15 Self Care Activities You Can Do in 15 Minutes or Less

I get it: when life gets busy, setting aside time for self care can seem impossible. However, self care activities are perhaps the most important when your to-do list seems like a mile long.

As I start my third month of grad school, I can definitely relate. In fact, this past weekend felt like nothing but food prep, grading papers, lesson planning, squeezing in a few hours of socializing, blogging work and sleep. Hence, this list of 15 self care ideas that take 15 minutes or less!

15 Self Care Activities You Can Do in 15 Minutes or Less

Whether you're a college student, a first-year teacher, a badass full-time worker or the parent of three hyper kids, here are 15 fun ways to add 15 minutes of self care to your life this week! 

1. Write - and send - a letter.

There's something endearing about handwritten letters. It takes more thought and effort than shooting off a text or Facebook message (though I'll never turn down a funny meme or random "thinking of you" text from my besties). If the person you're writing to values letters like I do, your reminder to smile might even end up pinned to a bulletin board in their room. 

Plus, the act of writing a letter can be rewarding in itself. Research has linked expressive writing - including writing letters - to improved mood, reduced stress levels and an overall boost in wellbeing. 

So why not pick up a pen, a piece of paper and give a loved one an old-fashioned surprise? 

2. Unleash your inner yogi and stretch it out. 

First of all: it doesn't matter if you've never done yoga or have no idea what kind of stretches you "should" be doing. The goal of "self care" activities like this is to, well, care for yourself. So let what feels good guide your stretching!

If you have fibromyalgia (or another muscle-related chronic illness) like me, taking mini stretch breaks is vital. Sometimes, I get so "into" my work that I don't realize several hours have past and my shoulders are hiked up to my ears. Being more aware of how my body is feeling can prevent a migraine or extreme body aches from sidelining me hours later.

15 Self Care Activities You Can Do in 15 Minutes or Less

If you want to follow a "proper" yoga routine for your 15 minutes of stretching, I highly recommend Fightmaster Yoga on YouTube. Otherwise, you do you!

3. Watch a cute cat (or goat...or any adorable animal) video.

Admit it: there's something insanely relaxing about watching baby goats in onesies practice jumping or seeing a kitten play peekaboo. You're also not the only one whose stress level drops after watching a cute animal video. Scientists have actually discovered that cute videos trigger a release of dopamine - AKA, one of our "happy hormones" - in viewers' brains. 

Apparently, people's love of cute things has ties to evolution; basically, our brains are trying to ensure we properly care for our adorable infants. All that really matters, though, is that you now have a science-backed reason to crank up the cat videos during your Monday lunch hour!

4. Throw a (solo or friend-filled) dance party.

Do I really need to explain this one? Dancing is fun. Dancing to your favorite pick-me-up songs is even more fun. And dancing without worrying what anyone thinks of your super groovy dance moves is a blast!

15 Self Care Activities You Can Do in 15 Minutes or Less

The hit of adrenaline from your mini-burst of exercise doesn't hurt either!

5. Go for a walk in nature.

Can’t stop thinking about the mistake you made during your big presentation or the annoying co-worker who works at the desk across from yours? Then taking a walk outside is exactly the self-care tip you need. 

Everyone has moments of brooding, or nonstop thinking on negative parts of your day or life. Research has found, though, that spending time walking outside in nature can decrease brooding and improve mental health. And even if you aren’t brooding, spending some quality time with your local park can’t hurt. So find a nature trail and get walkin’! 

6. Prep a delicious dinner.

If you're a foodie like me, a delicious meal is a great way to show people that you care. Sometimes, though, we forget to show ourselves the same edible self love! 

Even if you're short on time, you can lay the groundwork for a delicious meal later on. Cut up some veggies that you can roast while you work; put your choice of protein in a marinade to soak up flavor while you're away; throw a bunch of ingredients in the slow cooker (following recipes like these!); or even Google and bookmark a recipe that looks yummy and easy to make. 

15 Self Care Activities You Can Do in 15 Minutes or Less

Remind yourself that you need fuel to kick life's booty...and that you're worthy of making fuel that actually tastes finger-lickin' good! 

7. Look at your calendar and schedule at least one "just for fun" activity that week.

Once you get in the mindset of "work, work, work," it can be hard to remember to give yourself the social breaks you need. Prevent yourself from putting on "productivity blinders" by spending a few minutes adding at least one fun event into your weekly schedule. 

Of course, we all have different definitions of "fun" - and as long as you're enjoying yourself and taking a break from work, anything is fair game! Have a spa; go for a walk with a friend; curl up with a good book in your favorite coffee shop; binge watch Netflix for a few hours in your PJ's. The choice of how to have fun is up to you!

And if an even more amazing social opportunity comes your way - like a girls' night out - you already have some time set aside in your schedule to join in.

9. Start and finish one (tiny) chore.

Raise your hand if you've ever felt like you have so much to do, you don't know where to start. Between blogging, teaching, taking classes and doing everything needed to stay alive, I can 100% relate. One self care tip I've started following regularly, though, is doing little chores any spare chance I get...and patting my back for a job well done.

15 Self Care Activities You Can Do in 15 Minutes or Less

For instance, let's say you need to finish a 10-page paper, write and publish a blog post and reply to five important emails. Which should you start with first? While it may feel the most rewarding to finish your paper or blog post, it'll probably take less time to shoot off a couple emails - and then you'll already have succeeded crossing one "to do" off your list! 

