A Beginner’s Guide To Self-Care

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These days it seems like everybody and their mother is talking about the importance of self-care. While I am glad that people are finally starting to see the importance of taking time to slow down and take care of themselves, there still seems to be some confusion about what it actually is. There is way more to it than sheet masks and bubble baths.

guide to self care

What exactly if self-care?

Back when I was in college, I didn’t know that it was even a thing. However, I did now that for my sanity I needed to schedule regular breaks. I just happened to call it going on sabbatical.

Even though I didn’t know it at the time, that was actually a very fitting term. The word sabbatical goes all the way back to the Bible and is used in reference to the Jewish practice of Shmita. Modern use of the word sabbatical has since evolved beyond Shmita to taking time off for some purpose or goal.

So long story short, I was taking time off for the purpose of self-rejuvenation. Look at me, doing something cool before it was cool.

If you were to look in the dictionary for the definition of self-care, you wouldn’t find one that is truly fitting to how psychologists and mental health professions use the term.

For this post, we are going to use the following definition:

self-care// activities and practices we engage in on a regular basis to reduce stress and enhance our well-being

Okay, so sheet masks and bubble baths totally apply if that helps to reduce your stress and enhance your well-being. But what if those aren’t your cup of tea?

This is where the five dimensions come in. So what are those dimensions? I’m so glad you asked.

The Five Dimensions

The five dimensions are physical, emotional, intellectual (mental), social, and spiritual. Ideally, you would incorporate activities from each dimension. Doing so would make your practice well-rounded while nourishing every aspect of yourself.

In the following sections, I will define these different dimensions by explaining what they are and how it can help you, as well as giving examples of activities that fill each dimension. This will help you give concrete illustrations to the rather abstract concepts of the dimensions.


The physical dimension includes safety, health, physical activity, and touch. It is much more than just living a healthy lifestyle by eating well and doing exercise. It rewards you with more energy, better health, and higher self-esteem.

Examples of the physical dimension:

  • Eat a well-balanced diet
  • Getting more sleep
  • Try a new class at the gym
  • Take a hot bath
  • Snuggle with your spouse or significant other


The emotional dimension is about getting to know yourself, reducing stress, coping with change, and the like. When it is practiced you are more kind to yourself and others.

Emotional activity ideas:


Expanding what you know is the core concept behind intellectual self-care. However, it’s about finding the balance between stimulating your mind and giving it a break. The benefits include an increase in creativity, innovations, and general knowledge.

Examples of intellectual activities:

  • Read a book
  • Listen to a podcast
  • Listen to music
  • Learn a new language
  • Take a class


.Social is about growing your relationships with others. It helps with your sense of belonging and it allows you to form a connection with others. This isn’t just for extroverts, all people need some human connection.

Social activity ideas:

  • Host a dinner party
  • Join a club
  • Volunteer in your community
  • Make a new friend


Spiritual self-care is about developing the values and beliefs that you live by. Allocating time to this dimension can help you find meaning in life and develop a sense of belonging. Also, this dimension is not just for people that are religious. You don’t have to believe in anything to meditate, do yoga, or feel like you have a purpose in life.

Examples include:

Next Steps With Self-Care

If you noticed, the definition mentions that self-care should occur on a regular basis. So for this to be the real deal, we need to make it a habit. Look at your schedule and figure out how you can work it into your life. Maybe it is a bubble bath and face mask on Friday. Or hosting a monthly dinner party. Maybe you want to incorporate small doses of it into your daily routine, that’s fine too.

Basically, these are practices you need to schedule into your days often, rather than just once in a while. Ultimately, self-care is about finding things that you can do regularly to recharge without the pressure of your obligations.

It is also important to note is that there are so many different ways to take care of yourself. While certain activities may work for you, they may not work for others.

No one can pour from an empty cup, so you need to take time to fill yours up. Some people do have larger cups though or they have fewer glasses to fill. That’s just a complicated way to say some people will need more time for self-care than others. Just make sure to listen to yourself, so you can understand how much you need.

Staggs, S. (2014). 5 Dimensions of Self Care. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 8, 2016, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/after-trauma/2014/03/the-5-dimensions-of-self-care/


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  1. 2.17.18

    What a wonderful list! I absolutely love it. I’ll save it to use it in the future. Thanks for sharing!