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Compassionate Self-Care Starts with Understanding Your Needs

Maybe you’re really busy. Your to-do list is too long, and on some days, it feels like you’re running around breathless. Maybe you haven’t really thought much about it. Maybe you look to others to provide the answer. Maybe you don’t think you deserve to have your own answers. Maybe you don’t think you deserve to advocate for yourself.

Either way, you’re not sure what the heck your needs really are.

Maybe you’ve also been feeling depleted and down. Maybe you’ve been feeling overwhelmed or lost. Maybe you’ve found yourself snapping at everyone, including yourself. Maybe you feel disconnected.

Today, consider taking the time to explore your needs. To understand them. Don’t think about whether you deserve to do this, or whether you have the time, or whether someone will actually meet your needs. Instead, set a timer for 10 or 15 minutes (or more), and answer the questions that resonate with you. Jot down your responses in a journal, and come back to these questions regularly.

  • What would make my life easier right now? How might this translate into a simple action?
  • What am I hungry for, literally and figuratively?
  • If I had an extra hour right now, what would I do with it? Can I do this over a week, or do some of it today?
  • This is how I’d like to be treated in a relationship (with a partner, friend, family member, colleague) ….
  • How do I define calm, inspiration, happiness, and energy?
  • This one teeny tiny thing helps me to feel energized (or inspired, happy, calm) ….
  • What are my favorite ways to move my body?
  • What are my least favorite ways to move my body?
  • What am I doing that I don’t like?
  • What do I need to relinquish, literally and figuratively?
  • What do I want to do, learn, explore, eat, savor, read, understand?
  • What are my senses yearning for right now?
  • What am I feeling? How can I express and release these feelings? Writing about them? Drawing them? Talking to a partner? Seeing a therapist?
  • What would it look like to be my own friend? To be on my side?

Once you know your needs, you can prioritize them. You can set boundaries around them. You can put them on your calendar. You can set an alarm for every hour and simply take a deep breath, and ask yourself: How am I doing? What do I need? 

Even something as simple as getting yourself a glass of water or a snack can make a big difference. Because, over time, what you tell yourself with these tiny actions is that: My needs matter. I matter. 

Remember you don’t have to believe that you deserve caring in order to care for yourself. You don’t have to change any deep-seated beliefs. Yet. You just have to act. Get the glass of water. Carve out a quick but nourishing morning routine. Say no to one commitment you don’t enjoy. Stretch your body because it feels good. Journal about your feelings. Maybe start meditating. Or don’t. Maybe dance instead because this is how you need to release excess energy.

In other words, identify your needs. Get to know them. Get to know yourself. And meet the needs that you can meet.

In other words, give yourself the opportunity to say yes….to yourself. You might be surprised at the power of even the smallest gestures.

Photo by Liana Mikah on Unsplash.

Compassionate Self-Care Starts with Understanding Your Needs

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. (2019). Compassionate Self-Care Starts with Understanding Your Needs. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 1, 2020, from


Last updated: 17 Jul 2019
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