Somewhere along the way, self-care became ubiquitous with “treating yourself.” The truth is, self-care is not just a treat — it is a fundamental pillar of whole person health.
What is Self-Care and Why is It Important
Self-care is not the act of being selfish. Self-care is much more than mindfully sipping a cup of tea and adding herbal bath bombs to our bathtubs. It’s a matter of saying to yourself, “I’m placing value in taking care of myself in the same way I value my other responsibilities.” However, self-care is usually the first to go when we are faced with stress and ever-growing demands.
The National Institute of Health defines Self-Care as “taking the time to do things that help you live well and improve both your physical health and mental health.”
This is a broad definition and rightfully so. Self-care is not all mud masks, massages and meditation. Now, there is a place for these of course, but taking a shower, going to the dentist, getting groceries, annual health checkups and living within our financial means can all be self-care.
The Eight Dimensions of Self-Care
There are eight dimensions of self-care to invest in that may lead to an improvement in your well-being. As with all things, everything in moderation, and when balanced, these eight dimensions of self-care may predict higher overall wellness for you.
No. 1 Emotional Self-Care
Emotional Self-Care is tending to our internal emotions. We practice emotional self-care when we honor our feelings as they come and go, trying not to avoid or dismiss, but giving our emotions the space to be held and validated within us.
To practice emotional self-care, you might try:
- Talking with friends about your feelings
- Listening to music
- Practicing gratitude
- Getting curious about our emotions by noticing what physical sensations accompany the emotion in a nonjudgmental observation
No. 2 Environmental Self-Care
Environmental Self-Care is moving outside of our physical body and expanding our awareness to our physical space. Our environments play a role in our mood, sense of safety and ability to relax.
When we take pride in our surroundings and do our part to keep the environment safe and clean for ourselves and others, we contribute to environmental self-care.
To practice Environmental Self-Care, you might try:
- Put the laundry away that has been in a pile
- Tidy the living room
- Rearrange furniture
- Create colorful art work for your walls
- Take a walk in the neighborhood
- Enjoy the sun and fresh air
- Avoid littering and pick up litter
- Conserve energy when possible
No. 3 Financial Self-Care
Financial Self-Care is intentionally taking time to understand your financial situation, create a plan and explore your goals.
To practice Financial Self-Care, you might try:
- Check your bank accounts rather than let the anxiety of the unknown linger
- Review monthly reoccurring charges and cancel subscriptions you no longer use
- Set up a savings accounts on auto pilot at an amount you know is sustainable
- Be specific with your goals and write them in a place you will see daily
No. 4 Intellectual Self-Care
Intellectual Self-Care is keeping your brain engaged. We know rats who have engaging environments fair better than rats kept in standard metal cages with nothing to stimulate their brains. While we aren’t rats, our well-being does benefit from keeping our brains active.
To practice Intellectual Self-Care, you might:
- Play word games
- Watch documentaries
- Learn a new skill
- Take a class in something you find interesting
- Make art
- Experience art at a museum
- Attend a lecture
No. 5 Occupational Self-Care
Occupational Self-Care is keeping your professional “house” in order.
To practice Occupations Self-Care, you might:
- Attend trainings to help earn a promotion
- Keep an eye on your career goals
- Set boundaries between work and personal time
- Update your resume
- Stay organized
- Take breaks
No. 6 Physical Self-Care
Physical Self-Care is tending to our physical bodies. This includes attention to our nutrition, hydration, hygiene, sleep and exercise.
To practice Physical Self-Care, you might:
- Go to the dentist
- Take medications as prescribed
- Replace soda with a less sugary beverage
- Incorporate exercise into the day
- Put the phone down at least an hour before bed
- Drink plenty of water
- Take a walk
- Stick to your skin care routine, or get one
- Stay home when sick
No. 7 Social Self-Care
Social Self-Care is taking the time to connect with others. This can be old friends or family, or new people you meet while volunteering. Connecting with other people helps us experience love, gratitude, appreciation and fosters a sense of belonging.
To practice Social Self-Care, you might:
- Spend time with a friend
- Volunteer on the weekend
- Attend a meetup
- Schedule a lunch with co-workers
- Invite friends over for a potluck
- Check in on your neighbors
- Check in with people you don’t see frequently
- Playing with a pet even counts as social self-care
No. 8 Spiritual Self-Care
Spiritual Self-Care is engaging in activities that cultivate a deeper sense of understanding and awareness of our internal being, and at the same time, awareness of forces much larger than ourselves.
Spiritual Self-Care is personal and can look different for everyone. Some people find connection to spirituality through art, dance or music. Others may connect through nature. Still others find connection to spiritual well-being through rituals, religion or cultural traditions.
To practice Spiritual Self-Care, you might:
- Utilize prayer
- Connect with nature
- Practice yoga
- Attend a religious service
- Look for the good in oneself and others
- Talk to others who share your spirituality beliefs
- Help someone in need
- Be open to new experiences
How to Incorporate Self-Care into Your Life
Below are a few tips for ensuring we incorporate self-care before we are forced to take a break due to illness or injury.
- Schedule it — Many of us rely on our email calendars to keeps us on track for work, why not utilize this same method for scheduling self-care. Block off time to go to the gym, to read, to meet with friends or to engage in your hobby.
- Make self-care non-negotiable — We don’t blow off meetings with clients and endlessly hit reschedule when our boss wants to meet. Make your scheduled self-care time non-negotiable.
- Trust in behavioral activation — We won’t always be motivated to pick a healthy meal, go for a walk, read or attend a social event. During these times, trust the process. We know we feel better after working out, after catching up with friends and after attending the AA meeting or church service. Once we get up and moving, in the meetings and participating in our hobbies, we will be rewarded with endorphins and dopamine. Trust the process.
Windmoor Can Help if You Need More than Self-Care
Windmoor Healthcare of Clearwater is a full-service psychiatric and substance use treatment facility, available 24 hours a day (by appointment).
If you’re experiencing depression or anxiety, if you’re unable to sleep or enjoy life or if you’re turning to alcohol or drugs to cope with stress, it’s time to ask for help. The staff at Windmoor Healthcare of Clearwater can help with the various treatment options we offer.