8. Work it out (literally)!

You may already know that exercise is an easy way to boost overall health, with studies finding that exercise increases endorphins (aka, the “happy hormones”) and norepinephrine, a chemical that can improve your brain’s reaction to stress. Not to mention all the physical benefits exercise offers. 

However, you may not realize that even 15 minutes of exercise can make a difference. Research shows that short (as little as ten minute!) bursts of intense exercise are just as effective as 45-minute workouts in improving heart health and other indicators of fitness. And trust me. If you do a 15 minute HIIT workout or even just a moderate weight lifting session, you still get that endorphin rush! 

Some of my favorite short workouts are quick targeted workouts (like abs or cardio) on the free Nike+ Training App; a random combination of jumping jacks, jogging, push-ups or whatever other exercises pop in my head; or even a short 15-minute sprint on the treadmill or elliptical. Find what works for you and for your body, and stick with it.

10. Get lost in a book.

When you’re feeling stressed out, what’s a better escape than visiting another “world” through a good book? It turns out that there are way more benefits of reading than you might expect. Studies have found that reading for as little as 30 minutes a day is associated with a longer lifespan and a more extensive vocabulary. Reading even a chapter of a fiction novel has also been linked to increased empathy. Talk about self care that doubles as self development!

15 Self Care Activities You Can Do in 15 Minutes or Less

If you love reading but never have the time (trust me - as a grad student earning an MFA in writing, I can relate!), start scheduling 15 minute reading breaks into your week. You’ll be amazed at how much you look forward to putting down your laptop and picking up a book instead. 

11. Eat something delicious.

“Comfort eating” has a slightly negative connotation nowadays, with it often associated with unhealthy binges on junk food or mindless snacking. While it’s unlikely that either of those two habits are healthy, I do think there are times when you just need a big, juicy burger or creamy bowl of ice cream. 

Food is fuel - but it is also memories and quality time with friends and family and, yes, sometimes exactly the kind of comfort you need. So if your brutal week calls for a visit to a local bakery for a cookie the size of your head, eat and enjoy the dang cookie - and then keep kicking life’s booty! 

12. Explore somewhere new.

You don't need hours - or even days - away from home to go on adventure somewhere new. Oftentimes, there are plenty of hidden gems to explore near your own front yard. Instead of swinging by Starbucks like usual, check out the cute local coffee shop a few blocks away. Take a different path around your favorite park. If you're a foodie like me, you might even want to spend your 15 minutes walking around a new-to-you grocery store. (Does anyone else love finding new grocery stores, or am I just weird?)

15 Self Care Activities You Can Do in 15 Minutes or Less

Who knows - you may find your new favorite local hangout!

13. Give yourself permission to do absolutely nothing.

I'll admit it: I’m slightly addicted to productivity. Even when I’m taking a break from work, I’m usually working out or working on a side project like baking or blogging. If you can relate, why not give yourself the gift of 15 minutes spent doing absolutely nothing? 

Lie in bed, waste time scrolling through Instagram, watch the sunset, do some people watching. Those fifteen minutes of “nothing-ness” are yours to do with what you wish. Just don’t do anything productive! 

14. Call home or a good friend - and be honest about how you're feeling.

When you're jumping from one obligation to the next, it's easy to forget to check in with the people you love most. So why not make calling home an official part of your weekly schedule? Researchers have reported that hearing a loved one's voice can actually trigger jumps in particular hormones and nerves. In fact, one study found that hearing a mother's (or father's) voice caused a jump in pleasure areas of children's brains.

15 Self Care Activities You Can Do in 15 Minutes or Less

Don't just talk about the weather either; really talk. Advice from an old friend about a problem you're struggling with or some reassuring words from mom may be exactly what you need.

15. Look back on your week and make a list of everything you’ve done, no matter how small. 

It never hurts to remind yourself what a true badass you really are! Sometimes we can get so focused on the things we still need to get done or the mistakes we’ve made that we forget about everything we majorly #slayed that week. So take 15 minutes to review everything you’ve kicked booty at during the week - and don't forget to mention the small stuff, too. Research has found that, when people acknowledge their small successes, they not only boost their self confidence, but also have more motivation to work.

This isn't bragging - it's setting yourself up for another killer week!

Regardless of which of these self care ideas you want to add to your weekly routine, one thing is certain: no matter how limited your free time, there's always time for a little self love.

15 Self Care Activities You Can Do in 15 Minutes or Less

And as I prepare for another crazy week of grad school, you can bet that several of these self care activities are landing on my to-do list!

What's your favorite self care activity? Which of these would you want to try first? Tell me in the comments!


  1. Yoga is definitely a must in self care! I love the idea of taking the time to write a letter, so incredibly therapeutic, definitely going to try this soon!

  2. SO little - but it can do SO much

  3. What a great list, Casey. I think we overlook simple things as being part of a restorative or self-care routine. Things as simple as seeing a great dinner prep as being meditative, enough thinking to keep the mind engaged, but not enough to make the effort a chore--wonderful. Also, the value of just stretching, or connecting with another human cannot be underestimated. I love that you included information/research to back up the suggestions. Really nice job.

  4. Great list. And many of these simple things we can easily do every day!

  5. Love these ideas! I definitely love all of them - though I've never thought to write a letter before! I love writing in my journal with a big mug of coffee or tea - even if its just to doodle!

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