Top 10 Self-Care Strategies

“When the well’s dry, we know the worth of water.” – Benjamin Franklin

Most of us are familiar with the consequences of not taking adequate care of our physical, mental, or emotional health.  We typically feel depleted, drained, or frazzled.  Dr. Tamara McClintock Greenberg, associate clinical professor of psychiatry, discusses the human tendency to engage in self-destructive behaviors against our better judgment.  She notes that “being realistic and honest regarding the difficulties of self-care may help people feel less ashamed regarding what they know they should do for their health and what they are actually able to do.”

For some, the basic aspects of self-care seem to be an elusive luxury.  With many people’s increasing work, school, or family obligations, the idea of devoting more time to taking care of the self seems impossible.  It may even seem selfish.  If the idea of taking time out to take care of yourself seems indulgent or out of reach for you, consider that if you do not take the time to nourish and restore your own basic capacities, you will have far less to offer to others.

In a 2007 study by Shapiro and colleagues, mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) was found to significantly decrease stress, negative affect, rumination, state and trait anxiety, while increasing positive affect and self-compassion.  This is just one of many ways to implement self-care into your life, that will I discuss in more detail in future posts.

Effective Self-Care Strategies

What are some basic ways to practice greater self-care in your own life?

(1) Eat healthy foods

(2) Get between 6 – 8 hours of sleep per night

(3) Engage in regular physical activity

(4) Maintain social support

(5) Cultivate hobbies

(6) Keep your mind active and sharp

(7) Reframe life circumstances in more positive, yet realistic, ways

(8) Regulate your emotions and learn how to process them

(9) Practice regular moments of mindful awareness

(10) Take time out to reflect on how you are living your values

An interesting study published this month indicated that sleeping either less than 6 hours per night or more than 8 hours per night was significantly related to an accelerated cognitive decline in later life that is the equivalent of 4 to 7 years of aging.  Wow!  For some of us, the problem is not getting enough sleep, but for others, the problem may be too much sleep.  This study seems to point out the importance of balance in this aspect of self-care to our long-term health and cognitive well-being.

In what areas of self-care do you find yourself feeling unbalanced?  It may be helpful to reflect on these ten common self-care strategies to notice aspects of your own routine that seem balanced and secure, and perhaps others where you would like to improve.  It is important to remember that when we take care of ourselves, it not only the self who benefits.  When we are nourished in mind, body, and spirit, we have more of ourselves to offer to the world.  Can you identify just one positive thing that you can do for yourself today?

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Ferrie J.E.; Shipley M.J.; Akbaraly T.N.; Marmot M.G.; Kivimäki M.; Singh-Manoux A. Change in sleep duration and cognitive function: findings from the Whitehall II study. SLEEP 2011;34(5):565-573.

McClintock Greenberg, T. (2010, March 11). Self-care and the devil you know [Web log message]. Retrieved from

Shapiro, S.L., Brown, K.W., & Biegel, G.M. (2007). Teaching self-care to caregivers: Effects of mindfulness-based stress reduction on the mental health of therapists in training. Training and Education in Professional Psychology, 1(2), 105-115.

Featured image: hidden colors by spettacolopuro / CC BY 2.0

About Laura K. Schenck, Ph.D., LPC

I am a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) with a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology from the University of Northern Colorado. Some of my academic interests include: Dialectical Behavior Therapy, mindfulness, stress reduction, work/life balance, mood disorders, identity development, supervision & training, and self-care.

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