When it comes down to truly taking care of ourselves, there is more than just our body that needs attention. Of course, it’s an important, even indispensable dimension of self-care but there is more. Surprise – surprise self-care comes in multiple forms.
Before I list down the 7 forms I consider the backbone of self-care – in other words: every activity or sub-dimension of self-care can be listed under one or multiple of these 7 forms – I want you to realize that these seven are inseparably connected with each other.
Not one of them is necessarily more valuable, it’s about the balance and relationship between them.
Sure, one might need less attention in the form of ‘aware’ self-care because it already gets positive fulfillment due to virtuous activities you do naturally in your life. And opposite this statement is also valid, one might need more attention because you have destructive habits that create a shortcoming in some way.
I like to see these seven dimensions as pillars, all of which support a different aspect of yourself. If one is weaker, or more dominant, the whole structure will be dis-balanced.
What I mean by the relationship is that each self-care activity is most probably connected to one of the other forms of self-care and they can affect one another. Therefore the relationship between them can be of great importance on the results you gain from the initial action.
I know I know, these words are just words. Let me elaborate with a realistic example.
A social self-care activity could be to hang out with your friends. Which is initially great!
Yet you all decide to go to a bar and you end up getting wasted.
This, as you can imagine does not at all have a positive influence on your physical state let alone your mental, emotional or spiritual mode the next day…
When we reflect back to the original activity of self-care: to hang-out with your friends and the actual result of the action, how much has benefitted you and how much has ‘worn you out’.
This is what I classify as an unfavorable relationship between the social self-care activity and the other forms of self-care.
Let’s shuffle it up.
Same original self-care activity: hanging out with friends. Yet this time you all meet at the park and bring along home-made snacks ánd your dogs.
You end up getting some exercise by throwing over a Frisbee (physical self-care); munch on a couple of veggie wraps (physical self-care); connect with nature (spiritual self-care); you have a deep conversation with your friends (mental/emotional self-care) and boom, a very loving and caring relationship.
These two examples were of course ‘exaggerated’ cases but I hope that the idea of balance and relationship between the several forms has clarified. Enough introduction, let me give you the ingredients of the juice.
1. Physical Self-Care
Physical self-care involves actions that directly relate to your body’s state of wealth.
This includes a mindful and nutritious diet, enough exercise, a regular and solid sleeping pattern & healthy acknowledgment of your body’s needs. Meaning, when your body is sick you seek medical assistance or when you need to go the bathroom, you go.
Sub-dimensions of Physical Self-Care: Diet; Exercise; Sleep & Physical awareness
Physical Self Care idea’s:
- Prepare a healthy meal for yourself
- Do a yoga class; go to the gym; take the stairs instead of the elevator
- Set a goal to drink 2 L of water per day
- Go to bed early
- Take notice of signals from your body
- Moisture your skin
2. Mental Self-Care
Before sharing my two cents on what mental self-care is, I think It’s important to define what is meant with mind/mental and why emotional and intellectual self-care are mentioned separately in this list.
We’ve all had discussions and questions of what exactly the mind is and what it contains. To find there isn’t a conclusive answer. Right?
Amongst various movements of philosophy, religion, psychology and cognitive science there are diverse definitions. If you are looking for a clear answer, I’m afraid I can’t help you.
But what I can tell you, and something I’m pretty sure you’ll agree with me. The mind is our private terrain of thoughts, it’s the conversation we have with ourselves.
And if you’ve ever done some research into positive affirmations, you’ll understand where I’m heading.
Mental processes include us having the capacity to make sense of the things around us, to reflect upon them and to interpret. Thinking is another one of these mental processes we’re capable of, it contributes to our understanding of cause and effect, to recognize patterns, to comprehend and to be able to respond in a meaningful and yes – this has to be mentioned – in a mindful way.
Memory, the ability to preserve, retain and recall, knowledge, information or experience. And imagination, the activity of creating unique and new images, ideas or concepts in the mind are both other actions the mind is responsible for.
So, what’s mental self-care?
Personally, I categorize here activities that lead to a healthy and positive mental state. Ideas that help us think more positively and stimulate inspiring images.
And once again, as I mentioned before, all these forms of self-care are inseparable from each other. So, sure, an emotional or intellectual self-care activity most probably will have similar actions and results in common. Twice as nice, yay!
Ideas of Mental self-care:
- Practicing a positive affirmation
- Reading a book
- Playing ‘brain-training’ games
- Reflecting on a specific choice/action
- Observing thoughts, meditation
- Challenge yourself to say thank you instead of sorry
- Give yourself a break and take a digital detox!
