Last Updated on May 5, 2022
For an updated version of this list, check out the seven pillars of self-care here.
Are you tired of hearing the word self-care yet? These days, the whole world seems to be talking about making time for you and starting your own self-care routine (oh wait, I totally did that too). Even though this topic is all over the interwebs, I’m definitely glad to see people retreating from the culture of busy and realizing that finding time for ourselves is vital to living a happy and fulfilling life.
But, of course, with all of this talk about self-care comes a lot of misconception. It’s important to take a moment to make sure we actually know what we mean when we say self-care. Is it taking a bath, getting a massage, and painting your nails? Maybe, but there’s more to it than that.
Today, I’m going to break down the meaning of self-care, tell you all about the five different dimensions (which are totes fascinating if you ask me), and give you tons of practical ideas that you can start incorporating into your self-care regime. Boom.
So what is self-care?
Let’s get started with a quick and easy definition of self-care, shall we?
self·care // activities and practices we engage in on a regular basis to reduce stress and enhance our well-being
I’m going to just pause you for a moment and direct your attention to the word regular here. These are practices we need to schedule into our days often, rather than just once in a while. Ultimately, self-care is about finding something that you can do on the regular to make you feel comfortable and relaxed, away from the pressure of your to-do list(s).
What’s also important to note is that there are so many different ways to take care of yourself. While certain practices may work for others, you may find that they don’t work for you.
I was recently talking to my friend Kayla about self-care, and she said she was having a hard time getting into the typical self-care practices like taking a bath and practicing yoga, but hiking was an activity that really resonated with her because it helps calm her mind down.
As you can imagine, there are endless possibilities for your self-care practice, and one way to look at it is by splitting self-care into five different dimensions that make for a well-rounded approach.
The Five Dimensions of Self-Care
There are three different dimensions that I emphasize the most when it comes to self-care: mental, physical, spiritual. If you’ve tried my self-care routine method, you’ll understand why. There are also two bonus dimensions: social and emotional. Incorporating activities from each dimension into your life means you’ll be nourishing every aspect in your life and ultimately getting better at self-care (probably without even realizing you’re doing it).
Let’s dive a little deeper into these different dimensions by explaining what they are and how they can benefit you, as well as giving examples for each dimension so you can begin thinking about which self-care practices you want to incorporate into your life regularly. Ready? Let’s do this.
01 / Mental
The desire to learn new concepts and expand your knowledge contributes positively to your overall well-being. Mental self-care is about finding the balance between stimulating your mind and giving your mind a break, and this can help with creativity, innovation, and continual learning. I’m a big advocate for personal growth, but I greatly appreciate the opportunity to switch off and let my brain rest for a while.
Examples of Mental Self-Care:
- Reading a book
- Taking or teaching a class
- Listening to music
- Taking a Media Detox Challenge
- Learning a new language
- Try this free 7-Day Mindfulness Challenge
02 / Physical
The physical dimension of self-care encompasses safety, health, nutrition, movement, physical touch, and sexual needs. When you practice activities for your physical well-being, you can increase your energy levels and boost your self-esteem.
Examples of Physical Self-Care:
- Trying a new workout
- Taking an Epsom bath or long shower
- Eating nourishing foods
- Dancing around your room
- Getting extra sleep
- Laughing out loud
- Smooching with your bae
03 / Spiritual
The spiritual dimension of self-care involves a personal practice that allows you to follow the values and beliefs that give you purpose. Dedicating time to this dimension can help you find more meaning in life, develop a sense of belonging, and find a connection to something greater than oneself. Even if you’re not religious, it’s still important make a connection with the spiritual dimension somehow.
Examples of Spiritual Self-Care:
- Going on a nature walk
- Attending a religious service
- Squeezing in a yoga practice
- Volunteering with a local organization
- Trying meditation or another mindfulness practice
04 / Social
Social connection is another important dimension of self-care, even though most people associate self-care with themselves (because, duh, it has the word self in it). But social connection helps create a sense of belonging and acceptance which we humans need, and it allows us to create and share a common bond with others.
Examples of Social Self-Care:
- Going to a workout class
- Walking with friends
- Joining or starting a book club
- Working at a coffee shop
- Organizing a family dinner
- Reaching out to a new person
05 / Emotional
Tapping into the emotional self-care dimension helps us understand ourselves more, cope with challenges, and develop and nourish healthy relationships. When we tend to our emotional needs, we cultivate a greater sense of compassion, kindness, and love for ourselves and others.
Examples of Emotional Self-Care:
- Writing in a gratitude journal
- Saying positive affirmations
- Diffusing essential oils
- Saying no
- Writing yourself a letter
- Connecting with a friend
- Seeing a therapist
Thank you to The Gottman Institute for creating this graphic!
Putting It Into Practice
Now that you’ve learned all about the dimensions of self-care, think about how you might start to incorporate them into your regular routine. Maybe it’s walking with a friend on your lunch break, reading a book before bed, or trying out some positive affirmations in the morning. You could also try incorporating them into the Self-Care Power Hour if that jives with you. Just think about what you would find fun or relaxing and make a conscious effort to do more of it!
Did you like this post?
