The Six Pillars of Self-Care

Self-care will mean something different for everyone and will also change for you depending on your current mood, energy levels, and what you require in any given moment.

The Six Pillars of Self-Care
Photo by Tadeusz Lakota / Unsplash

When people hear the words 'self-care' they often think of bubble baths, face masks, and watching their favourite tv show. At least that's what I always associated self-care with. What I have come to realise is there are actually two parts to the definition of self-care

  1. Practices used to comfort or soothe oneself
  2. The act of attending to one's physical or mental health

I think that we have all been caught up on the first definition in thinking that having comfort food and soothing yourself through relaxing and pampering activities is all self-care is.

After reflecting on this a little and looking further into it, I've come to realise that self-care is more about the second part of the definition than the first. It’s about learning to attend to your physical and mental health. Truly caring for yourself as you would a child or pet by making sure their physical, psychological, and emotional needs are met. It’s basically self-parenting.

Why comfort and soothing ourselves is not the answer

Although activities like taking a long bath, eating a box of cookies, and watching Netflix might feel good in the moment, oftentimes we are using these activities to comfort ourselves, without getting to the root of what our body and mind need.

I heard someone recently liken it to putting the bandage on a wound before you have washed it. If you try to make yourself feel better using comfort or pampering activities alone, it might not be what is best for you in the long run.

How to practice self-care

Self-care will mean something different for everyone and will also change for you depending on your current mood, energy levels, and what you require at any given moment.

There are six key pillars that are the foundation for a healthy body and mind. If you take the time to check in with these six pillars regularly, or when you aren't feeling at your best, it will hopefully help to start the spiral back up again. If, when you do reflect on each of these pillars you find that you have fulfilled them all but you still aren't feeling right, that's okay. It is inevitable that some days won't be as good as others. If it starts to go on longer than a few days, it might be time to do a different form of check-in to reflect on what might be going on. But, for your everyday check-ins, these six pillars are an easy way to stay on track and continue living your best life.

Six self-care pillars, sleep, water, nutrition, movement, nature, connection, overall well-being

1. Sleep

Have you been sleeping well recently? (Going to bed and waking up at consistent times, reducing screen time and caffeine in the lead up to bed etc.)

Sleep is vital for our everyday functioning. If we aren't getting the necessary amount of sleep for our bodies, this can throw everything off kilter. You'll notice your energy levels are lower, or get depleted quicker, your mood is affected and your patience is thinner than normal, your eating habits and motivation can also be effected. Sleep is so integral to our daily functioning that it should be pretty high on your list of things to be intentional about.

2. Water

Have you drunk enough water today? Have you got a full water bottle nearby that you can access frequently?

Water is the elixir of life. The fact that we can't go mere days without drinking it before we no longer exist proves this fact. It is surprising the number of people who live in a constant state of dehydration. It's okay if that's you. It's also me a lot of the time! Drinking enough water has been a habit that I have struggled with over the years.

Making sure that you are drinking enough water for your body is important for mental clarity, your digestion, protecting your joints and organs, and stabilising your heartbeat... So next time you find yourself feeling tired or have a headache, be sure to fill up your water bottle and start drinking!

3. Nutrition

Have you eaten nutrient-dense food today that is filling and nourishing?

Nutrients are the fuel our body uses to function. It is important to be conscious when deciding what to eat and to avoid letting your autopilot choose the foods that may provide instant gratification but might not be what our body needs. Nutrition is different for everyone and its important that you know what your body and mind need to function at their best,

Whatever you know to be food full of nutrients and that provides you with the fuel you need to get through today, be sure to check in to make sure you're including these foods in the day's menu. Sometimes, we don't notice a difference when one meal is lacking some nutrition, but if this is consistently happening with our food choices throughout the day, it may have more impactful negative effects on our energy and mood.

4. Movement

Have you moved today? Gotten in some form of exercise, stretched, gone for a walk etc?

Moving your body is one of the best things you can do for your physical and mental health. It is easy to fall into a fairly sedentary life, especially if you have an office job where you sit down at a desk for most of the day. That is why it's especially important to intentionally include movement into your day. Even a little bit goes a long way! You don’t need to commit to a full workout every day but a short walk or yoga session can help get your heart rate up.

5. Nature

Have you taken a moment to be out in nature today? Go for a wander through a park or along the beach, sit outside in your backyard and listen to the birds chirping. There are many ways to appreciate the natural world.

There are some countries that recommend a certain amount of time in nature each month, just as a certain number of fruits and vegetables are recommended. There are lots of reasons that getting out in nature can help, with one of the simplest being the fact that it forces you to slow down and disconnect from technology.

6. Social connection

Have you reached out and connected with someone today? A family member, a friend, a partner?

Oftentimes, even when you don't feel like it, social connection with the right person can be really beneficial in helping your mental state. Opening up, talking, being vulnerable, being heard, hearing a different perspective, laughing, and receiving empathy. There are so many benefits to human connection. Shared sorrow is halved and shared joy is doubled.