Learn the 7 different types of self-care so you can be intentional with all of the areas of your self-care and take better care of yourself.
First of all, if you’re asking ‘what are the different types of self-care’, you’re probably ready to take your self-care to a higher level.
Being ready to take better care of yourself is huge!
But, it’s vital to understand that self-care includes more than just what you eat (or how much you exercise). It includes everything related to how you take care of yourself. Everything from your physical and emotional care to your spiritual care, to your social and financial concerns.
How you prioritize and address your self-care activities will impact how you live your life, and ultimately your health and wellness.
If you’ve done any research at all, I’m sure you’ve discovered hundreds of self-care ideas on one quick Internet search.
However, where do you prioritize your efforts?
How do you decide which self-care goals and activities are best for you?
Should you follow that generic list of ‘the best 47 self-care tips’?
Should you just go with everyone else and follow the latest diet trends?
I believe the best place to start is asking what are the different types of self-care so you know exactly how and where to be intentional with your efforts.
The 7 Different Types of Self-care
The list below contains the 7 different types of self-care categories and examples of specific activities* that belong in each of the respecting categories.
Knowing self-care categories and the related activities will provide you with a better awareness of the effort that will be required while you’re making a change in your habits.
Have you ever noticed that what seems like a small habit change quickly becomes more involved than expected?
Why do you think that happens?
It’s because the new habit involves self-care types that we don’t remember we need to address.
For example, making a change in your dietary habits affects more than the physical self-care category.
It is likely your dietary change will touch ALL of the following 7 categories.
To illustrate, let's pretend I currently eat the typical Western diet of at least 50% pre-packaged, processed, or fast foods. I want me and my family to begin eating a Mediterranean Diet. I will address this example at the end of each category described below.
As one of the most well known and widely researched self-care categories, physical self-care includes the activities done to impact the well-being of your physical health.
Most noteworthy, physical self-care includes:
- Being active (exercise)
- Making good food choices
- Meal prep
- Meal planning
- Grocery shopping
- Cooking (following a recipe)
- Drinking enough water
- Getting enough good sleep
- Using sunscreen
- Everything related to taking care of your physical health
Similarly, it also includes going to the doctor for wellness visits, preventative screenings, or when you might be sick.
Finally, it includes following your health providers’ instructions when you have an illness, injury, or chronic disease.
In regard to the Mediterranean Diet example above, you've probably noted that making good food choices IS part of physical self-care. But, it also includes more detailed and involved activities. Most noteworthy is the food prep. If you are used to eating prepared foods you need to know that the grocery shopping, meal planning (new recipes), meal prep (more raw foods to prep), and the cooking are going to have a major impact on your habit change. Not only will you have to spend time learning all of the above, it will take you more time to do it. In my experience, the learning curve and the unexpected time contraints of food prep are the biggest barriers to changing an eating plan. Even more, most people over-estimate their knowledge and understanding. For example, during your excitement you might decide to buy an in-depth Mediterranean cookbook, only to realize the recipes are too complicated and time-consuming. So in this scenerio, a beginner's Mediterranean cookbook, one with tips and meal plans, is a more helpful option.
Another well-known category is emotional self-care.
Thankfully, more information is being shared about how important and routine it should be to pay attention to your emotional self-care.
Most noteworthy is that properly processing emotions is critical to emotional wellness. This is especially true for women.
Emotional self-care involves finding outlets for your feelings. Another way to say this is to identify, accept and express your range of feelings (anger, compassion, forgiveness, coping with stress, anxiety – all emotions).
In contrast, holding emotions inside and not working through them can lead to emotional illness, stress and even physical symptoms.
People can use a variety of activities to process their emotions.
Some examples include drawing, sewing, landscaping, playing music, or relaxation techniques.
Some people can process their emotions by talking about them with a counselor or a trustworthy friend.
Emotional self-care can have a major impact on the success of any new change you want to make. When you start anything new, in this case, a Mediterranean Diet, remember that mistakes are part of learning process. If you take the approach that your mistakes are opportunities to improve, learn and grow (and not failure) along the way, you'll be better positioned to keep going and not give up. That said, adapting to lifestyle changes can be frustrating, so you should expect some stress and therefore have a plan to manage it. Naturally, exercise would be a productive way to process some of the frustration!
Spiritual self-care encompasses exploring and expressing our beliefs, morals, and values.
Psychologist Carol Williams-Nickelson uses the clinical definition of “an ongoing search for meaning and understanding in life and what may extend beyond”.
For many people, spiritual self-care means learning their place in the universe. And it can mean connecting to a larger purpose.
Spirituality isn’t always synonymous with religion but it can be for some people. Activities can include observing nature, learning about other religions, and even visiting museums.
Activities that include religious practices might be acts such as praise, worship, prayerful meditation, reading Scripture, tithing, responding to your calling, using your gifts and passions, or attending a service.
As Christians, our spiritual self-care impacts our Christian living.
Christians have a God-given purpose and passion. Therefore, your self-care influences your ability to impact these spiritual disciplines.
When you start taking better care of yourself, you set yourself up to see where God is working around you. As a result, you can look for opportunities where your gift(s) and passion(s) can align with your calling to Christ.
It may come as a surprise to you that your spirituality can and should be a of a lifestyle change - even when you're making changes to your eating plan. Your faith can provide motivation when you don't feel like being motivated. Research shows that activities like meditative prayer and attending church services can have a positive impact on stress management. Also, I recommend you bring your self-care into your prayer time.
Intellectual self-care is related to having opportunities to engage in critical thinking and ways to grow your knowledge and stimulate the mind.
While this includes your critical thinking skills it also involves your interest in ideas and creativity.
