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5 Dimensions of Self Care

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Because we live in a culture that emphasizes mastery and reward, it can be tempting to stick to activities where we excel, where we can make money or where we can at least justify its productivity. However, I would argue that we all have a need to spend time nurturing ourselves in these five different areas and it’s really important to spend some time nurturing each one, no matter how alien it may first seem.

Whether you’re recovering from a major event or just in a funk, it’s worth looking at whether your activities meet our needs across different spectrums.

  1. Physical self-care includes anything involved with our physical body: Are you getting enough sleep? How’s your nutrition? How about moving around–exercise has proven mental health benefits. Even dressing in a way that is comfortable and makes us feel more confident can help.
  2. Emotional self-care includes awareness and regulation of feelings. Some activities that nurture this aspect of ourself are journaling, listening to music that resonates, or exploring this side in therapy.
  3. Mental self-care involves seeking intellectual and creative stimulation. This can include reading or writing, drawing, knitting, building, doing puzzles, or designing something. A lot of us stop doing art or drawing or creating worlds after childhood, but it doesn’t stop being good for us.
  4. Spiritual self-care is the awareness of and relationship with something bigger than ourselves. It’s often thought to be the same as religious, but practicing religion is just one way to express spirituality. It can also be expressed through meditation, community service, or other ways of participating in the bigger world.
  5. Social self-care is the interaction with others, both in deep and casual ways. No matter how much of an introvert you are, you still have a need for some human connection, and it’s about finding the type and amount that meets your needs. Some people find having an intimate partner is enough, others crave the stimulation of having a diverse, engaging group of friends.  There’s no right answer and if you’re feeling disconnected, perhaps it’s because you have the wrong type of support, no matter how great your friends are.

I know that I can be tempted to devote all my efforts to only one or two of these dimensions, and while it’s normal and healthy to have an emphasis, I also know that my clients and I feel better when we’re spending at least some time in addressing all of them. If you’re interested, here is a  tool to help you assess and plan a self-care routine.


5 Dimensions of Self Care

Sara Staggs, LICSW, MPH

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APA Reference
Staggs, S. (2019). 5 Dimensions of Self Care. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 21, 2020, from


Last updated: 19 Mar 2019
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