There’s been a tremendous buzz regarding Self Care in the past few years! But what is it, exactly? This post breaks down the 5 dimensions of Self care, shows you what basic human needs each dimension fulfills, and helps you understand the importance of each! Self care is so much more than bubble baths and face masks (although those are lovely!) Self care combines mental, physical, emotional, spiritual, and social aspects of living to allow you to live your best life possible. This post is FULL of information, so grab a cup of tea, a notebook, and dive in!

Self Care: the definition

Self Care: activities and practices we engage in on a regular basis to reduce stress and enhance our well being

the practice of taking an active role in protecting one’s own well-being and happiness, in particular during periods of stress.

the practice of taking action to preserve or improve one’s own health.

In each of these definitions, self care is identified as an action that we choose and perform regularly to preserve ourselves and prevent stress on our bodies. In science, stress is defined as anything that applies “pressure or tension exerted on a material object.” If you stress a branch, it can break. If you stress metal with acid, it will corrode. And this is the same with our bodies. If we stress our bodies, we get ill. If we stress our minds, we get anxious or depressed. And yes, we are resilient and can recover.

However, Self Care is the art of recognizing when your life is out of alignment and seeing it as an opportunity for positive change. It is also about self-preservation and maintaining our health and wellness. By doing this, we are creating a life of wellness, positivity, and enjoyment that spills into the lives of those around us!

Think of a time when you were stressed. Were you upset easily? Did you snap at your child or significant other? Was it spilling out into your work place? Were you affected by weight gain because of stress? Did it cause you to get drunk, smoke, or use recreational drugs to escape?

Self Care Awareness

This is not the life you want to live. And sometimes life throws us a curveball that we never expected. So you have 2 options: live in stress, spiral out of control, burn out, and barely survive day to day…or, you can choose to regroup and make positive changes in your life. Use this curveball as an opportunity to become the best version of yourself and live the life you have always wanted.

Studies show that people who focus on Self Care have a higher self esteem, greater productivity, and improved health and well-being than those who do not. This leads to an increase in self awareness and an ability to give more without suffering from burn-out. So, are you ready to take your life back? Are you ready to live a healthy, fulfilled life that allows you to lift others up as well? Are you ready to have less stress, a higher self esteem, and enjoy each and every day? Then let’s go! Free 5 Dimensions of Self Care Printable Infographic

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Physical Aspects of Self Care

The physical aspects of Self Care pertain to our basic needs for food, shelter, and health. These have been broken down into categories for you to easily reference. This fulfills the basic human needs and is the starting block for Self Care. These are not new concepts, but rather are all organized in one location for you to “see the big picture” and consider the different aspects of physical self care.

Need for a Home

Home can mean so many things, but basically it is a place of safety, comfort, and familiarity. A home can be large or small, shared with others, or private. It doesn’t matter. You just need a place to call your own.

Need for Exercise/Movement

Our human body is comprised of muscles, bones, nerves, blood vessels that work together to keep us running! You don’t need to go crazy. Baby steps. Just set some time aside to move, stretch, and regroup. Exercise releases stress, regulates our hormones, invigorates our bones, joints, and muscles. This is a necessary, basic human need. To care for our bodies and keep them healthy by moving. For more information, read my post on “Tricking your body into Exercise.”

Need for Nutrition

This basic self care need goes along with the need for exercise/movement. We need certain nutrients to function and restore what vitamins we use every day. This is again, something you can do to make small changes that will provide big impact over time. You can indulge in high-calorie, low-nutrient foods, but you need to balance it with vitamins and water so that you have enough fuel to keep going from day to day. For more ideas, read my post about “My Hydration Experiment: why water is magical” and on “How to trick your Tastebuds.”

Need for Sleep

Sleep has been shown to help with regulating mood, weight, and hormones. This is the time when our body and mind recover from the day. Lack of sleep has shown to increase risk for many diseases including cancer and high blood pressure. For more information about sleep and ideas to help regulate it, refer to my post “The Health benefits of Sleep.”

Need for Grooming

Grooming refers to the basic need for hygiene. This can be different from culture to culture, but basically by maintaining cleanliness of our bodies, we are preventing disease. Washing our hands has shown to decrease disease transmission to other people. Showering prevents skin breakdown and skin infections. Brushing our teeth and maintaining gum health has been shown to decrease heart disease. It spills into other areas of our lives as well, including social interaction! (No one wants to sit next to the “smelly kid.”)

Need for Rest/Relaxation/ Recovery

Another basic self care need is for us to create time for rest, relaxation, and recovery. You aren’t wired to run nonstop: you need time to decompress and reset. This can be different amounts of time for you depending on the demands and stresses of your everyday life. It is just important to realize that this need exists and cannot be ignored, no matter how busy you are!

