Self-care, a timely, trending ritual designed to leave us feeling uplifted, energised, and nurtured. The benefits of self-care include better concentration, higher energy levels, increased positivity, reduced stress and anxiety, and the list goes… The self-care hype is filling our social media feeds, though we’re often left with some unanswered questions. For instance, what different types of self-care exist and what do they actually entail? How often should I practice self-care?
Do not fear, this guide breaks down five types of self-care and how they can be practiced daily. Yes, that’s right daily! Despite contrary belief, self-care should be viewed as a priority, not as a weekend luxury. Treating it as a luxury may leave you feeling drained, overwhelmed, or unequipped to face life’s challenges with a growth mindset. Self-care is not all about face masks, and baths, (though they are definitely needed at times!) nor is it selfish or a sign of weakness. Self-care is defined as “the act of tending to one’s physical or mental health.” The five pillars of self-care covered in this post are: physical, social, mental, spiritual, and emotional. So, let’s dive in!
Physical self-care refers to any physical activity you engage in. We look after our body to enable it to run efficiently, providing it with the fuel it needs to reach our potentials. Firstly, this requires us to be active on a daily basis in a way that works for the individual. You’ll feel more driven to exercise if you actually enjoy it, be it walking, workouts, fitness classes or cycles. Keep experimenting until you find the one that gets you moving without clouding your joy. Secondly, sleep plays a fundamental role. Start by asking yourself if you get enough sleep and, if not, take action to make healthy changes. Thirdly, think about your diet. Fuel your body with a balanced, healthy diet. Another thing to bear in mind is health concerns. Attend to any health matters by seeking professional help if and when needed.
As social beings, human connection is essential. Cultivate and maintain close relationships with loved ones including friends, family members, partners and pets. It is easy to neglect our social life when life gets in the way, you know like when you’re too busy to even finish that to-do list. The amount of time devoted to relationships is subject to the individual. Extroverts may need a weekend-full of social activities to get their fix, while introverts may require a more precise balance of alone time and socialising to feel fulfilled. Regardless of personality type, a great question to ask yourself is if you devote enough time to catching-up or having fun with your loved ones and is there any relationship that you may have unwillingly neglected.
Mental self-care encompasses anything related to the mind, and closely intertwines with psychological and emotional health. The way the mind works greatly influences our overall sense of well-being. Mental health involves our reasoning and decision-making skills as well as our ability to concentrate and retain information. A great way to sharpen the mind is by carrying out mentally stimulating activities daily. Such activities include reading, learning a new skill, word puzzles, maths problems, or anything that requires a mental effort like writing, drawing, painting etc.
Mental self-care also entails how we think, process and understand information. It’s vital that you work towards a growth mindset as opposed to a fixed mindset. Do you find yourself doubting your abilities, questioning yourself, or frequently clouded with negativity? These are signs of a fixed mindset. A growth mindset sees problems as challenges, mistakes as learning curves, while driven by self-belief and persistence. Throughout life it’s natural to experience both mindsets, though it is of greater value to practice a growth mindset for our mental well-being. Check out this short video for a more detailed explanation and tips on how to achieve this.
Spiritual health does not necessarily refer to religion, though commonly associated with this pillar, and can be practiced by atheists and agnostics too. It’s concerned with meaning and purpose; having a defined set of values and morals and living in accordance with them. Essentially, it’s acknowledging what you believe to be right or wrong, important and meaningful and applying them to our actions and goals. Spiritual well-being greatly impacts our overall well-being and can bring us inner peace. For instance, have you ever done something you don’t agree with like gossip about someone or tell a lie, and then been flooded with guilt? That’s because it doesn’t align with your values and principles.
Spiritual self-care practices include being surrounded by those that are aligned with your values, whether it be a friend or forms of entertainment like podcasts or books, all these things influence us greatly so choose them wisely. Another key pillar to spiritual health is to ensure that our actions represent our beliefs. Intentionally set out your values and purpose by creating Stephen Covey’s innovative personal mission statement as seen in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. The statemen defines what is most important to you, the person you want to be and how you’d like to be remembered by those that cross your path, and lifetime goals you would like to achieve. A value could be something as simple as kindness or honesty, while goals could be starting a family, becoming an entrepreneur or being a valued employee. The statement can be a guide for decision-making processes, behaviour, actions and stay focused on long-term goals.
Emotional health is both the awareness of our emotions and the ability to manage and express those feelings appropriately. It’s about acknowledging, processing, and expressing emotions in a healthy way. Developing supportive friendships is crucial in order to talk about negative emotions or doubts and support you through any emotional turmoil. It’s also essential to be your own best friend. Self-talk can be the be-all or end-all. For more guidance on negative self-talk, work on self-love and how you can silence your inner critic.
A great practice for anyone who has a tendency to struggle with this pillar is to journal at the start and end of each day. Outline affirmations, gratitude and three goals to keep you focused on the day ahead and control a wandering mind. Likewise, at the end of each day note down what you are grateful for to stay on track. Let’s face it, processing and expressing emotions in a healthy way isn’t always a walk in the park. Try out a range of practices until you find one that works for you and make a concerted effort to practice the technique that’s effective for you when faced with particular emotions. For instance, when stressed focus on breathwork or learn to release anger in a healthy way like with exercise or journaling. And, finally, schedule in fun activities and always have something to look forward to. Don’t fall into the trap of punishing yourself based on fleeting emotions.
Self-care shouldn’t be expensive or overly time-consuming. If you find yourself neglecting one of the pillars of self-care, work to improve that specific area. Reap the benefits by establishing rituals that work for you. See it as a concoction of healthy habits that enhance your overall well-being and enable you to flourish.
P.S. Check out my free five-minute morning journal below to start the day as you mean to go on.
“Give yourself the same care and attention that you give to others and watch yourself bloom.” – The Sprouting Sunflower