Written by Katherine Nicholls
Katherine Nicholls
Life Coach Directory Content Team

When you read the word ‘self-care’, what comes to mind? Perhaps a luxurious soak in a bubble bath? Lighting candles and reading? The truth is, it’s this and also so much more. While the media has latched onto a certain aspect of self-care, it's important to go back to basics and recognise what self-care really is, and how it can support personal growth. 

Here we’ll look at why self-care looks different to all of us, discuss some examples of self-care, explain how you can find your motivation to practice self-care and share some helpful resources. 

What is self-care? 

At its core, self-care is the way you look after yourself. A simple concept that has many branches including practices to support your physical self, your mental health and your emotional well-being. 

Before we get into this, however, it’s important to note that self-care is not a one-size-fits-all kind of thing. As humans, we are wonderfully unique and this means what works for one person may not work for another. What’s more important than jumping on the latest self-care trend is to start building up your self-awareness, checking in with yourself regularly and asking yourself one powerful question…

What do I need?

Examples of self-care

Looking for some inspiration? Here we look at three types of self-care and some practices you may want to try. 

Physical self-care

This is all about taking care of your physical body and giving it the time and attention it needs to thrive. 

  • Eating a nutritious diet that feeds both body and soul.
  • Finding an exercise or movement routine that helps you feel energised.
  • Looking after your personal hygiene with regular washing.
  • Visiting the doctor/dentist/optician when you need to.
  • Taking any prescribed medication.
  • Making space for personal grooming, from skincare and hair-cuts to trimming your nails and wearing clothes that feel good.

Mental self-care 

Here are some self-care examples to help you focus on your mental health and ensure it’s as well as it can be.  

  • Being more mindful or trying meditation to help ease stress, build awareness and boost mood.
  • Writing in a journal to help you be more self-aware and notice any patterns with your mental health.
  • Finding an exercise or movement routine that helps your mind as much as your body.
  • Talking about how you’re feeling, either with a friend, family member or professional.
  • Reading, watching TV/films or playing games to give you a moment of escapism and time to recharge.
  • Taking baths, getting massages and any other activity that encourages rest and relaxation.
  • Being creative, allowing ideas to flow and for you to feel inspired. 

Emotional self-care 

As well as our physical and mental health, we need to look after our emotional well-being. 

  • Connecting with others as much as you need, staving off loneliness and feelings of isolation.
  • Setting boundaries in your life, relationships and work to ensure your needs are met.
  • Asking for what you need from yourself and others.
  • Saying no when you’re overstretched and prioritising your well-being.
  • Letting go of unhelpful beliefs/habits/relationships. 

Try some different self-care practices, and see which ones feel good to you. Remember, your circumstances are unique, so it’s OK if you try something and it doesn’t work for you. What makes self-care sustainable is fitting the right practices into your life and your schedule (need some inspiration? Try these daily self-care rituals).

I recognise and embrace the impact that self-care has on my mental health. For me, it’s allowing myself to feel loved and cared for, especially as a single parent - I was missing that.

- Amy Holland

How self-care supports personal development

If you’re here, it’s likely that you’re interested in growth, whether that’s in your life, relationships or career. The journey of personal development is an ongoing one and while it can be incredibly fulfilling, it can be tough at times.

We often have to meet parts of ourselves we’ve been ignoring or avoiding. We may have to confront difficult emotions or challenge beliefs we’ve long held. This is all part of the work. 

Whether you’re doing it alone or working with a coach, in order to keep going when things get difficult, we need to practice self-care. Looking after ourselves means we are in the best position to learn, grow and move forward. 

The very act of carving out time for ourselves cements the fact that we are worthy of care and attention. This builds our sense of worth, belief in our abilities and confidence – key ingredients for success. 

Finding your motivation for self-care

Logically, many of us understand the importance of self-care, yet we still struggle to prioritise it. If you're nodding, here's something to help: identify your self-care motivators.

Understanding why you want to practise self-care at a deep and personal level is essential. If you do it because you think you 'should', you are unlikely to keep it up.

Questions to ask yourself to help you find your self-care motivators:

  • What are some acts of self-care you want to bring into your life more? (perhaps something from the lists above or something unique to you)
  • How do you feel when you make time for them? (do you feel relaxed, energised, calm?)
  • What are your personal benefits? (how do these acts improve your life? Does taking time to de-stress improve your mental health?)
  • Who else benefits from your self-care? (note how your friends, family or co-workers reap the benefits when you look after yourself)

Then, looking back at your answers, ask yourself ‘What are my self-care motivators?’ Examples include: 

  • “To be a role model for my child.”
  • “To be a more supportive partner.”
  • “To align with my belief that people should be kind to themselves ”
  • “To take greater control of my health ”

Write yours down and stick them somewhere you’ll see them every day. Remind yourself of these whenever you feel tempted to skip a self-care practice. 

Self-care resources

To help you continue your self-care journey, here are some articles and podcasts we think you’ll like: 

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