Post Updated on February 10, 2021
Does self-care ever feel overwhelming or like another thing on your to-do list? Maybe you feel like you desperately need self-care, but you’re never sure exactly what you need in the moment. This leads to a quick Google for “self-care ideas” which gives you a million suggestions that leave you feeling more stressed out than when you started.
There’s a lot of information out there about self-care, and it’s a complex topic that only makes things more confusing. All you know is that you need to take care of yourself, but you’re not sure what that should look like.
I have a simple solution to avoid overwhelm: look at self-care in terms of seven pillars. Seven might sound like a lot, but once you know them, you can better recognize what needs work in your life instead of trying to do everything. Plus I’ve created a self-care quiz you can take to see which type of self-care you need right now!
Overview of the Pillars
The seven pillars of self-care work together to bring a sense of wholeness to your life. I previously wrote about the five dimensions of self-care in this post, but I’ve added two other elements because I felt like they were missing from the original list: recreational and environmental.
The pillars of self-care:
How to use them:
Seeing this list might feel overwhelming. You might think you have to find some kind of perfect balance between them all.
You don’t need to focus on finding a perfect balance between them all. Instead, you might need to focus on one area for a day, a week, maybe even a month. When you’re ready, you can focus on others.
What’s most important is noticing which one area needs attention so that it doesn’t start dragging the other areas down with it.
Now that we’re a little less overwhelmed, let’s explore the pillars of self-care in more detail:
The 7 Pillars of Self-Care
1. Mental Self-Care
Mental/intellectual self-care is about cultivating a healthy mindset through mindfulness and curiosity. Mental self-care is important for developing a healthy mindset, growing your skills, reducing stress, and enhancing your knowledge and creativity.
Examples of mental self-care:
- Writing in a journal
- Engaging your brain in a new way
- Writing a brain dump list (here’s how to do that)
- Taking an intentional break away from technology/internet
2. Emotional Self-Care
Emotional self-care involves taking care of matters of the heart with healthy coping strategies and self-compassion. Tapping into emotional self-care helps you understand yourself more, better deal with challenges and setbacks, and develop healthy emotional responses.
Examples of emotional self-care:
- Watching a deep movie
- Listening to your favorite songs
- Writing down positive affirmations
- Asking for help when you need it
- Setting boundaries to protect your time and energy
3. Physical Self-Care
Physical self-care involves taking care of your body with exercise, nutrition, good hygiene, and proper sleep. 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:
- Eating meals at regular times (breakfast, lunch, and dinner)
- Drinking more water
- Taking vitamins daily
- Getting 7-8 hours of sleep
- Trying a new workout class or video (here’s a playlist)
4. Environmental Self-Care
Environmental self-care involves taking care of the spaces and places around you. The more you take care of your immediate environment, the more it will help you to thrive and feel a sense of belonging where you are.
Examples of environmental self-care:
- Arranging your workspace to be more comfortable
- Exploring somewhere new (even if it’s in your own town)
- Decluttering your living space
- Going outside for a walk
- Appealing to your five senses (e.g. light a candle, adjust the lighting, put on comfortable clothes, sip a warm drink, and put on your favorite playlist)
5. Spiritual Self-Care
Spiritual self-care involves taking care of your soul through activities or practices that provide a sense of purpose, direction, or meaning to your life. Dedicating time to spiritual self-care can help you find more meaning in life, feel more grounded, and develop a sense of belonging in life.
Examples of spiritual self-care:
- Spending time in nature
- Finding a community to contribute to (online or offline)
- Identifying your values & what’s meaningful to you
- Volunteering or contributing to a cause you believe in
- Connecting to a higher power (whatever that means to you)
6. Recreational Self-Care
Recreational self-care involves taking care of your inner child with hobbies, fun activities, and new experiences. Recreation is important because it lets you get away from the pressure of your to-do list and simply enjoy the pleasures that life has to offer.
Examples of recreational self-care:
- Taking time for hobbies and creative activities
- Going on an adventure by yourself or with others
- Taking time to do absolutely nothing (and enjoying it!)
- Playing board or video games
- Switching up your regular daily routine
7. Social Self-Care
Even though self-care is about you, it’s important to connect with other human beings on a regular basis. Social self-care means cultivating healthy relationships and connecting with people who get you. Seeking out positive social connections helps us create a sense of belonging and acceptance.
Examples of social self-care:
- Spending time with people whose company you enjoy
- Calling or seeing your relatives
- Writing a letter to a friend (pen-pal style!)
- Talking to a support group
- Chatting in an online forum or community
Which pillar do you need to focus on? Take the self-care quiz!
If you’re not sure which pillar of self-care you need most, take the self-care quiz to find out what to focus on first.
My hope is that this quiz will become a tool you use whenever you feel indecisive or unsure of the type of self-care you need. Come back to it whenever you need it!
Take this quiz here. Feel free to let me know your results in a comment below!