Types of Self-Care

Written by Samantha Wall, LCSW

Self-care (as mentioned in a previous blog), is a buzzword, but there can be a lot of misconceptions about what self-care actually entails. Self-care can be viewed as self-indulgent, selfish, or only caring for yourself. This is a big misconception that makes it really hard to actually implement self-care. Self-care is not just a ‘treat yourself’ day. As I talked about in my previous blog about self-care, it can be as small as a five minute routine to start or end your day. It is a time where you are caring for yourself and your needs. With these misconceptions, it is important that we shift our view from self-care being ‘selfish’ to self-care being ‘self-ful’. You are taking time out of your day to care for yourself and fill yourself up so that you can do your job, make dinner, and care for the people around you.             

There are different types of self-care, including physical, emotional, spiritual, intellectual, social, and sensory self-care. These are the types of self-care that I feel can be beneficial.


  1.     Physical: Activities or actions that improve the well-being of your physical health. 
  •     Taking a walk 
  •     Sleeping 
  •     Staying hydrated
  •     Other forms of exercise: yoga, Zumba, cardio, Just Dance–anything that you love that gets your body moving!
  •     Eating nutritious food


  1.     Emotional: Activities or actions that help you become more in tune with your emotions to connect, process, and reflect. It is okay to feel angry, sad, frustrated, or happy! Emotional self-care helps you learn/create time to have more compassion for yourself and your emotions. Emotional self-care is VERY hard when we don’t accept our emotional experience. 
  •       Journaling 
  •       Seeing a therapist
  •       Setting boundaries (it is okay to say no to friends, family, and WORK!)
  •       Being creative (expressing emotions through painting, writing, cooking, etc.) 
  •       Playing/listening to music 


  1.     Spiritual: Activities or actions that nurture your spirit and allow you to think beyond yourself. This can include religion, but does not have to. It is meant to help connect you to something bigger than yourself and support you in finding purpose and meaning in life. 
  •       Practicing meditation
  •       Spending time in nature
  •       Praying
  •       Writing a gratitude journal
  •       Going to a place of worship
  •       Dedicating time for self-reflection 


  1.     Intellectual: Activities or actions that stimulate your mind and intellect. This often gets neglected because our brains feel so tired at the end of the day! This type of self-care nourishes and challenges our mind. This can involve figuring out what your current talents/strengths are and developing them further or learning new skills. Right now, I am trying to learn how to play the drums and complete a craft that I have never done before. I DO NOT DO THIS EVERYDAY. I actually really struggle to complete this self-care weekly. That is okay, I am still working toward a goal, but I do not hold high standards or get down on myself for not completing this task. If I did, it would make these tasks un-enjoyable. 
  •       Reading a book (or listening to an audiobook) 
  •       Completing a puzzle
  •       Watching a documentary on a topic you are interested in
  •       Going to a museum
  •       Learning a new skill/hobby (cooking, crafting, drawing, dance, etc.) 


  1.     Social: Activities or actions that support the relationships in your life. Feeling connected to others is a human need. It just depends on the person with whom we connect and how much connection we need! Having a support system of people can support our mental health. 
  •       Spending time with loved ones
  •       Going to lunch with a coworker or friend. If you go with a coworker, set the boundary of not talking about work if that is a stressor
  •       Joining a class where the people/teacher are consistent
  •       Reconnecting with an old friend
  •       Calling a trusted person regularly


  1.     Sensory: Activities or actions that nourish your senses. Focusing on your senses is an effective way to bring your mind back to the present moment and lower stress levels. Focusing on the moment can also help you cope with a stressful past or any future worries/stress you may feel. It is a way that you can become more mindful and soothe your anxious/overwhelmed mind. 
  •       Burning your favorite scented candle/incense/wax
  •       Spending time in nature, noticing the temperature, smells, colors, and textures around you 
  •       Listening to soothing music/your favorite music 
  •       Walk and focus on one sense. For example: Noticing all the different colors around you. 


The key for each of these different types of self-care is to choose something you enjoy and have a passion for. If you hate running, but choose that as your ‘self-care,’ it’s not self-care. You are just expecting yourself to complete another task you hate. If you enjoy running and it brings you joy, awesome! Keep running!  

With all the different types of self-care, you might (and probably will) feel like certain types are more helpful than others. The most important aspect to keep in mind: “Do what works for you.” It doesn’t matter if your self-care doesn’t work for others, if it helps you take care of yourself and your needs, that is what matters! 


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