What do you think about the five dimensions of self-care? Have they changed your perspective of self-care in any way? Let us know in the comments below! I’d love to hear about your favorite self-care practice and how you plan to incorporate the self-care dimensions into your routine.
YES YES YES. Love this post and couldn’t agree more with all of these points!
Thanks so much, Les! I know how much you love self-care too!
Self care is really important for everyone.
Thank you so much for sharing self care tips
I loved this! We need these reminders!
Thank you, Mirley!
I love how you broke down self-care into 5 different parts :) -Audrey | Brunch at Audrey’s
Thank you, Audrey! Hope you’re well :)
Love how you broke it down into so many dimensions. I tend to focus on the physical, social and intellectual elements but neglect the spiritual and emotional. Maybe it’s time to revisit my routine and try to incorporate those other dimensions. Great post! Thx
Hey, Alyssa! It’s great that you give focus to those three areas already! But it definitely helps to make sure you’re looking after every dimension :)
I like how you broke it all down and make it simple (KISS right haha). I felt like this was something that I could actually accomplish :)
That’s so awesome to hear, Jenn! I always try to give practical advice so I’m glad to hear you think this sounds manageable :)
I love how this is broken down into parts with examples! It’s almost as if you can master one part, then the other, then the other, instead of trying to change all of them at the same time!
Cloe X http://clxelouise.blogspot.com
That’s definitely right, Cloe! And a lot of times, if you just focus on one area you end up taking care of other dimensions at the same time!
I absolutely loved reading this. I’ve always liked the idea of self-care but I honestly never knew how to put it into practice. I love the way you’ve split this up and given suggestions for each – can’t wait to start putting these into action!
I’m so glad to hear this was helpful for you, Holly! xo
Really love this post, great practical tips for everyone!
Thank you so much!
I am in love with this post! It’s exactly what I need! ❤
Andrea Ingrid | http://www.clairdemoon.blogspot.com
I really hope it helps, Andrea!
This is a really well-written post full of great ideas! I generally focus on the physical part of self care and neglect the others – something to work on!
Thank you, Odessa! I tend to focus on the intellectual and emotional areas, and physical is probably my most neglected haha.
I loved this post! & the box is such a cute idea! when I went to get it the coupon code was broken. . . :(
Hey Sam it’s all fixed now :)
Thanks for fixing that, Kelly! <3
Thank you, Sam! Looks like Kelly went ahead and fixed the code!
I love this post! And how it is broken into subsections. I tend just group self care into mental and physical, which really isn’t enough. I need to expand my definition!
I think there will always be areas that we pay a little more attention to which is totally okay, but it definitely helps to think a little broader when it comes to self-care! Thanks for your comment, Anna! xo
This blog is precisely what I’ve been looking for, and needed! So well written and quite useful. Thank you for sharing. SPREAD LOVE❤️
Thank you so much, Melissa!
This was a lovely post!
I saw the picture of the book “my Paris dream by Kate.” how was it?
I actually did a mini-review of it in this post if you want to read that! :)
This is an amazing post! I love that you broke it down into the areas and gave a whole chunk of examples. So well-written!
Thanks so much and glad you found it helpful, Megan! xo
What a lovely post. I hadn’t thought about self-care in this way, and I realized I don’t hit all 5 aspects when I do make time for myself. It’s so smart to be intentional about the kinds of self-care we do!
What an awesome post! It’s true that self-care is not something you do whenever you’re down but regularly to reduce depletion!
how can I get the pinterest pic as a pdf? I really would like this for my vision board/yearly planner.
Hey Shrena! You could try using a website like this: https://smallpdf.com/jpg-to-pdf
Excellent! If we take care of ourselves in the many dimensions in life and seek balance, we are more likely to have better relationships!
Beautiful post!! I have always thought of it like this as well, with the addition of Material Self-Care. This includes thing like a properly fitting bra, underwear without holes, that pair of jeans that makes you feel fantastic, etc.!
Omg yes I love that!! Didn’t even think of it, but those things make a huge difference.
I love this post and inspiration on different ways to practice self care that work for individuals…
Your approach to self care is a much appreciated fresh perspective in an otherwise buzzword crazy society.
I’m going to try and implement some of these lovely ideas into my everyday routine! Thanks :)
Aww thank you, Daisy! Self-care has definitely become a buzzword, but I’m glad this post offered a different perspective for you :)
Wonderful and insightful post. It helped me a lot. Reading your blog is kind of a mental self care for me because I don’t focus on school and enjoy a good blog entry aha.
Thanks for breaking it down the way you do! That’s exactly how I’ve broken things down in my life. I’m a nerd and organize my phone and google doc folders just that way: Financial, Intellectual, Personal (I guess this could also be emotional), Physical, Professional, Social, and Spiritual. It’s just been a natural progression for me to bucket life into those categories, so it was cool to see you do the same! :)
Thanks Catherine for such a great post. People usually focus on their mental and physical health (barely) and forget about the other dimensions that you need to focus too. Looking forward to reading more articles like this! :)
Glad you liked the post, Ashley!
Thanks Catherine, this is a great article on self-care. I particularly like that social self-care is its own domain. Particularly in this time of Covid when it’s so easy to feel isolated, it’s a great reminder of how important it is to prioritize this area of one’s care. I’ve only just found your web site and am looking forward to reading more already!