What Are the Different Types of Self-Care?

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    Self-care is essential to cope with and build resilience to all kinds of stress. With so many ways to practice it, find out which are best for you.

    What is Self-Care?

    Ahh, “self-care” – this may bring up visions of pampering yourself to temporarily escape from the busyness of daily life. But in reality, self-care is so much more than this. True self-care is taking care of your total well-being by intentionally engaging in activities that help to achieve or maintain overall optimal health.

    Why self-care is important

    While it can sometimes be dismissed due to being misconstrued in pop culture as negatively indulgent, self-care is essential to mitigate the negative impact of stress on your health. With stress on the rise, the ability to manage stress, build stress resilience, and prevent burnout is all the more important. Chronic stress can lead to issues like increased fatigue, hormone imbalances, immune system challenges, and digestive dysfunction.

    Practicing self-care is essential to improve one’s ability to manage stress by prioritizing one’s own well-being. This can lead to a greater sense of overall satisfaction and fulfillment in life.

    Types of Self-Care

    True well-being is an integration of your physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual dimensions of health. So there are several different types of self-care to support each one of these dimensions.

    Physical Self-Care

    Physical self-care is perhaps the most critical self-care, since all other aspects of our health are greatly affected by our physical health.

    Examples of physical self-care

    • Eating a nutrient-rich, balanced diet of enough protein, healthy fats, and fiber
    • Getting at least 7-9 hours of sleep each night
    • Moving your body daily, whether doing a full workout or getting in a walk
    • Yoga
    • Staying hydrated throughout the day
    • Registering for a race
    • Spending time in nature
    • Practicing good hygiene
    • Taking daily supplements to fill nutrient gaps like multivitamins
    • Getting sunlight exposure to support your circadian rhythm and get vitamin D

    Benefits of physical self-care

    Practicing physical self-care can provide the benefit of increased focus and energy to fuel all that you want to accomplish each day. It can also help to improve physical health and decrease the potential risk of health issues.

    Emotional Self-Care

    Emotional self-care is supporting your ability to regulate your emotions and cope with challenging feelings when they come up.

    Examples of emotional self-care

    • Setting and communicating proper boundaries to protect your energy and emotional strength
    • Journaling about your thoughts and feelings
    • Talking with a therapist
    • Learning about cognitive behavioral therapy techniques
    • Asking for help
    • Spending time by yourself
    • Taking a break from social media or other distractions

    Benefits of emotional self-care

    Practicing emotional self-care can help you understand why certain emotions arise and how to cope with them so that your emotions can support you rather than hinder you. Emotional self-care can enable you to truly love yourself for who you are.

    Since emotions are what often leads to our behaviors, learning emotional intelligence and how to manage one’s emotions can support healthier and desirable behaviors.

    Social Self-Care

    Although self-care does indeed support your own self, it can also include spending time with others. Social self-care involves building and maintaining supportive interpersonal relationships and connections with other people.

    Examples of social self-care

    • Carving out time to spend with friends and family
    • Spending time with colleagues outside of regular work hours
    • Joining a group or club for people with similar hobbies or interests
    • Reaching out to support systems
    • Taking time away from social media
    • Setting boundaries with when you respond to emails, texts, and other messages
    • Reaching out to form new personal and professional relationships
    • Catching up regularly with the people who are most important to you
    • Keeping a calendar of birthdays, anniversaries, and other special dates for those who you are close to and reaching out with a note on the day

    Benefits of social self-care

    Humans are meant to connect, and social connections positively correlate with better physical and mental health. Regular social connection can help our communication skills, give us a sense of belonging, develop compassion for others, and even help us understand ourselves better as we relate with those around us.

    Intellectual Self-Care

    Everyone has unique natural interests and passions. Intellectual self-care involves engaging in activities to foster understanding, learning, and curiosity.