Intelligence, emotional intelligence, career development, and continuing education all fall into this category.
Your creative pursuits, like art appreciation or time spent enjoying hobbies, is also part of your intellectual self-care.
Your ability to adapt, your self-confidence, your drive for achievement, as well as your level of optimism, commitment, and self-control all have an effect on your success rate when you start a Mediterranean Diet. Consider using the strategies that lead you to success in other parts of your life. For example, if you find listening to podcasts to be motivating at work, listen to podcasts about changing your lifestyle or starting a Mediterranean Diet.
Social self-care is about nurturing relationships with all of the people outside of your immediate family.
This category has everything to do with the communication, personal boundaries, outside support systems and groups that you belong to within your social network.
Social networks range from neighbors and friends to co-workers and church family. Community groups, support groups, and online connections are also included in your social self-care.
Research shows how important a sense of belonging is to us as we age.
Friendships become especially important over time because we face difficult challenges like sickness, divorce and the death of loved ones*.
Be aware that loneliness is common and affects your success rate when making changes to your life.
Finding a group of at least 2-4 other people who want to eat a Mediterranean Diet is a proven strategy for success. Compliance and success rates drop when social self-care is lacking or ignored.
Relational self-care focuses on strengthening the relationships around you. This refers to the people you have close, daily familial interactions with on a regular basis.
Therefore, this will include your spouse or significant other, kids, parents and other close family members.
In many cases, the stronger and more positive your relational self-care experience is every day, the more successful you will be while making changes in your lifestyle.
One of the most important questions nurses ask patients is whether or not they feel supported at home.
Positive support greatly impacts the compliance rate (and the success rate) of patients who have to start a new medication, treatment, diet or lifestyle.
In addition, family dynamics affect how you spend your time. If you are actively involved with busy children or teenagers, your time is spent going to your children’s events.
You may inadvertently or purposely put your self-care needs last out of love or even feelings of obligation.
In contrast, if the dynamics are negative additional barriers and lack of support interfere with compliance and success rates.
Therefore, if your whole family is on board with eating a Mediterranean Diet you will have a more positive experience. It is much easier to to make a lifestyle or diet change if everyone in the family is working together to plan ahead and make efforts to be compliant even with schedule changes or conflicts. When moving to a new diet or eating plan alone, it is necessary to find support outside of the home to increase your chances of success. In fact, it is supported in research and strongly encouraged!
Safety & Security Self-care
Safety and security self-care encompasses your personal and environmental safety. It also affects your financial security.
Activities for this self-care category include taking precautions to feel safe or comfortable in your home or surroundings (work, community, commuting, etc.).
Simple activities like having functioning smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, to crime prevention like locking home and vehicle doors will improve your general safety.
Safety self-care also includes having plans for various emergencies like severe weather or tornado bunkers, a fire escape plan, an intruder plan, etc).
Access to healthcare & coverage is a huge component of your safety and security.
Depending on where you live, preventive and sick care may not be easily obtainable.
Plus, most healthcare offices and clinics are only open during business hours. If you cannot miss work, then urgent care and emergency rooms become your convenient access point – which is much more costly and sometimes time-consuming.
Furthermore, without affordable and appropriate healthcare coverage, it becomes more difficult to get the right care and treatment at the right time.
Finally, your financial security is an important part of your self-care.
Setting up and following a budget can help you build up your savings, and manage and understand money. It is a helpful tool that you can use to pay your bills on time and even know when you can enjoy splurging once in a while.
Your safety and security self-care has a tremendous affect on the success of starting a Mediterranean Diet. First of all, if you do not feel safe in your home or community, your priority will be finding safety and protection, not what you are eating. Unfortunately, your finances are also going to have an enormous impact on the success of changing how you eat. First, you are set up for greater success if you have access to fresh fruits and vegetables. And, even more so if can easily afford to buy them. We'd all like to say money doesn't affect your health and wellness, but the truth is that it very much does. Thankfully, there are volumes of free shopping guides, free meal-planning tips and meal prepping strategies available online that focus on making the most of your budget while eating healthy food.
Asking What are the Different Types of Self-care IS the Secret to Your Success!
In closing, knowing the different types of self-care and all of the associated activities is important to be aware of when you start taking better care of yourself.
Likewise, it is a vital component of succeeding while you are making a lifestyle change.
It may seem like a lot take in at once. But, there’s just one starting place.
Remember, while you need to be aware of all of the self-care categories, you should start by working only on the 1-2 most pertinent categories and activities.
What are the Different Types of Self-care Taken From?
As a nurse, it’s important that I use a scientific standard from a credible source.
Because the majority, (but not all) of my followers are women, I’ve chosen to use the 7 different types of self-care categories identified by Carol Williams-Nickelson, Psy.D.in her book, The Handbook of Girls’ and Women’s Psychological Health: Gender and Well-Being Across the Life Span. (#paid link).
I’ve done a lot of online research and know you can find a variety of articles stating there are 3, 4, 5, and even 6 types of self-care categories.
*The activity lists are also adapted from Williams-Nickelson’s list in her book. I’ve added or refined the list of activities based on my nursing observations and experiences while working with patients.
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Lisa Kimrey is a 30-year veteran registered nurse, speaker, and author of the Bible study, The Self-care Impact: Motivation and Inspiration for Wellness. At Mylifenurse, Lisa writes about simple ways to care for yourself to stay happy, healthy, and rejuvenated while you serve and care for others. Combining her years of nursing expertise with Scripture-based encouragement, Lisa shows readers easy ways to begin and maintain their self-care journey – without feeling guilty. Be sure to grab your FREE Self-care Starter Guide!