I love a fast-acting self-care technique.
Give me a breathing pattern or journaling prompt, and I’m instantly calmer.
But those practices are sort of like taking ibuprofen when you already have a headache: By the time you need self-care, you’re probably not feeling so great.
I do this all the time—I push self-care off until the last minute, waiting to take a personal day until I’m about to throw my laptop into the Hudson River, pushing off a yoga class until my body’s nearly in rigor mortis.
Enter: future you care
Instead of calling upon self-care techniques in the moment, future you care requires thinking ahead, pondering what might help one-week-from-now you feel a little more sure of yourself, or what could ease Monday-morning-you back into the workweek—then, setting it up to happen.
The best part: Future you care can be small but mighty. In an article for Man Repeller, writer Gyan Yankovich detailed the little ways in which she cares for her future self, like putting fresh sheets on her bed before going on vacation and buying things she’ll need in the future—like toilet paper and olive oil—in bulk.
“In the age of commodified self-care, conversations about the way we look after ourselves have become overwhelmed by sheet masks, essential oils, and bath bombs that go viral on Instagram,” she writes. “And while those are all very good things, in my adult experience, the best way to care for yourself is a lot more practical. To me, self-care means doing all the things I used to leave for future-me to worry about (paying bills, sewing missing buttons back on, going to the dentist) as soon as they need to be done.”
Putting in the effort now, with the future in mind, can lead to serious payoff.
“It’s highly motivating to think about the future to take action in the present,” Rebecca Scritchfield, R.D.N, author of the book Body Kindness, tells Shine. “Think about A Christmas Carol—the ghost of Christmas (Yet to Come) is what made Scrooge change his ways.”
Thinking of your future self can inspire in-the-moment changes, while experiencing those self-care moments you’ve prepared for yourself can help build self-trust, since they’re a reminder that you can take care of yourself.
Looking for small ways to practice future you care? Here’s what works for me and other members of the Shine community.
Cold brew a calming tea the night before a stressful morning
Forget the Sunday scaries—nothing hits me harder than the Monday morning jitters. So on Sunday nights, I’ll dump a spoonful of lemon balm tea into a mason jar, fill it with water, then stick it in the fridge overnight.
Waking up to a cool, stress-busting beverage soothes my nerves and reminds me that if I can calm my own damn self, I have things handled enough to tackle whatever lies ahead.
Schedule regular self-check-in appointments
Shine member Laura S. uses her phone to trigger some future you care: “I have a reminder set in my phone for every Friday to journal empowering questions. I try to treat it like an appointment. In the future, I can go back and reread my answers. I do the same thing with Qi Gong class—I put it on my calendar with a reminder so it is important like any other appointment.”
Set recurring reminders for activities that bring you joy
It’s easy to forget to pencil in those small activities that bring us joy—but you can make it easier for future you by setting reminders, like Shine junior software engineer Sandy M. “While I am doing an activity I like, I set a reminder in my calendar to do it again at another time,” she says. “For example: I love hanging out with my girlfriends and at the end of our hangout, we put a placeholder time on our calendars for our next meet up—it’s usually a month later.”
Get ahead of your spending
Lauren M. schedules a weekly financial wellness check-in to avoid leaving future her with any money surprises. “I try to make it enjoyable by setting up my space with candles and a glass of wine as I review my finances,” she tells Shine.
Leave future you a reminder that you’ve got this
“Sometimes when I’m journaling, I’ll skip ahead a bunch of pages and leave myself an encouraging note, or a reminder of a happy memory,” Ryan D. says. “I also try to keep a list of what my mom calls ‘happy making things’ (i.e. exciting positive things that are coming up) to keep me motivated to get through a tough day.”
Schedule future appointments with kindness
Ever had to head from a cavity filling straight to an important meeting? The. Worst. “When I schedule doctor appointments—which I really dread but are necessary self-care for me—I keep the rest of my day as low-key as possible regarding scheduling/to-dos,” Jen P. says.
You won’t spend the day stressing about dribbling water down your shirt in front of your boss, and you’ll signal to yourself that it’s okay to take time for you.
Cook for future you, too
Fact: future you is going to get hungry, too. Shine’s senior content strategist, Haley G., likes to cook with that in mind.
“Whenever I make dinner, I always double the recipe so I have extras to take for lunch the next day,” she says. “Having a homemade meal to eat in the office helps me feel a little more relaxed and comforted in my busy day-to-day. Plus: It helps me save money!”
This piece originally appeared on Shine and is reprinted with permission. Curious about your self-care style? You can take Shine’s quiz to learn if you’re a Caring Critic, Humble Hero, Infinite Thinker, or Fortune Teller.