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What is Your Definition of Self-Care?

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Recently, I wrote an article about what self-care looks like. I interviewed different clinicians about their definitions of self-care and their favorite ways to practice.

Here are a few of my favorite responses:

“I think of self-care as caring for my body, mind, and spirit; taking actions to tend to my overall well-being… I see self-care as a way of putting on my own oxygen mask, a way of refueling and tending to my own needs because my needs matter, in and of themselves; and because I like how I show up for others better when I am coming from a resourced place.” ~ Ali Miller, MFT.

“Self-care is anything that I am doing that affirms and strengthens my physical, psychological, relational, emotional, and spiritual well-being.” ~ Roberto Olivardia, Ph.D.

“Our bodies and souls are our primary tool for being alive. I think of self-care as the responsible care and protection of our mechanism for life, giving us the capacity to work and to love … We were given this beautiful instrument, and we must care for it.” ~ Elizabeth Sullivan, MFT.

Self-care is very individual. So here are questions you can contemplate to figure out how you’d like to tend to yourself every single day:

  • What does self-care mean to you? (You start with a list of words that sound fun, soothing and invigorating to you. You can pick out the words that resonate with you from the above definitions. You also can look to certain quotes for inspiration.)
  • How does self-care help you? What are the benefits of self-care for you and your life?
  • What are your favorite ways to practice self-care? What rejuvenates, calms and nourishes you? What are your favorite activities — the things that would make up your ideal day?
  • How can you incorporate these activities into your everyday?
  • How can you incorporate the beliefs that underlie self-care — that you are worthy, that you matter, that you deserve kindness? How can you live these beliefs every day? Or live them in a situation that’s really hard for you right now?

Whenever I need to make sense of something, I write it down. I ask myself questions. I create a list. This always helps in the moment; it helps my half-formed thoughts materialize into clearer, more meaningful realizations.

It also serves as a reminder that I can return to over and over again. Because, inevitably, I will forget why tending to myself is so powerful and what this looks like in my life.

Take the time to journal about self-care (which in and of itself is practicing self-care). To brainstorm. To explore. To dream. To notice. To create your own definitions. To carve out your own routines.

Whether you believe you deserve to tend to your needs or not, do so anyway. Sometimes, we must act first, and then our mind follows. Take these steps to journal, to tend. Self-care has no negative consequences — only gifts, both immediate and long-term.

What is Your Definition of Self-Care?

Margarita Tartakovsky, MS

Margarita is an associate editor at She writes about everything from taking compassionate care of yourself at any weight, shape, and size, to coping healthfully with difficult emotions. Her goal is to give readers practical, empowering tips to better their lives, and to remind you that whatever you're struggling with, you're never, ever alone.

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APA Reference
Tartakovsky, M. (2015). What is Your Definition of Self-Care?. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 2, 2020, from


Last updated: 3 Apr 2015
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