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Need for Physical Touch

Physical touch can refer to both sexual and non-sexual touch. Something as simple as a hug, an arm around your shoulder, or holding your hand can convey comfort, love, and security. Even something as simple as a massage can help release tension and stress and is easy to incorporate into a self care routine.

Need for Physical Health

Have you ever gone to work with a headache and congestion? Your day goes by so slowly and painfully when you feel miserable and cannot concentrate. All you want to do is go back home and crawl into bed! This is our body telling us that it needs to be healthy to function at the highest capacity! And if we care for our body on a daily basis, by getting rest, sleep, exercise, and nutrition, we are much better equipped to handle stress or illness in our body!

Need for Finances

Money and finances are something we need to deal with on a daily basis. We need money for food, shelter, clothing, grooming….most areas of our physical self care needs. But money does not have to be something that you trade your life for. Self care financial needs refer to generating income and developing a budget. The goal is to live in a way that is balanced and intentional. I created a post about “Creating a Budget” for more information.

Need for Balance

And finally that brings us to the final physical self care need: balance. You only have 24 hours in a day. Choose how to use them so that you have time for the things that mean the most to you. Develop a Basic Self Care routine then set yourself up for success by Developing Routines that you can Stick to.

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Photo by Candice Picard

Emotional Aspects of Self Care

Need for Eustress

Eustress is a term that refers to the “optimal level of stress” for our bodies. There are “good stressors” such as exercising or trying to memorize new information. But there are also many “bad stressors” such as an “all-nighter,” illness, or social conflict. We need to have some stress to improve our lives, but also employ stress-management techniques to prevent stress from being harmful. There are ways to manage interpersonal stress in our families, friendships, and work environments in order to find that balance.

Need for Emotional Self Regulation

With stress becomes the basic self care need for emotional self-regulation. This simply put is the need for us to calm ourselves emotionally. I love the quote “Life is 90% what happens to you and 10% how you respond.” I find this to be so true. Often times, there are external circumstances that we cannot control: an unexpected change in your project at work, a friend snapping at you, an unexpected illness. Therefore our responsibility is to find a way to calm ourselves then act.

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Need to Feel Alive

How many times have you heard of people doing drastic things, such as having an affair, stating “he made me feel alive!” Or skydiving to feel the “thrill of living”? This is because we have a basic emotional need to focus on the present moment and experience the feelings of being human. You don’t need drastic experiences to fulfill that need. This is what it means to be “mindful”: being present in a moment and experiencing the feelings of your mind and body at that moment. You can create these moments, set distractions aside, and experience the joy of being alive.

Need for Happiness

We all want to be happy! Everyone has there own idea of what it means for them to be happy, but generally speaking, happiness is a state of well-being, contentment, and gratitude. Do you need a reset? Try taking the 31 day Gratitude Challenge or the 30 day Self Love Challenge.

Need for Fun

Who doesn’t love to have fun! This fulfills our self care need to engage in activities that you enjoy, that amaze you, and that introduce you to new experiences! Do you need some ideas to keep things interesting in life? Try this list of 50 fun Self Care Activities!

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Photo by Michael Dam

Need for Self-Sufficiency

Self sufficiency is one area that is very important to emotional self care. This need is for you to develop skills and abilities that you value. This can be things like learning a new skill for a job, learning to be assertive, or even learning how to survive on your own after a divorce. It can be scary and difficult, but being self sufficient also brings security and confidence. It is very reassuring knowing that you have the ability to care for your own well being. For me, this was incredibly scary as I went through my divorce. I moved out with nothing but a suitcase. No child support, no alimony, no house, no car. But by using self-sufficiency techniques, I am doing well on my own even 5 years later. And I help many of my clients through this transitional period.

Need for Self Compassion

Give yourself permission to fail, to cry, and to make mistakes. Self compassion is a critical part of emotional self care. Learning self acceptance, self love, and positive self talk increases mental health. Learn how to forgive yourself and show yourself compassion.

Need for Self Fulfillment

Each of us has different things that make us feel fulfilled. Find work or a career that allows you to express your talents and passions. If you aren’t sure how to approach this, try taking a career assessment or personality test to uncover your passions. I have compiled a list of free tests in the blog post Self Care Personality Assessment

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Photo by Jon Ly

Mental Aspects of Self Care

By this time you are able to see how each of the different dimensions of Self Care overlap, but are also very important individually. We as humans are very complex! And there are so many needs that make us who we are. The next 3 sections of Mental, Social, and Spiritual self care are much shorter yet just as important.

Need for Learning

We have an innate need for learning: to stimulate our brain and challenge ourselves. There are ways this can be added to other areas of self care as well. At our local hospital, there are a group of ladies that meed and knit hats for newborn babies. They socialize, learn, and give to others!

Need for Self Discovery

We have an internal need for self discovery: to understand ourselves and have others understand us. Journalling, personality tests, support groups, and self help classes are all ways for us to explore what makes us “us” as individuals.

