It’s time to talk about *all* types of self-care, including physical, mental, social, emotional, and environmental.
The self-care trend continues and we are here for it. It’s a legit way to improve or maintain your well-being. But self-care can mean much more than bubble baths, candles, and face masks. (Though NGL, those things are pretty great, too.)
When we define exactly what part of our life needs extra TLC, we can do a better job at creating a self-care habit or ritual to serve it. For example, if you notice you feel a little lonely, a bath alone is unlikely to soothe you. Instead, self-care might mean picking up the phone and calling an old friend – even if you do it from the tub.
Here’s how to navigate self-care in its many forms, for every part of life.
Much like #situationship or #finfluencer, it seems like we (the people of the internet) are kind of just collectively defining self-care as we go.
But the World Health Organization (WHO) does have an official definition: Self-care tools include those which support people, families, and communities to:
- promote health
- maintain health
- prevent disease
- cope with illness and disability
And in a 2021 study, researchers wrote that self-care in a healthcare setting means the ability to care for yourself through:
So, self-care is obvs pretty important when it comes to living a balanced, healthy, and happy life. And even though we don’t have tons of research on self-care so far, what we do know is pretty promising.
In a 2017 study, researchers found that self-care habits may help prevent disease. And in a 2018 study, researchers found that medical students who practiced self-care habits report less stress and a better overall quality of life.
Not to sound like your teacher or anything (don’t worry, there won’t be a quiz), but the five types of self-care to know about include:
- physical self-care
- mental self-care
- emotional self-care
- environmental self-care
- social self-care
When we get more specific about the type of self-care we seek, we can do a better job at truly nurturing ourselves.
Physical self-care involves any activity that tends to the well-being of your bod. Maybe you’re stiff from sitting at a desk all day, or maybe you need to restore after a hard workout. Whatever the need, anything that serves your physical health falls under this category.
Some physical self-care activities might include:
- you guessed it: exercise! (whether that’s a walk, hike, bike ride, Zumba, tennis, or jump-squatting in your living room)
- sipping from your new hydro flask so you get enough of that good, good H2O
- spending your #treatyoself $$ on a bougie salad and smoothie
- getting a massage
- going to acupuncture
- dancing (optional: alone in your room in your underwear)
- napping when you’re exhausted (yes, napping is self-care)
- scheduling time to get enough sleep
You also may want to take stock of your physical well-being by asking yourself the following Qs:
- How does your body feel right now?
- What does your body need?
- What does your body want?
Brains, baby. Mental self-care is anything that nourishes your mind (or in some cases, lets it rest or reset). Since mental health is key to overall health, you might want to try:
- listening to an audiobook or podcast (ok, you’ve heard this one before)
- learning a new language or skill
- heading to a museum
- writing (whether that’s poetry or a letter to your future self – grocery lists don’t count!)
- playing sudoku, chess, or another mentally-stimulating game
- doing a puzzle
- taking a social media detox
- reading a book
- practicing a positive mental attitude (PMA FTW)
You can also assess where your mental health is at by asking some questions such as:
- What kind of thoughts are going through your head right now?
- Are these thoughts important or relevant? (If so, how can you address them?)
- If not, what might you rather think about instead?
Emotional self-care means anything that helps you process, deal with or reflect on your emotions. Whether you’re on a full-on rollercoaster or you feel a little numb, caring for your emotions is a great way to find peace and balance in life.
Some emotional self-care activities include:
- seeing a therapist (the people are right: they really do work)
- talking to a loved one about your feelings
- journaling about your emotions
- channeling your emotions into art (whether that’s painting, dancing, sewing a new outfit, or making TikTok vids)
- practicing gratitude
- reciting affirmations or mantras to boost your mood (this song might be for kids, but Snoop Dogg gets it)
- doing things that make you happy (pro tip: first, journal about what makes you happy)
- chatting with your inner child
- forgiving yourself and others
- crying it out
Where are your emotions @, anyway? Some solid questions to ask to find out include:
- What emotions or sensations are you feeling right now? Try to get as specific as possible.
- What kinds of emotions would you like to feel instead? What might help you do that?
- How might you release your undesirable emotions? (e.g. channeling them into art, journaling, or therapy)
Everyone deserves a safe, secure, and comfy home life – even when you’re away from home. Environmental self-care is anything that deals with your living space and may include:
- making your bed in the morning
- decorating your home in a way that makes you happy (pro tip: twinkle lights aren’t just for kids)
- taking a vacation (or staycation)
- organizing and cleaning your space (or hey, purifying the negative energy with some sage)
- working from home sometimes (alternatively: working at a co-working space or coffee shop to get out of the house)
- listening to relaxing music
- lighting some candles
- buying some house plants
- buying functional things that make your life easier (hello, closet organizer or instant coffee pot)
- setting your environment up for healthy habits (i.e., setting the fruit bowl on the kitchen table or creating a cozy meditative space with pillows)
Some questions you might want to ask about your environment include:
- How does your day-to-day space make you feel? Is it functional? Does it serve you?
- What does your dream environment look like?
- What are some small ways you can transform your space today?
Even if you’re #teamintrovert, you have to admit that humans need other humans. We’re social animals, and the research shows that connecting with others can do a lot for our overall health and wellness.
Some ways to practice social self-care include:
- scheduling regular phone calls with loved ones
- penciling in a date night with your boo
- having a game night with your friends
- cuddling with your pet (or someone else’s pet)
- sending some snail mail to your BFF
- volunteering with others
- joining a team or club
- chatting up a friendly stranger (even if it’s just in the checkout line)
- setting healthy boundaries and sticking to them
- setting a timer on social media use
- saying no to social events when you need time alone
- asking a friend for help
- building an in-person or online community for others like you
To assess your social well-being, consider asking yourself:
- Who can I turn to when I need help?
- What relationships do I want to nurture?
- Which ones might not be serving me?
Like pretty much everything else in life, self-care doesn’t neatly fit into these boxes. There are also other types that might resonate with you, including:
- Spiritual self-care can mean going to a place of worship, spending time in nature, meditating, or journaling about the universe and your place in it. You don’t have to be religious to practice spiritual self-care – it’s basically whatever nourishes your soul.
- Practical self-care. Sometimes, self-care means taking care of future you. That might mean investing in a personal development course, setting goals and sticking to them, or streamlining your day-to-day tasks with help from an app, a new planner, or even hiring an assistant.
- Financial self-care. Finances are an inevitable part of our lives – and for some, a very stressful part. To create a healthier relationship with money, maybe you need a little financial self-care. First, consider assessing and rewriting your beliefs about money. (For instance, “I can’t make a lot of money with my degree,” might become “There are lots of high paying jobs out there for people like me” or “I can always go back to school or build up my skillset to earn more.”) Other ways include setting aside “fun money,” hiring a financial advisor, or using an app that simplifies saving or investing.
- Personal self-care. Personal self-care is anything that involves getting to know yourself a bit better. Maybe that means listening to new music and seeing how you like it, responding to journal prompts, or writing lists of what you love and why. And why not take yourself on a date?! You might discover a new passion in the process.
And we’ll be real – in the end, self-care can be whatever it means to you.
Self-care comes in various forms, including physical, mental, emotional, social, and environmental. When you pinpoint which areas of your life need some support, you can implement new habits to improve your quality of life.
Of course, these changes don’t have to happen overnight! Even small steps can add up to major self-care gains. You might practice emotional self-care by talking to a loved one about your feelings, or take care of your physical body by dancing around your room in the morning.
Whatever self-care steps you take, it’s just important that they serve you and your unique sense of well-being.