The Basics of Self-care

A photo of little plant seedlings with the title of the post.

Currently, the main focus of this blog is self-care and my own self-care and personal growth journey. These days I’m viewing everything through the self-care lens (even trips to Disney World) and I want to help people find new ways to grow and to be (and feel) better. Given that, I decided it’d be good to step back and look at the big picture.

What is self-care? What is the purpose of self-care?

Self-care is comprised of the actions an individual takes to improve their own overall wellness. The activities of self-care are all intentional activities- you are mindfully choosing to do those activities because you think they will improve your overall well being. And that well being or wellness is made up of a lot of different aspects such as your physical health, your mental health, your stress levels and your own personal safety.

The purpose of self-care is to improve your overall wellness which will make you feel better. Self-care actions might be taken in order to achieve some immediate wellness benefits. For example, if you are stressed and you choose to meditate or go for a run knowing it will help relax you than you are engaging in self-care that will have immediate results. However, activities such as saving money or incorporating more vegetables into your diet will have more of an impact on your future wellness.

What qualifies as self-care?

Any activity that is intentionally taken to improve one’s own wellness is considered self-care. The actions in question might not be the best self-care, but if you are taking them in order to improve your wellness then they are apart of your self-care.

I think this blog post by Psych Central does a great job at conveying the need for intentionality and mindfulness behind self-care. The author discusses how self-care does not consist of things that you are forcing yourself to do and that cause you more stress. Activities that cause you stress or discomfort are negating some of the benefits of self-care. 

What are the benefits of self-care?

There are a lot of benefits to trying to improve your own self-care routine. Some examples include:

  • Increased energy

  • Improved mood

  • Less stress

  • Better physical health

  • Closer relationships to friends & family

  • A better financial situation

  • Enhanced safety & security

The above benefits may lead to more indirect benefits such as:

  • Increased productivity

  • A higher level of satisfaction with life

  • Better job performance

  • Achieving personal goals

  • Increased overall happiness

  • Decreased risk of illness

  • Better able to care for loved ones

The benefits of self-care will vary from person to person and will depend on what sorts of activities you engage in. 

How important is self-care?

For most people, self-care should be a priority. It involves so many different aspects of life and its impacts are far-reaching. Improving your self-care routine should have positive benefits on every other aspect of your life. 

Good self-care can reduce stress and prevent burnout as discussed in this article on Lifehacker which calls self-care “crucial”:

When we are less stressed and feel healthier we are able to do the other things we want to do more efficiently and with greater ease, allowing us to do even more.

Taking a walk in nature helps with both physical self-care (exercise) and spiritual self-care (meditation & connecting with nature.)

Taking a walk in nature helps with both physical self-care (exercise) and spiritual self-care (meditation & connecting with nature.)

How do you practice self-care?

You practice self-care by simply making an effort to be more intentional about your activities. It is a good idea to reflect on your current self-care routine and then consider what you could improve.

There might be some activities that are obvious to you. For example, you might know that you need to get exercise, reduce stress or get to bed earlier. Those initial thoughts are useful and give you a good starting point. If you want to go more in-depth with your self-care, you should consider all the different categories of self-care. Evaluate how you are doing with each type of self-care and then decide what type you want to improve.

At the end of this post, you’ll find a journaling exercise to get you started. I’m planning on creating more worksheets to help me on my self-care journey. I will share those worksheets here with you.

What are the types of self-care?

Self-care covers so many areas of one’s life that it is often broken down into categories or types. Different sources divide these categories up in different ways. I did a lot of research and made a list of all the categories that I found:

My list includes:

  1. Physical

  2. Emotional/Psychological

  3. Spiritual

  4. Intellectual/Mental

  5. Social

  6. Environmental/Sensory

  7. Play/Fun/Joy

  8. Family/Relational

  9. Safety & Security

I love this breakdown. Now that I have it, I use it personally all the time to inform my own self-care choices. 

What are some examples of self-care?

  • Going to the doctor

  • Starting a yoga routine

  • Increasing the servings of vegetables you consume

  • See a therapist

  • Learning self-compassion

  • Journaling

  • Volunteering

  • Attending a religious service

  • Visiting a historical site

  • Playing an intellectually stimulating video game (such as a mystery or a resource management game)

  • Doing a crossword puzzle

  • Learning something new

  • Bonding with your coworkers

  • Hanging out with friends

  • Writing to a penpal

  • Decluttering your home

  • Changing your bed sheets

  • Burning a nice smelling candle

  • Being silly

  • Planning a vacation

  • Intentionally watching a television show you love

  • Calling your mother

  • Starting a scrapbook

  • Planning a family gathering

  • Making a budget

  • Replacing the smoke detectors in your home

  • Learning how to change a tire

If you need more ideas, I have a pdf with 315 self-care activities. You can access it if you sign-up for my mailing list:

Self-care Exercise #1

Write out the answers to the following questions:

  1. What benefits of self-care are most appealing to you?

  2. What types of self-care do you put the most effort into?

  3. What types of self-care do you want to improve?

  4. What are three self-care activities you can do this week?