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Self-Care Is a Necessity, Not a Luxury

Discover simple ways to improve your mood and well-being.

Key points

  • Simple exercises can help you find the time for self-care and the strategies that will work for you.
  • Have check-ins with yourself a few times during the day.
  • Be proactive with self-care, rather than reactive.
Bruce Mars on Unsplash
Self-care is an essential part of life.
Source: Bruce Mars on Unsplash

You've read that taking care of yourself needs to be a priority. But you may have many people or things vying for your attention. As a result, focusing on yourself seems unnecessary — even selfish sometimes. You also may have been raised in a family in which denying oneself was respected and even encouraged.

It's hard for us to fill the roles we have in our lives when we are running on empty. Part of caring for and loving others is to love ourselves first. That means we make sure we put self-care first. Read further to find out how to start your self-care routine (or add to the one you have).

Start with the Basics

If you are new to self-care or need a refresher, start with first things first. In Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, physiological or physical needs come first (Hale et al., 2019). Physiological needs include:

  • Sleep
  • Food
  • Water
  • Shelter
  • Air

If you aren't getting your basic needs met, it isn't easy to meet any of your other needs. Are you eating enough or too much? Are you eating food that is healthy for you? Are you drinking enough water? Are you sleeping too little or too much? Check in with yourself and consider tracking what you are eating, how much water you are drinking, and how you are sleeping. Several apps (and watches) can help you track your habits.

Be Proactive Instead of Reactive

When responding to stress and burnout with self-care strategies, you are being reactive. When you incorporate self-care as part of your daily routine, you are proactive. You know that even having a "regular day" can create an undercurrent of stress which may be barely noticeable on the surface. By practicing self-care, even when you feel good, you are making sure that when you do experience a crisis, you feel more resilient and pulled together.

Check-In with Yourself

How are you feeling? What's your honest answer to that question? We may be so used to answering "I'm good, thanks" when someone asks us how we are that we don't consider an honest reply. It may be more socially acceptable to answer that you are doing well, but be honest with yourself. How are you feeling? Do a check-in with yourself. Use the acronym HALT. Are you hungry, angry, lonely, or tired? If so, get those needs met first before engaging with others or making decisions.

You Do Have the Time

While reading this post, you may have thought, "How am I going to find the time to do that?" If it's important, you can make the time. Again, if you don't take care of yourself, you can't fulfill your other roles in life. If you feel that you don't have time to care for yourself, look at your commitments. You may need to change some to get some time back for yourself.

Go One Number Higher

Rate your mood on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being "not good at all" and 10 being "great." Ask yourself what you can do to get just one number higher on that scale. To go one number higher in mood, consider going for a walk, spending some moments in quiet solitude, or trying something new that gives you some relief. What helps you improve your mood may be unique to you — and that is perfectly okay. Sometimes going one number up on the scale means just sitting with your feelings and experiencing them instead of trying to push them down. Use the 1-to-10 scale to check in with yourself a few times during the day. Make a list of the things that have helped improve your mood.

Seek Outside Help

If you find that you've tried self-care strategies and they don't seem to be helping, or if you are feeling "stuck," consider contacting a counseling professional. Talking things out with a neutral person can help us see solutions that otherwise may have seemed out-of-reach.

Copyright 2021 Sarkis Media LLC.


Hale, A. J., Ricotta, D. N., Freed, J., Smith, C. C., & Huang, G. C. (2019). Adapting Maslow's hierarchy of needs as a framework for resident wellness. Teaching and learning in medicine, 31(1), 109-118.

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