Types of Self-Care

Self-care is a critical part of handling your mental health. Using self-care as a coping mechanism can help you recognize patterns in your mental health. There are many types of self-care and they are all important. The key to self-care is consistency. You need to work on it daily. If you take care of yourself once a week, it won’t be as effective.

5 main types of self-care: physical, emotional, social, spiritual, personal, and practical
Infographic – Types of self care

Physical Care

The first type of self-care we will discuss is physical. Physical self-care is important to maintaining a healthy relationship with your body. Most of us think physical care just means working out, and while that is part of it, it also includes things like sleeping and nutritional care. When your mental health is bad, sometimes the last thing you want to do is get out of bed and move your body or worry about eating healthy food. 

As much of a struggle as it may be to get out of bed and do anything physical, it’s important for your mental health. You don’t have to agree to run a marathon or start a martial art. This is about keeping your body moving to stay healthy. Fine something you enjoy doing, even if it’s small.

Another form of physical self-care is sleeping. Both oversleeping and not getting enough sleep can have negative effects on your mental health. You have to find a balance, creating and sticking to a good sleeping routine will help you find that balance. Managing your sleep schedule is very important. 

Good nutritional health is also beneficial to mental health. This isn’t about dieting to have a healthy lifestyle unless you want it to be. Sometimes just eating healthy without restricting or counting calories will work just as well. Eating healthier will guarantee you feel better.  

Here are some practical ideas for physical self-care:

  • Drink more water – Hydration is vital. Without adequate water intake, your body’s organs won’t function properly. Start by increasing the amount of water you drink each day. Most of us don’t drink enough water every day. Part of that might be because they keep changing what qualifies as “enough.” No matter how much you drink now, add more, at least another 8 ounces. So if you don’t drink water at all, start with one 8-ounce glass. After a few days, add another. You’ll start to feel the difference.
  • Go for a walk – Staying active is crucial for peak physical health. However, you don’t have to spend hours in the gym. Getting out for a nice walk can do wonders for both your physical and your mental health. It doesn’t have to be speed walking or miles upon miles. Stroll around the neighborhood or the park. Any movement is better than no movement, especially when we’re spending more and more time in front of computers these days.
  • Try Zumba or Yoga or some other fitness class– The point of physical self-care is to do something you enjoy. So, if you’re looking to lose weight and improve your fitness, why not try a Zumba class? This is a fun, popular workout activity that can burn a lot of calories in one session. Joining a fitness class can sometimes give you the motivation to actually do it. You pay money for a class and don’t want to waste money. In addition, being with other people can also be motivating. It’s the positive side of peer pressure.
  • Eat more home-cooked meals – A great way to look after your physical health is to eat more home-cooked meals. Skip the takeout and prepare your own meals packed full of vegetables. This one is hard because it can take a lot more time than picking up the phone and getting something delivered or going through a drive thru. However, if you make a plan and know what you’re doing each night, it takes the pressure off of the dreaded, “What’s for dinner?” And you can get the whole family involved, even if you’re the one doing all the cooking.
  • Increase your fruit intake – To stay in great physical shape, the body needs plenty of nutrients. Increase your fruit intake by swapping them with unhealthy snacks. 

Emotional Care

An often over-looked type of self-care is your emotional care. Emotional care can include using coping skills, therapy, and journaling. Finding coping skills for anxiety, depression, or other mental health issues is important and can increase your understanding of your emotions. 

Admitting that you need therapy is a giant step in the process of getting better. Having a therapist can help because your therapist can give you coping mechanisms and other ways to handle your feelings and mental health. It’s easier to get to the root of the problem with a therapist on board and helping you along the way.

However, that is something else that can take time. You need to find a therapist that is a good fit for you. You might have to go through a few before you find a good match. Or maybe your insurance doesn’t cover mental and behavioral health and finding free care in your area is impossible. Then what?

A fantastic way to start regulating your emotions is to write them down. There are many different ways to journal and each way can be beneficial. Bullet journaling is one often used form that you may want to look into to get started journaling, it is easy and can be fun. There are a lot of different types of journals, just find one you resonate with and get going. Your future self will thank you.

Here are some ideas for emotional self-care:

  • Learn to become more self-aware: By becoming more aware of your emotions, you’ll find it easier to regulate them. 

Start a journal and write down the emotions you experience throughout the day. Discuss what you felt, what time it was, and what triggered the emotion. This will help you to identify any patterns in your emotions and the triggers you should avoid. If you prefer not to write, you can try a simple mood tracker to see how your moods and emotions shift throughout the week and month.

  • Practice mindfulness: Mindfulness is a popular form of self-care. It helps you to focus on the present, calming the mind and body. By practicing mindfulness, it helps you to better regulate your emotions. 