- Writing a fictional story
3. Emotional Self-Care
First of all, let’s state the obvious before discussing the core of emotional self-care.
Emotions are complex.
There are literally tons and tons of feelings and emotions we are capable of experiencing, on a wide scale ranging from Affection and Anger all the way to Worry and Wonder. And these emotions aren’t alone, they are like no other intertwined with other dimensions of our experiences.
The word emotion, originating from the French word émouvoir, meaning to stir up refers well to the ability of emotions. They can either motivate or de-motivate, make us feel comfortable or cold; have us gushing out tears or blissfully smiling…
uh-huh, intriguingly intricate.
Emotions are often the driving force behind motivation, both positive and negative. Therefore a healthy, caring and understanding relationship with your emotional state can be of vital necessity for your serenity.
Emotional Self Care idea’s:
- Mindfully observe without judgment
- Use an art-form to express your emotions/feelings
- Mindfully focus on a pleasurable emotion. Make a list of the things you are grateful for.
- Take some time for yourself. By being alone you can truly distinguish your own emotions compared to those of others.
- Writing in a journal
- Follow a drama class
4. Intellectual Self-Care
Your intellect is your capacity for thinking and acquiring knowledge.
Just like a healthy diet being a form of self-care where you are feeding yourself with nutritious fuel. Similarly, intellectual self-care is of importance, you are feeding yourself fuel for the mind.
Intellect is often considered to be a branch of intelligence reflecting mainly its logical and rational side. It, therefore, can help you to come to correct conclusions, whether something is real or true.
Experience plays a crucial role in the development of one’s intellect. Especially relevant, through solving life problems people can reach intellectual enlightenment and improve their behavioral patterns to act more reasonably and appropriately in the future.
Intellectual self-care ideas:
- Learning a new language
- Doing something for the first time
- Watching a documentary
- Thinking of multiple solutions to a problem
- Learn to play a musical instrument
5. Spiritual self-care
Similar to the ‘mind’ spirituality can be defined in many ways and therefore there are numerous activities that you can do to improve your spiritual health.
Here at NomadSoulzz spiritual is seen as a subjective experience of a sacred dimension and it covers the ‘’deepest’’ values and meanings by which people live. When practicing spiritual self-care, we aim to transcend the material aspects of life and focus on developing a sense of awe and wonder toward the universe.
As a result of the big differences in how people interpret spirituality, I believe one of the most crucial factors here is respect. Respect for all beings, their beliefs, and their choices.
We are all connected and our state of body, mind and spirit influences that around us. The awareness of this can positively affect our spiritual experiences and health.
Spiritual self-care ideas:
- Prayer / meditation
- Attending services with like-minded others
- Going on a spiritual retreat
- Clarifying your values and priorities
- Initiating or joining meaningful discussions with others (with respect towards each other)
- Finding ways to contribute to the well-being of others
- Having respect for other people’s spiritual values
- Reading literature.
6. Social self-care
I don’t know about you, but every time I see my partner, close friends or a total stranger sending me a genuine smile, that makes me happy. Happy in a way that is different than other things that make me happy.
Because it’s not just me in the equation. It involves another being, it’s another life merging with yours.
If we look at this aspect on a more scientific level we’ll find that the outermost layer of our brains (the neocortex) is much larger in humans when compared to other mammals of similar size. Interesting is that the neocortex is involved in higher social cognition, such as conscious thought, language, behavioral and emotion regulation, as well as empathy. And with this comes the ability to understand the feelings and intentions of others.
Being social is not only natural to us, it is as vital as eating and sleeping to develop ourselves.
Without interaction with others, the parts of the brain that is responsible for empathy and self-regulation don’t develop properly.
So, in a complete and ideal system of self-care, there should be no doubt of the essence of those besides the self. We are all connected.
Social self-care idea’s:
- Doing volunteer work
- Giving someone a compliment
- Joining a club
- Playing a game with someone
- Having a meaningful conversation
- Be a listener
- Having a family dinner
- Catching up with a relative through social-media
7. Practical Self-Care
Somethings we do aren’t necessarily ‘fun’ or directly related to an action of self-care, yet, they can be. When this awareness shifts we make things a whole lot lighter for ourselves.
For example, something as practical as decluttering a drawer can have huge benefits on mental and emotional layers. Due to the clean and organized drawer (the result of your practical self-care action) the next time you open the drawer you don’t experience an emotion of frustration and you are more at ease mentally (no negative thoughts towards yourself being unorganized).
Practical self-care idea’s:
- Changing your bed linens
- Doing groceries
- Simplifying your to-do list
- Donating stuff you don’t longer use.