The 5 Levels of Self-Care You Should Be Doing

For those who don’t know, self-care might be confused with selfishness. But, the two concepts are vastly different. Self-care is simply the act of taking a holistic approach to your health and wellbeing, putting yourself first and being kind to yourself. The basis of it is comprised of small, seemingly insignificant habits that are practised as often as possible. These can be things like meditating, writing in a daily journal or even taking a nap!

Anything that is healthy and benefits your mind, body and/or soul can be considered an act of self-care, though the importance of doing so is often underestimated. If we fail to put ourselves first, it can lead to feelings of mental exhaustion, lack of motivation and even depression. Self-care requires you to put yourself first, which many people find difficult to do. So, here are the five levels of self-care that you should be focusing on, as well as examples of the best:

Physical

The physical side of self-care consists of making sure your body is working at its optimum ability. Among the obvious things - such as eating well, getting enough exercise and adequate amounts of sleep - it also entails the more uncomfortable aspects of physical health we don’t often feel too comfortable about, like going to the doctor or visiting the dentist.

Actions:

1. Practise mindful attention, aka ‘body scanning’, to mentally check-in with your body and how it’s feeling. 2. Dance! Even if it’s just for a few minutes each day. It will get your heart rate up and put a smile on your face. 3. Stretch. Who ever feels bad after a good, long stretch? 4. Go for a run, a walk or a hop, whatever floats your boat – just get moving. 5. Make one tiny change to your diet each week. Have meat-free Mondays, cut out alcohol or aim to eat one meal you wouldn’t normally eat. 6. Get out into the sunlight. Sunlight does wonders for our moods and our health (but be smart, use sunscreen if necessary!). 7. Nap. Yes, nap. A short nap (think 10–20 minutes) is a great way to recharge your batteries and reduce any sleep-debt you have built up.

Intellectual

Intellectual self-care addresses your inner ‘thinker’, and by cultivating a healthy intellect you can expand your knowledge and mindset. Your mind knows no bounds, and your intellect is bordered only by your drive to learn. It’s an important step to take when keeping all aspects of yourself in the best condition because a healthy mind is the foundation of a healthy self.

Actions:

1. Learning a new language is a highly effective way of building your intellect. 2. Reading is one of the best ways to not only relax, but to broaden your horizons both intellectually and creatively. There are millions and millions of books in the world, so you’re bound to find something you enjoy. 3. Talk about things with other people. Hearing another's point of view on different topics can widen your mindset, especially on the things you feel strongly about, and you will always learn something new. 4. Keep your mind active by doing crosswords or solving puzzles. Everyone has a Rubix Cube hidden somewhere in their garage, pull yours out and have a go! 5. Podcasts are a great way to learn new things, so listen to podcasts on topics that interest you. 6. Every night, write down three new things you learned that day. This not only helps you remember it, but motivates you to learn more and more each day. 7. Teach! We all have things we’re great at (whether you believe that or not) so think about something you’re skilled in and teach others about it

Social

Regardless of whether you’re an introvert who prefers a small, intimate dinner or an extrovert who thrives on large crowds, we all enjoy social interaction. Human beings are social creatures and, as such, we seek comfort in a solid social network. Socialising can have a significant impact on your mental, emotional and even physical health, so the next time you’re feeling guilty for choosing friends over work or study, consider instead the benefits you’re providing to your health.

Actions:

1. Laugh. It’s such a cliche, but laughter truly is the best medicine. You don’t need to have a massive group of friends in order to be social; just being around one person you absolutely adore is enough to make you feel good. 2. Make it a goal each week to talk to someone new. Whether it’s a person you see a lot at your favourite coffee shop or someone you’re sitting next to on the train, meeting new people can be a simple yet effective way to put a smile on your face. 3. Call a friend or relative and have a chat with them. Reconnecting with old friends or loved ones is a great feeling. 4. Joining a club (no, not a nightclub) is a really easy way to meet like-minded people. No matter what you enjoy doing in your spare time, there’s likely to be a club or an association for that. Being around people who enjoy the same things you do - whether it’s bushwalking, yoga, table tennis or even whiskey - is a foolproof way to have fun. 5. Volunteer. Being a volunteer can provide you with fun, exciting new opportunities to meet new people and make a difference. 6. Connect on social media. Technology has well and truly changed the way we interact, so make the most of it! 7. Start saying yes to invitations and opportunities. Do you always dash out of the office before Friday-night drinks? Are you the first to leave your gym class? Sometimes it pays to hang back, you might just meet a new friend.

Spiritual

There are so many ways to define spirituality, as it means different things to different people. Getting in touch with your spiritual side doesn’t mean you have to start reciting Hail Marys or going to Sunday Mass, as spirituality and religion are rarely synonymous. Rather, spirituality focuses on cultivating a sense of peace, self-love and purpose, not only within yourself but within the earth and the universe that is all around you. Finding your own understanding and practice of spirituality can be of great benefit to your life, as it helps you gain perspective and comfort, enables you to focus on the bigger picture, understand more of the why, disconnect from the modern world and detangle yourself from a love of material possessions.

Actions:

1. Adopt meditation into your life 2. Identify what’s important to you. What changes do you wish to see in the world? What actions do you think you could do as an individual to help with that? 3. Understand your authentic self. What are your values? Your beliefs? What are you passionate about? Having an awareness of who you are deep down can provide a massive boost of spiritual self-confidence. 4. Take a yoga or meditation class to help hone your focus inwards and foster a better connection between your body and mind. 5. Read! Some of the best spiritual teachers are those who have written about it. Thich Nhat Hahn, a popular Buddhist monk, is one prime example. 6. Make it meaningful to you. There’s no point in doing countless hours of meditation if it just doesn’t feel right. Respect the spiritual practices of others, but know that there are no ‘rules’ and you can practise your own in any way you like.

Mental/Emotional

How’s your mental strength? Do you cave under pressure or can you face things head-on with a smile? By focussing on your mental/emotional self-care, you can build resilience, lessen stress and anxiety, and cultivate an overall feeling of being capable and successful.

Actions:

1. Start a compliments list. This might sound silly, but since we have a tendency to dwell on the bad or critical things we hear, noting down all the compliments given to you is a great way to remember the kind things people have said about you. 2. Be selfish. Do one thing each day, purely because you want to. 3. Turn off all devices for one hour every day to disconnect from the buzz of life, and just *be.* 4. Aim to be more accepting and forgiving, even to those who have wronged you. If you struggle with doing that, remember this popular Buddhist quote: ‘Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.’ 5. Set some goals for yourself, but start small. With each goal you achieve, you’ll feel stronger and more confident to start setting your sights higher. 6. Remove the word ‘should’ from your vocabulary – using it too often invites nothing but pressure and disappointment.

Rest assured, it is not selfish to put yourself first. It’s an important part of becoming a healthy, well-rounded individual. By properly nurturing yourself, you can find inner strength, resilience and motivation. It not only positively impacts you, but everyone around you. By implementing it into your own life, you might even inspire those around you to begin looking after themselves properly.

On a final note, we highly recommend reading the book *Choose Yourself* by James Altucher for more on this topic.