You’ll also be able to use it to control your emotions when needed. For example, if you start to feel overly anxious, you can calm your mind by taking deep, mindful breaths. You practice consciously being aware of how you feel and why you feel that way so you can make appropriate changes.

  • Talk to a therapist: It may be that you need to talk through any issues you are experiencing with a therapist. Emotions can be powerful and difficult to control; especially if you are dealing with a mental illness. As noted above, searching for the right fit might take time. Reach out to loved ones or friends in the meantime so you’re not keeping everything bottled up.

Social Care

Social self-care can include friends and setting boundaries. Talking or hanging out with friends can be therapeutic for some people. You don’t always have to talk about your feelings with your friends for it to be helpful. Sometimes just enjoying their company and having fun will do the trick. 

Setting boundaries is another aspect of social care that is very important for relationships. Setting physical and emotional boundaries is healthy. If hugs or excessive physical touch make you uncomfortable, you should be clear with your friends that it makes you feel uncomfortable. Some of us aren’t huggers. That’s okay. You shouldn’t feel the need to act a certain way because that’s what others do. Do what’s right for you.

If talking about your feelings or trauma makes you uncomfortable, you should also set those boundaries with your friends. It’s important that the people who care about you know what you want and don’t want to do or talk about. You should really have someone to talk to and if you don’t have a therapist sometimes a friend can be a good substitute. Just make sure that the person you’re confiding in will listen. They don’t need to give you advice (unless you ask for it). They just need to be open to listening.

Along with setting boundaries, social self-care includes making friends and communicating with others. Joining groups, or clubs, or taking a class can also be helpful for your mental health. Making sure you’re not alone the majority of your time can make you feel better and happier, even if you don’t necessarily feel lonely. 

Here are some practical ideas for social self-care:

  • Make time to call family – Set a regular time to call family to catch up. It could be calling your mom once a week or Zooming with your grandfather. Maintaining family connections is very important.
  • Set up a lunch date with friends – If you need to spend more time with friends, start by setting up a lunch date. This gives you a great opportunity to catch up. 
  • Join a new local class – If you need to make new friends, joining a local class can help. It could be a fitness class or a hobby such as painting or dancing. Look at your local YMCA or park district to see what they have available.

Spiritual Care

Spiritual self-care can be the most important type of self-care for some people, but it’s not for everyone. It depends on how spiritually connected you are to certain things, people, or religions. Note: Spiritual does not mean religious (although that can be included); there are different forms of spiritualism and different religions. Find what works for you and go with it. 

Spiritual self-care can include spending time in nature, meditation, or, prayer. Spiritual self-care is focused on the mind and soul. It provides mental clarity for those who are interested in it. It’s important when working on physical self-care to think positively and only have positive intentions. Even if you have no certain spiritual beliefs, there are certain kinds of meditation and even tarot practices that can be used in this realm of self-care.

Here are some practical ideas for spiritual self-care:

  • Meditation – Taking just 10 minutes out each day to meditate can help you to better connect to your inner self.
  • Going to church – If you are religious, going to church regularly can help you to feel more aligned with who you really are. It will also help to strengthen your relationship with God. If services don’t align with your current schedule, try joining a Bible study group or do some Bible study on your own with a guided journal.
  • Self-reflection – Practicing self-reflection can help you to understand who you are and what matters to you. You’ll also be able to identify any areas you need to improve on. Journaling is a great way to self-reflect. You can get a journal with prompts on the page to guide you or you can use any handy notebook.

Personal Care

Personal self-care can be one of the most helpful types of self-care. It’s also the one type that most people ignore because it seems selfish. Personal self-care can include spending time on hobbies, being creative, and setting goals. You get busy and lose touch with hobbies and activities you enjoyed. One way to deter recurring negative mental health issues is to continue with the hobbies that bring you joy.

Picking up an old hobby or starting up a new one can get your creative thoughts flowing. Creativity has a positive effect of increasing dopamine levels. These make you feel happy and satisfied.

For my readers with ADHD or whose children have ADHD: I see you. I know you have a habit of picking up new hobbies like others drink coffee. You see that shiny new idea and jump all in. You buy the materials and learn for hours on end. And then you forget about it. Maybe you never even produce anything. Accept it. There’s nothing wrong with exploring possible passions.

That being said, rein in the urge to buy expensive tools and materials until you know this is a hobby you might want to stick with (especially if you don’t have a lot of disposable income). Look for cheaper ways to experiment. Check out your local library or craft stores. They often have free or cheap craft classes for you to try. But don’t let people make you feel bad about having many interests. 

Personal care also includes things like bathing and brushing your teeth here. Sometimes we get depressed or have another type of mental health issue that causes us to neglect our basic hygiene needs. You’re not the only one and you can change. 

