5 Types of Self-Care for Every Area of Your Life

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All the stress-relief activities in the world won’t help if we aren’t taking care of ourselves. Self-care has been defined as “a multidimensional, multifaceted process of purposeful engagement in strategies that promote healthy functioning and enhance well-being.” In simpler terms, self-care is all about caring for yourself—as the name suggests—to ensure your physical and emotional needs are met.

Self-care is important because it helps re-establish balance and avoid burnout. It is often the mechanism of recalibrating and getting in touch with our ability to play, have fun, relax, and connect.

Good self-care can take on many forms. It could be ensuring we get enough sleep every night or stepping outside for a few minutes for some fresh air. It can also mean taking the time to do what we enjoy.

Sometimes, you might need more self-care in one specific area to restore balance or find relief from a stressor in your life. To care for your health and well-being, it’s important to find a balance that allows you to address each of these areas.

At a Glance

Self-care is a conscious act people take to promote their physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional health. It is vital for building resilience toward life’s stressors that we can’t eliminate. When you’ve taken steps to care for your mind and body, you’ll be better equipped to live your best life.

Unfortunately, however, many of us view self-care as a luxury rather than a priority. Consequently, we’re left feeling overwhelmed, tired, and ill-equipped to handle life’s inevitable challenges. It’s important to assess how you’re caring for yourself in several different domains so you can ensure you’re caring for your mind, body, and spirit.

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Physical Self-Care

We need to take care of our bodies if we want them to run efficiently. Remember that there’s a strong connection between our body and our mind. When we care for our bodies, we’ll think and feel better, too.

Physical self-care includes fueling your body, getting enough sleep, doing enough physical activity, and caring for your physical needs. Attending healthcare appointments, taking medication as prescribed, and managing your health are all part of good physical self-care.

“Exercise is a tangible instance where you can observe the payoff of your perseverance towards a goal,” says clinical psychologist Sabrina Romanoff, PsyD. “You can push past the limitations of your mind and prove to yourself you may be stronger than you previously thought. This is one of the ways exercise helps with confidence and resilience.”

When it comes to physical self-care, ask yourself the following questions to assess whether there might be some areas you need to improve:

  • Are you getting adequate sleep?
  • Is your diet fueling your body well?
  • Are you taking charge of your health?
  • Are you getting enough exercise? 

Social Self-Care

Socialization is key to self-care. But, often, it’s hard to make time for friends, and it can be easy to neglect our relationships when life gets busy.

Close connections are important to your well-being. The best way to cultivate and maintain close relationships is to put time and energy into building our relationships with others.

There isn’t a certain number of hours you should devote to your friends or work on your relationships. Everyone has slightly different social needs. The key is to figure out what your social needs are and to build enough time in your schedule to create an optimal social life.

To assess your social self-care, consider:

  • Are you getting enough face-to-face time with your friends?
  • What are you doing to nurture your relationships with friends and family?

Mental Self-Care

The way we think and the things that we’re filling our minds with greatly influence our psychological well-being.

Mental self-care includes doing things that keep your mind sharp, like puzzles or learning about a subject that fascinates you. You might find reading books or watching inspiring movies fuel your mind.

Mental self-care also involves doing things that help you stay mentally healthy. Practicing self-compassion and acceptance, for example, helps you maintain a healthier inner dialogue.

Here are a couple of questions to consider when you think about your mental self-care:

  • Are you making enough time for activities that mentally stimulate you?
  • Are you doing proactive things to help you stay mentally healthy?

Spiritual Self-Care

Research shows that a lifestyle including religion or spirituality is generally a healthier lifestyle.

Nurturing your spirit, however, doesn’t have to involve religion. It can involve anything that helps you develop a deeper sense of meaning, understanding, or connection with the universe.

Whether you enjoy meditation, attending a religious service, or praying, spiritual self-care is essential.

As you consider your spiritual life, ask yourself:

  • What questions do you ask yourself about your life and experience?
  • Are you engaging in spiritual practices that you find fulfilling?

Emotional Self-Care

It’s important to have healthy coping skills to deal with uncomfortable emotions, like anger, anxiety, and sadness. Emotional self-care may include activities that help us acknowledge and express our feelings regularly and safely.

Whether you talk to a partner or close friend about how you feel, or you set aside time for leisure activities that help you process your emotions, it’s important to incorporate emotional self-care into your life.

When assessing your emotional self-care strategies, consider these questions:

  • Do you have healthy ways to process your emotions?
  • Do you incorporate activities into your life that help you feel recharged?

Why Is Self-Care Important?

Having an effective self-care routine has been shown to have a number of important health benefits. Some of these include:

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), self-care is important because it can help promote health, prevent disease, and help people better cope with illness.

Specific forms of self-care have also been linked to different health and wellness benefits, including a longer life. Exercise, finding a sense of purpose in life, and sleep have all been connected to an increased lifespan.

Develop Your Self-Care Plan

An effective self-care plan should be tailored to your life and your needs. It needs to be something created by you, for you. Customizing your own self-care plan can act as a preventative measure to make sure that you don’t get overwhelmed, overstressed, and burned out.

Assess which areas of your life need some more attention and self-care. And reassess your life often. As your situation changes, your self-care needs are likely to shift too.

As you are building your self-care plan, the following steps can be helpful:

  • Assess your needs: Make a list of the different parts of your life and major activities that you engage in each day. Work, school, relationships, and family are some you might list. 
  • Consider your stressors: Think about the aspects of these areas that cause stress and consider some ways you might address that stress.
  • Devise self-care strategies: Think about some activities that you can do that will help you feel better in each of these areas of your life. Spending time with friends or developing boundaries, for example, can be a way to build healthy social connections.
  • Plan for challenges: When you discover that you’re neglecting a certain aspect of your life, create a plan for change.
  • Take small steps: You don’t have to tackle everything all at once. Identify one small step you can take to begin caring for yourself better.
  • Schedule time to focus on your needs: Even when you feel like you don’t have time to squeeze in one more thing, make self-care a priority. When you’re caring for all aspects of yourself, you’ll find that you are able to operate more effectively and efficiently.

Press Play for Advice on Being Human

Hosted by therapist Amy Morin, LCSW, this episode of The Verywell Mind Podcast shares what it means to be ‘wholly human,’ featuring GRAMMY award-winning singer LeAnn Rimes. Click below to listen now.

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Keep in Mind

The demands of your daily life can dictate what type of self-care you might need the most. A self-care plan for a busy college student who feels mentally stimulated all the time and has a bustling social life might need to emphasize physical self-care. A retired person, on the other hand, may need to incorporate more social self-care into their schedule to make sure that their social needs are being met.

Self-care isn’t a one-size-fits-all strategy. Your self-care plan will need to be customized to your needs and what is currently going on in your life. You don’t want to wait until you’ve reached your breaking point. The goal is to take steps each day to make sure that you are getting what you need to deal with the stress and challenges you face in your daily life.

Mental Health in the Workplace Webinar

On May 19, 2022, Verywell Mind hosted a virtual Mental Health in the Workplace webinar, hosted by Amy Morin, LCSW. If you missed it, check out this recap to learn ways to foster supportive work environments and helpful strategies to improve your well-being on the job.

Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Elizabeth Scott, PhD

Elizabeth Scott, PhD is an author, workshop leader, educator, and award-winning blogger on stress management, positive psychology, relationships, and emotional wellbeing.

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