mark, for your in-depth summation of how songwriting is excellent self-care! When I referred to creating music in my piece (I’m a pianist/singer), besides choral singing, I also songwrite, and it’s truly a very liberating experience!

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