Most people respond to the idea of taking care of ourselves in one of two ways: a) It’s a no brainer – if I don’t take care of myself, who will? or b) It’s selfish to take care of myself. Where do you fall? If you’re in the second camp, let me explain how “self-care” is different from “selfish.”

First, let’s talk about what self-care is NOT. It’s not blowing your paycheck on a super awesome toy and then being unable to afford groceries. It’s not staying home from work because you just don’t feel like going in… for the seventh time this month. It’s not watching a TV show while your hungry baby cries in the next room. Those are examples of actions that meet a momentary need but avoid the larger issue and will ultimately have destructive consequences.

True self-care is the antidote to self-destructive behavior. When we meet our needs in healthy ways, we are less likely to rely on instant gratification to feel good. Self-care falls into five main categories:

  • Mind – your thoughts, how you talk to yourself
  • Body – your physical self, your movements
  • Emotions – your feelings, your gut reactions
  • Spirit – the part of you that is connected to something larger than yourself
  • Social – the people in your world

Take a moment to think about each of these areas in your life. Do you feel satisfied in any or all of them? Dissatisfied? Extremely dissatisfied? Now ask yourself the miracle question: If you could wave a magic wand and make everything ideal, how would you know it was ideal? What would be different? Maybe you would talk to yourself more kindly and compassionately, with less criticism. Possibly you would hold less anger toward someone who’s wronged you. Perhaps your body would feel healthier and more energetic. Maybe you would feel more confident in yourself and less overwhelmed.

Now, think about a small step you could take today, right now, that would move you closer to your ideal vision. Consider talking to yourself as you would a good friend you care deeply about. Think about letting go of things you can’t control. Catch up with that old friend you’ve been meaning to call. Write down some tasks you could ask for help with to lighten your load. Above all, listen to yourself and respond with kindness. Kindness is not self-indulgent. It’s not selfish. It is vitally important to your well-being. And you deserve it.

What are your favorite forms of self-care? Here are a few to start you thinking: meditating, going for a walk, taking a warm shower, writing in a journal, calling a friend, asking for a hug, watching a funny movie. What else?