25 Self-care Ideas for the Heart: for singles, widows, married people, and everyone

I had a lovely weekend in Alberta at Camp Nakamun, where I had been invited to speak on self-care for a spring get-away for Widow to Widow, which is a Connecting Streams ministry of Power to Change in Canada.

Since I was speaking, it was a working weekend, but in many ways it felt like a getaway for me too: in a beautiful setting with great food, afternoon activities that included a thrift store fashion show, tea tasting, sing-along and special music, and most of all a warm and welcoming group of women.

I had a lot to share from my work on Four Gifts: Seeking Self-Care for Heart, Soul, Mind, and Strength which addresses self-care for all ages and at every stage of life. But to prepare for the weekend I also looked for resources with a special focus on self-care for widows.

On the Bad Widow website (so named to challenge some of the bad assumptions people make about grief and loss), I read:

The most important act of self-care I performed as a cancer caregiver when David was first diagnosed was to reach out to my friends who are good about their own self-care for suggestions.
I got over 100 very specific ideas, so when I was exhausted, I didn’t have to think. I could just go to my list and pick one. I also noticed that it was important to schedule my self-care and to have both free and expensive options, the whole spectrum to choose from, so money was not an excuse to stop taking care of myself.

Having a list of self-care ideas to choose from sounded like an excellent resource to me, but where was the list? To my surprise I couldn’t find it on the Bad Widow website anywhere!

So for our spring get-away, I decided that we would create our own list of 100 self-care ideas, arranged according to heart, soul, mind, and strength. I would offer 20 ideas in each area, then invite the women to discuss and share ideas of their own. As a follow-up, I would post the lists on my blog, starting today with heart, and sharing the rest over the next few weeks.

Like the Bad Widow’s list, our lists include both free and expensive options, but instead of very specific ideas, ours are deliberately more general so they can be adapted as needed—for singles, for those who have lost a spouse, for married people, and for everyone. So for example, if you’re too busy or feeling frazzled, you might choose “Drop one thing from your schedule,” but if you have too much time on your hands, you might do the opposite and “Add something new to your schedule”—like going for a walk with a friend or taking a class at the local community centre.

As I shared my starter list of ideas, I added in examples and stories that I haven’t included here, and I was glad for the many more shared by the women throughout the weekend. So here are 25 self-care ideas for the heart, followed by some specific resources for widows. If you have additional ideas to share, please feel free to leave a comment below.

25 Self-care Ideas for the Heart

In Four Gifts, the heart represents our total well-being, the core commitments and practices that direct and hold our lives together. Practices for the soul relate to our inner well-being, practices for the mind relate to our intellectual and mental health, practices for strength relate to our physical well-being. There is some overlap between all four, so some ideas listed for heart might work well in other areas too. The point isn’t to categorize our self-care, but to embrace all of life.

  1. Drop/Add one thing from your schedule
  2. Write a to-do list
  3. Cross something off your to-do list
  4. Create an I-don’t-do list
  5. Learn to say no
  6. Consider your core commitments
  7. Make a list of life questions
  8. Eliminate a behaviour that doesn’t contribute to your well-being
  9. Have tea with a friend
  10. Eat with family, friends, or church
  11. Eat alone and use your best dishes
  12. Forgive yourself
  13. Meet with a counselor/spiritual director
  14. Join a support group
  15. Set a modest, achievable goal
  16. Clean just one corner of your house
  17. Declutter your clothes closet
  18. Savour the present moment
  19. Be deliberate
  20. Do something you love
  21. Let go of false guilt
  22. Break big tasks into smaller, more manageable tasks
  23. Give yourself permission to change your mind
  24. Use positive self-talk
  25. Focus on tomorrow instead of yesterday


Helpful related links:

10 things you can do to create a new life after any loss

A short article by Kristin Meekhoff, author of A Widow’s Guide to Healing: Gentle Support and Advice for the First Five Years.

10 unusual but significant self-care ideas for widows

Including some excellent suggestions on how to say no.

My Life is Like a Book and Self-care for Those who Grieve

The hard work of grief, written by Grace Wulff, a hospital chaplain and friend.

Newly Widowed – self-care 

From First Light Widowed Association, an organization in Australia for the young widowed (up to age 50).

Widow to Widow

A compassionate, caring, community group for widows. I shared this Widow to Widow video of Nancy’s story as part of our spring getaway.

Nancy’s Story from Connecting Streams on Vimeo


Writing/Reflection Prompt: What self-care ideas for the heart can you add to this list?


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8 thoughts on “25 Self-care Ideas for the Heart: for singles, widows, married people, and everyone

  1. April, your 25 self care ideas are excellent. Although I am not widowed I have practised most of them at some time in my life, and they are very helpful. Thank you for sharing them. It must have been a wonderful week-end for those grieving the loss of a spouse. God is using you in a wonderful way!

    1. Thanks, Elfrieda. t was a privilege to be part of such a well-planned event that combined inspiration, fun, practical help, and the opportunity to build relationships of support among the women who attended. I have great respect for the compassion, resilience, and wisdom I saw on that weekend.

    1. I read your blog post in one of my talks, Grace, and afterward one of the women came up and asked me for the reference. I had already been planning to include it here, and was glad for that affirmation. Thank you for sharing it.

  2. April, thank you so much for sharing these 25 self care ideas, as well as Nancy’s story. My dear husband is still with me, but we’re facing some major decisions.

    I am encouraged to deliberately practice self care and to trust God to see us through this next chapter of our lives!

    1. You’re welcome, Gail. I pray for you and your husband in the decisions you face, that you will know God’s leading and love, and be surrounded by caring community. God grant you wisdom as you practice self-care and rest in God’s care.

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