Need for Intellectual Stimulation

We use such a small part of our brains each day, but we have a personal need for intellectual stimulation. By listening to podcasts, watching TED talks, or reading nonfictional books, we expand our knowledge base! This spills into other areas of our life, but for now, these activities fulfill intellectual stimulation. You can read more about intellectual stimulation in my post “10 Tips to Improve Memory.”

Need for Education

Education isn’t just about sitting in lectures. Education with regard to Self care is more about expanding your world view. Expose yourself to new art exhibits, plays, musical experiences, and cultural experiences. This is more than just learning a new skill. This is about learning about a topic with facts and information. In fact, your personal need for education is what you are fulfilling by reading this post!

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Photo by Ben White

Social Aspects of Self Care

Need for Dependency

There are varying levels of dependency, but each of us needs to develop a small group of friends and allies to depend on during time of personal crisis. Friends and loved ones provide different types of support: emotional, safety, financial, and informational. You need to be selective and cultivate these relationships so that over time, you have each other’s back! This need for dependency doesn’t mean that you don’t act independently. But especially in time of crisis, we don’t have to go it alone.

Need for Belonging

We have the need to feel like we are part of a larger social group. This fulfills our need for belonging and feeling connected to the group in some way.

Need for Esteem

Receiving recognition, respect, appreciation, and love from our social group is a powerful influence on our self esteem. And although it is important to develop our own sense of confidence, we have an innate need to want to be loved and accepted by our peers. This is why it is essential for you to be careful about who you surround yourself with. Our peers can influence and affect us both positively and negatively as a result of this.

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Spiritual Aspects of Self Care

The spiritual aspects of self care don’t necessarily relate to organized religion but rather matters which transcend the material dimensions of life.

Need to Connect

There is something bigger than us, which is where the need to connect originates. Find a quiet spot of safety and sanctuary to experience things spiritual. This can be meditation or praying. You can read more about “The Healing benefits of Meditation.”

Need for Spiritual Fellowship

We have a need to connect with others who share the same spiritual beliefs, wether it is traditional religious organization, a meditation group, or a self help program.

Need to Help Others

Doing good helps others and also induces positive spiritual feelings and experiences. Altruistic acts have been shown to benefit the psychological health and physical well being of the giver just as much (if not more) than the person on the receiving end. You can read more about “The Psychology behind Giving” in this previous post.

What is self care routine the importance of self care self love 5 dimensions of self care

So How do I get Started?


Where are you in life right now? What is important to you? How balanced is your life? Who are the people that are most important in your life? When was the last time you took time for yourself? Why do you need to make changes? Evaluate your life and take inventory of where your time is being spent.

Visualize/Set Goals

Visualize where you want to be and set goals to get there. Do you want better control of your finances? Set a budget. Having a tough time with health and nutrition? Make a fitness plan and meal prep. There are endless possibilities and solutions available to you. You just have to make the decision and do the work!


Review your goals and steps to achieve those goals daily. Plan for the next day the night before. Set yourself up for success by doing things like setting your workout clothes and sneakers in the bathroom so you change into them first thing when you wake up. Remove barriers and remove negative influences in your life.

Chart Progress

Keep a list or journal. Celebrate your “wins” on the calendar daily. Create a checklist. Reward yourself when you reach certain milestones.

Analyze Progress

Pick a day every week or month to analyze your progress. If you need to adjust your plan, then adjust your plan. If you need to make small changes, then do that. This is a life-long process and if you start with small steps and baby changes, you will notice huge benefits over time. When everyone else is creating the same New year’s Resolutions each year, you can celebrate where you were, where you are now, and where you plan to be. It’s work but its exciting!

Self Care Power-Hour

My fellow Self Care Blogger, Catherine from The Blissful Mind, developed a quick Self Care routine called “The Power Hour.” In this time, she devotes 20 minutes to Mind, 20 minutes to Body, and 20 Minutes to Soul in order to hit her Self Care goals. This is a great way to break self-care into sections, set timers, and stick to routines.

Looking for More Guidance?

I know this can be overwhelming, which is why I am here. I frequently work with clients to help them get from one place in life to another. By breaking the process down into small steps and tailoring a plan specific to you, I can help set you up for success.

In the meantime, I would love to hear from you and hear how your personal Self Care Pursuit is going!

Free 5 Dimensions of Self Care Printable Infographic

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Hello! My name is Sarah and I am a Wellness Coach and Healthcare Provider with 15 years of experience. I am passionate about intentional, balanced living and created this blog to help others live a mindful life focussed on Self Care! Here you will find resources covering topics from health, finance, self-discovery, psychology, to balance, mindfulness, and intentional living. Feel free to get in touch if you have any questions, comments, or suggestions.

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