    Examples of intellectual self-care

    • Listening to an informative podcast
    • Taking a new class or course
    • Reading, whether it be a fictional story or educational content
    • Attending an online event such as a webinar or summit
    • Attending a live event, whether a professional conference or even a local meeting
    • Watching a documentary
    • Developing a new skill or improving upon one you already have
    • Playing games or doing puzzles
    • Getting a mentor

    Benefits of intellectual self-care

    Engaging in intellectual self-care can help to expand your knowledge and foster a growth mindset. Learning can lead a person towards self-actualization, which is the realization and achievement of one’s full potential. This can help a person find meaning in life. Intellectual self-care can lead to open doors to new paths that we may not have considered before.

    Spiritual Self-Care

    Spirituality can be defined as “seeking a meaningful connection with something bigger than yourself,” according to the University of Minnesota’s Taking Charge program. Spiritual self-care involves practices that enable a person to find hope, peace, and purpose in life.

    Examples of spiritual self-care practices

    • Going to a place of worship
    • Meditating or doing breathwork
    • Spending time in nature
    • Yoga
    • Carving out time for self-reflection
    • Reading spiritual literature
    • Prayer
    • Taking part in the religious rituals, if applicable
    • Contemplating one’s core values

    Benefits of spiritual self-care

    Practicing spiritual self-care can help a person garner a sense of hope, belonging, and peace in the midst of the inevitable difficulties in life. These practices can help a person reckon with big questions about the meaning and purpose of life.

    Practical Self-Care

    Perhaps one of the less recognized forms of self-care, practical self-care involves taking care of the ordinary yet essential aspects of daily life that keep life running smoothly. These often include activities that support taking care of your finances, making time for chores and running errands, and keeping your home in order.

    Examples of practical self-care

    • Scheduling your week in advance, including both work needs as well as everyday tasks and routines
    • Food shopping and meal prepping
    • Tidying your living space
    • Keeping up with laundry
    • Responding to emails and messages
    • Creating a budget and keeping track of expenses
    • Scheduling healthcare check-ups

    Benefits of practical self-care

    Practical self-care, although it might seem mundane, can help create a healthy structure that makes all other types of self-care possible. For example, allocating fruitful time for prayer and meditation is often only possible if the practical needs of the day are able to be met with prior planning. Planning ahead can help anticipate needs and make space for things you desire with less distractions taking you by surprise.

    How to Start a Self-Care Routine

    Although there are several types of self-care and many ways to engage in each type, you can start with just a few things.

    • Start by thinking about which type of self-care you feel you need the most in your current stage of life and choose just a few options to get started on.
    • Make a plan for incorporating these practices into your daily or weekly routine.
    • As you practice self-care, check in with yourself to see how your body, mind and spirit is changing.
    • Experiment with different practices. Don’t be afraid to try new ones to find what works best for you. You may find that some practices are more enjoyable or more effective than others, so it’s important to be open to trying new things.
    • Aim to be consistent with your self-care routine even when you’re feeling stressed or busy because, remember, self-care is meant to help you better manage stress.

    Starting a self-care routine takes time and effort, but it's worth it in the end. By prioritizing self-care, you can improve your physical and mental health, reduce stress, and increase your overall sense of well-being.

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    Dr. Carla Montrond Correia ND, CNS
    Medical Content Manager
    Dr. Montrond-Correia is a licensed naturopathic physician and a certified nutrition specialist (CNS). She holds degrees from University of Bridgeport, Georgetown University, and University of Saint Joseph, and supplemented her education with internships in the health and wellness space. She's focused on research, herbal medicine, nutrigenomics, and integrative and functional medicine. She makes time for exercise, artistic activities, and enjoying delicious food.
    Victoria Peck-Gray, RD
    Freelance Contributor
    Victoria is a registered dietitian and functional nutritionist who helps people with resistant weight loss and PCOS transform their metabolic health and lose weight through a functional nutrition and lifestyle approach that addresses root causes. She is owner of her private practice, Wonderfully Made Nutrition and also leads her group metabolic coaching program for women called The 4 Method.