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Self-Care: Tuning in to Your Needs

Updated: Sep 3

Self-care has become warped and twisted into images of fluffy, self-indulgent days packed with costly luxuries. The reality of self-care is much simpler than that, yet simultaneously more difficult to achieve. True self-care requires an ability to identify and prioritize your various needs, which requires a lot more thought and effort than a trip to the store or spa.


While many people can get caught up in reacting to emotional difficulty, self-care takes a more proactive, preventative approach to well-being. Self-care is any deliberate activity taken to nurture part of yourself, whether that be physical, emotional, social, spiritual, etc.



We have outlined four types of self-care that you may want to incorporate into your routine, with some suggestions for specific activities for each category. While all of these areas are connected and actions in one arena will likely have a positive impact on other areas, we recommend nurturing each area of yourself for a more balanced approach.


1) Physical self-care is anything that enhances your physical well-being. It is well-researched that our physical health can impact our emotional/mental health.

  • Exercise/activity

  • Nutrition

  • Hydration

  • Sleep/rest

2) Social self-care is anything that nurtures your relationship with others. We are innately social beings and thrive with healthy, meaningful connections.

  • Finding a sense of belonging (feeling that you can be your authentic self)

  • Spending quality time with friends/family

  • Going on regular dates with a significant other

  • Maintaining healthy boundaries

  • Staying in touch with your support system

3) Spiritual self-care is anything that nurtures your soul and can vary dramatically from person to person.

  • Yoga

  • Meditation

  • Enjoying time in nature

  • Exploring your guiding beliefs and values

  • Connecting with your Higher Power

  • Prayer/Worship

4) Emotional self-care is anything that helps you connect with, process, and nurture your emotional self.

  • Positive affirmations

  • Journaling

  • Gratitude

  • Calm (mindful meditation app)

  • Breathing exercises

  • Deep relaxation techniques

  • Processing with a therapist or a trusted friend

  • Developing an ability to identify and express emotions

  • Building empathy and compassion (for self and others)



Like a jar of rocks.


Everything you do has a charge, whether that be positive or negative. Imagine a jar of rocks. Everything that fuels you is placing a rock in that jar, and everything that drains you takes a rock out of the jar. Your job is to develop an awareness of how full your jar is in any given moment, and to understand what activities help you keep that jar nice and full. An empty jar can lead to burn out and other negative consequences.


Questions to ask yourself:


How full is my jar?

How do I feel in this moment?

What brings me joy, meaning, purpose, and/or fulfillment?

What am I grateful for?

What do I need?

How can I meet that need in a healthy way?

Is there an aspect of myself that has been neglected?

Am I caring for all parts of myself?


My challenge for you is to tune in to how "charged" you are this week, and do at least one small act of self-care each day. I'd love to hear how it goes!


Carrie Nicholes is a Maryland Board approved Licensed Certified Social Worker - Clinical (LCSW-C) and the founder of Cedar Counseling & Wellness. Recognized as one of the top therapists in Annapolis, she has a lifelong passion for teaching people tools to improve their lives.

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