Many, many of my clients over the years have struggled with this. Mostly it happens because they never build the routines and habits. They know they need to brush their teeth every morning. But they get up and go to the bathroom and realize that they left their phone on the nightstand and it didn’t charge, so they go back to plug it in. Then they see a note they left for themselves about buying milk when they go to the store. Then someone comes in—a kid, a spouse—who needs their attention and they go. Teeth totally forgotten. 

A quick, simple solution is to set alarms on your phone, tablet, and computer so that you know when it is time to complete a certain task. This works wonders for most people. I suggest different sounds for different tasks so we don’t get used to them and tune them out. 

Here are some personal self-care ideas:

  • Read a book – Reading a book can help distract the mind. It is a relaxing activity that can help you to briefly escape into another world. You could also read self-help books to boost your self-care efforts. I know books are expensive, but you can check books out from the library. If you’re forgetful and you’re afraid of fines for being overdue, try ebooks. Many libraries allow you to borrow ebooks (or audiobooks) and when the borrow period is over, they just disappear from your device. You don’t have to remember to return them. Of course, if you’re in the middle of a book, it will be disappointing to suddenly lose it and have to borrow it again. If you don’t know how to do this, ask a librarian. Most of the time, they love to help.
  • Take a day trip – Sometimes it can really help to just get away from everything for a few hours. Take a day trip somewhere new and see just how much better you feel when you return home. I’m blessed in that I’ve always lived in the Chicagoland area and I have access to zoos, museums, beaches…you name it. I know not everyone has that availability. But maybe you can drive to the next town and see what they have. It’s not about having a lot of things to do as much as it is about changing your environment to get a new perspective.
  • Solve puzzles – Another great distraction self-care tip is to solve puzzles. This can really help to boost mental focus too, helping to prevent conditions such as Dementia in later life. I know that during the pandemic a lot of people started doing jigsaw puzzles because they were stuck at home. The surge of interest caused a rise in prices. Jigsaw puzzles aren’t the only puzzles. You can do crosswords, Sudoku, and brain teasers. Your local dollar store probably has some of these kinds of activity books available.
  • Start a gratitude journal – A gratitude journal can have a wonderful effect on your mental health. It trains the brain to become more positive. Writing in a gratitude journal for 21 days can have a significant impact on your mental wellbeing.

Practical Care

Practical self-care is important in order to prevent yourself from dealing with future real-life stressful situations. This includes completing tasks that complete important/core aspects of your life. This type of self-care can include organizing your home, creating a budget, cleaning out friends lists on social media, creating a routine, or creating a schedule. Practical self-care can help you avoid extremely stressful situations. 

Take a moment to write down your goals. Figure out how to make a routine that will help you to accomplish your goals. Create a schedule to help you stick to that routine. Now you have a plan to keep you moving in the right direction and to help deter you from falling into old habits and routines that were bad for your self-care goals.

Here are some ideas for practical self-care:

  • Create and follow a budget – This will help you to get to grips with your finances. It will help prevent you from overspending and plan for the future.
  • Open a savings account – Saving towards the future is a great self-care goal. So, if you don’t already have one, open a new savings account. You don’t need tons of money to start. Many banks offer incentives for opening an account.
  • Take a professional development course – Progressing in your career can open more opportunities and make you happier. Learning something new—even if it doesn’t lead directly to a raise—can make us feel better about ourselves and motivate us to do different things.
  • Organize your home – Don’t try to do your whole house at once. Pick one spot—one room or a corner of a room— that irritates you. Start there. Throw out the trash, make piles of things to keep (and find a home for them), things to give away, and try to come up with a plan to keep it organized. You might be surprised how beneficial this can be for the mind.

Self-Care is Important for Everyone

A lot of people don’t know that there are multiple types of self-care and that can make people not want to participate in self-care activities. Self-care is extremely important no matter where you’re at in your life and how you feel. Everybody of all ages and all places in life should use self-care in their daily life. Here's my guide to self-care for busy moms – especially those of us who are managing the executive functions for an entire household.

Self-care can prevent further mental health issues and can overall provide mental clarity. It can be difficult to do self-care activities especially if you lack the motivation and/or time to do so but it’s extremely important. Self-care is clinically proven to reduce anxiety and depression and improve concentration and mental clarity. 

It can even improve energy and minimize anger and emotional outbursts/breakdowns. Self-care helps you maintain a healthy relationship with yourself and your mind. Self-care always promotes positive healthy outcomes. There are many benefits of self-care and I hope this article has given you the tools to help you move forward and create new habits that will benefit you now and in the future. Let me know how this has helped you and what would you like to see next.

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