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  • Emily Kohls, LCMHCA, LCASA


In recent years, perhaps due to the social media era we’re living in, “self-care” has become a hot topic of conversation. It is difficult to go a week without stumbling upon a new wellness or self-care strategy online, which can leave us feeling like we are never doing enough. Through the glamorization of self-care, the true meaning of it feels like it has been watered down and is more confusing than ever.

When I ask folks what they do to practice self-care, they often tell me the first things that come to mind are the mani/pedis they struggle to afford, face masks, or retail therapy. In this blog, we’re going to unpack this and get to the core of what self-care is really all about!

Through my work with clients, I strive to take the guess work out of self-care and help them build sustainable strategies that contribute to their overall wellness. For this reason, I refer to self-care activities as “wellness activities” instead, which I feel captures the true meaning much better.

I ask my clients to look at building a wellness plan as a PROACTIVE action they can take to improve their overall quality of life and wellbeing. By prioritizing wellness, our stress resiliency improves and we can avoid any overwhelm that is within our own control. This makes it a heck of a lot easier to access our coping skills in times of distress that are outside of our control.

In short, wellness plan = proactive, and coping skills = reactive!

Part of living a balanced lifestyle means we are giving attention to all the dimensions of our life. We hear talk of “balance” all the time, but what does that really mean? To make balanced wellness plans easy and accessible, I have broken it down into seven different dimensions. Below is a breakdown of each, as well as some common activities that fit into each category.

***Important Note: Nobody is going to be perfect about checking these boxes 100% of the time, and each person’s wellness plan is unique. Use this as a guide to making your own - not an exact blueprint for what yours looks like. If you are intentionally engaging in a few activities from each dimension, you’re in good shape!

PHYSICAL WELLNESS: Activities that improve our physical well-being.

· Hydration

· Balanced nutrition

· Physical activity - whatever movement you enjoy

· Sleep hygiene

· General hygiene

· Getting medical check-ups + care as needed

· Taking prescribed medications/vitamins

· Moderating substance use

· Skin-care/Doing a face mask

· Getting a massage

EMOTIONAL WELLNESS: Activities that help us connect, process, and reflect on our emotions.

· Seeing a therapist

· Positive affirmations + self-talk

· Journaling

· Practicing gratitude

· Intentional mental health walks

· Creative self-expression (art, screaming to Taylor Swift songs, writing curse words about your enemies, whatever floats your boat)

· Unplugging from everything

SOCIAL WELLNESS: Activities that nurture and deepen our relationships.

· Phone calls to catch up with friends + family

· Date nights with our partner(s)

· Shared activities with loved ones that promote connection (meals or drinks out, intentional plans to spend time together)

· Maintaining boundaries (yes, this absolutely nurtures our relationships)

· Being vulnerable with others

INTELLECTUAL/MENTAL WELLNESS: Activities that stimulate our mind/intellect.

· Reading a book

· Listening to a podcast

· Going to a museum or art exhibit

· Watching a documentary

· Learning about something new, or learning a new skill

· Staying current on events

· Creativity in any form (art, writing, music, sewing, etc)

· Games or puzzles

SPIRITUAL WELLNESS: Activities that help us connect with and nurture our soul.

· Yoga

· Meditation

· Prayer or going to faith-based services (if you identify as religious)

· Being playful

· Spending time in nature

· Helping others

PRACTICAL WELLNESS: Tasks we complete to prevent future stress and promote success.

· Track spending / Create a budget + stick to it

· Paying bills on time

· Remaining organized (closet, drawers, email box, etc.)

· Maintaining living space

· Keeping up on laundry

· Meal prepping

· Grocery shopping

· Staying on top of to-do lists (or writing lists in general)

· Any “adult” responsibilities we need to take care of to prevent overwhelm, and make sure we don’t end up neglecting the other wellness dimensions while we play catch-up

PROFESSIONAL WELLNESS: Activities that support balance and fulfillment in our careers.

· Setting professional boundaries to separate work / home life

· Spending time with coworkers outside of work (good for morale)

· Professional development opportunities

· Using all available vacation time (seriously, don’t be a martyr)

· Taking sick days when feeling unwell

· Asking for help when needed

· Honoring deadlines

If you noticed while reading this that one category is especially lacking, I’d encourage you to start there and chip away at it piece by piece. Set some realistic, measurable goals around it. And always

remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day! Celebrate your progress along the way.

I’ve found through building these plans with clients that it is very empowering to feel in control of our wellbeing. This breakdown provides them the tools to check-in with themselves on a regular basis, and always feel there is a path forward if they are feeling a little off balance.

Checking in with myself about how much attention I am giving to my wellness is my very first step each time I start to feel a little “off.” When I notice myself feeling unbalanced, I immediately grab my list and evaluate each dimension, which I keep in the Notes App on my phone.

99% of the time when I am feeling this way, I realize I was neglecting at least one category of wellness (or two… or three…. So definitely no judgment if this applies to you, too).

By having solid strategies written down, I am never left feeling like “what the heck do I do to feel better?” There are always concrete steps I can take on this list. I simply focus on the next right thing, one wellness activity at a time. It’s incredibly empowering to feel like I don’t always need to wait for sessions with my therapist to improve my wellbeing and figure out what is next. There are always small steps I can take, and they’re all well within my control.

What dimension of your wellness needs the most attention? What area do you struggle to remain consistent in?


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