What Is Self Care? Techniques For Mental, Emotional, And Physical Well Being

Medically reviewed by April Justice, LICSW
Updated April 24, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Internal and external self-care can benefit your survival, happiness, success, and peace of mind. However, you may find that the business of life combined with demands can cause you to struggle to keep up with healthy routines. Self-care is a way to take a moment to reflect and step away from these busy cycles to consider your mental and physical health.  

According to studies, self-care activities mean more than prevention—they are a way to support yourself physically, emotionally, professionally, spiritually, relationally, and psychologically. By discovering the intricacies of self-care and including these behaviors in your routine, you may find unique benefits and get to know yourself more profoundly. To start, knowing the complete concept of self-care can be valuable. 

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Practice self care to improve your overall well-being

What is self-care?

The Oxford Living Dictionary defines self-care as any action to preserve or improve one’s health, well-being, and happiness, especially during times of stress. This definition encompasses the idea that self-care is multi-dimensional. Stressors that arise can necessitate resilience, and self-care is often part of the strategy toward this skill. When you take steps to maintain your well-being, you can build resistance or resilience against many types of stressors.  

When someone thinks of self-care, they might think it means taking a shower, brushing their teeth, or sleeping well at night. While these physical care activities can be essential, self-care can be more defined and isn’t only focused on one aspect of health. In addition, self-care is often a break from a daily routine or a way to find stress relief, which can involve more extravagant or unique coping skills. 

Physical self-care in your daily life may promote health, safeguarding your immune system against disease and infection. Furthermore, emotional self-care can offer space for you to value your close relationships with others and yourself, including during challenging moments.  

Self-care strategies for your overall well-being 

Below are several techniques for focusing on self-care and well-being. However, note that these skills may only be the start of a complete routine. Self-care can be personal; you can try many other strategies if the following options do not work. 


Exercise and daily physical movement can be valuable parts of a healthy physical self-care routine. In addition, professional medical advice suggests that exercising regularly can improve mental health. 

Experts recommend 20 to 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise daily, though this number can vary depending on age, physical condition, and health conditions. Aerobic activities like jogging or swimming may benefit those with limited mobility, whereas martial arts, dance, or sports routines can be effective for those seeking more mobility. If you don’t want to exercise alone, you can consider finding a buddy to exercise with you. 

Regardless of your chosen activity, try to find a way to remain active each day. If there are days you can’t fit a regular exercise routine into your schedule, try spending time standing, walking, and moving around. If you have an office job, you might try a standing desk, yoga ball seat, or taking regular breaks. You can also ensure you have an ergonomic office chair to keep your back aligned and reduce muscular pain from sitting. 


Meditation is another self-care practice that has been proven to increase self-compassion. When choosing a meditation practice, find the best method for you. Some meditation methods recommend clearing your mind for a set period to give your brain a “reset” period to rest. You can also try guided meditations, which may encourage individuals to explore their minds and thoughts to facilitate peace, focus, and mental well-being.  

Traditional yoga practices may also incorporate meditation through breathing and postural exercises that improve circulation, reduce stress, and promote mindfulness. You may consider exploring meditation apps on your phone or online to get an introduction to meditation practices. In addition, if you don’t have time for long meditation sessions, experts have found that ten minutes a day is enough to reap the benefits. 


Journaling can be added to your self-care routine to help you relieve stress and externalize painful emotions or thoughts. This expressive art form is a way to work through your thoughts, understand your current situation, and reflect on your day. Whatever you write in your journal is for you to read and ponder. Some people also show their journal entries with a therapist. 

If you take up a regular journaling practice, try to find an unlined journal to draw, write, glue photos, or create poems. Through journaling, you can work through inner challenges. As you read past entries, you may also notice behavioral patterns you’d like to change, which can be a form of self-reflection. Studies have also found that expressive writing, like journaling, has various mental health benefits.

Adopt a healthy diet

Although it can seem that your diet only benefits your physical body, diet can also impact your mental and emotional health. When you nourish your body with whole, nutritious foods, you can feel happier, more capable, and more resilient to your daily tasks. Avoiding unhealthy substances, high-sugar foods, and foods that don’t offer nutrients can be beneficial. However, talk to a nutritionist to find a diet that’s healthy for you and fits your goals.  

The body requires certain nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, proteins, and healthy fats, to function correctly. If you do not have enough of these nutrients, you may experience symptoms of depression, anxiety, or a lower mood. Many nutrients help control your body’s response to stress. Without those nutrients, you may struggle to focus or cope with challenges. 

In one extensive review of food patterns and the incidence of depressive disorder, researchers found that an increased intake of nutrients (such as folate and essential fatty acids) was correlated with a reduced risk of depression. On the other hand, increased intake of fast food, trans fatty acids, and commercial bakery goods was related to a higher risk of depressive symptoms. 

Socialize regularly and honor personal time

Self-care may not only be about spending time alone but also about spending time with others. Studies show that social interaction is essential for all humans, regardless of introversion or extroversion. Although you don’t have to spend all your time with others, having social interaction occasionally can be beneficial. You can strike a balance between the time you spend on your own honoring your space and the time you use to connect with those you love. 

Caring for yourself emotionally, mentally, and physically can be valuable to connect better with others. You may have heard the phrase, “You can’t pour from an empty cup.” This phrase explains how caring for yourself can help you care for others. After recharging, call up a friend or family to spend time together. You can also partake in self-care activities together, such as hiking, coloring mandalas, or going to a comedy show to laugh. 

Other ways to practice self-care

Taking the time to practice a hobby or enjoy an activity can make a difference in your health. Many people have activities they enjoy when they have free time. Giving yourself the chance to partake in fun and relaxing activities can boost your happiness. It may also increase your productivity in other parts of your life.

Everyone has a unique way of caring for their personal, physical, emotional, and mental well-being. If you don’t connect with the ideas above, the below options may also be beneficial: 

  • Establish a regular sleep routine
  • Spend time outdoors
  • Moderate social media to reduce anxiety
  • Organize your home 
  • Take a “no technology” day
  • Practice deep breathing exercises 
  • Wear comfortable clothes 
  • Pamper yourself 
  • Work toward acceptance
  • Listen to music
  • Read your favorite book
  • Learn a new skill
  • Write a story 
  • Play positive video games 
  • Help a friend
  • Volunteer for a cause 

Practice self care to improve your overall well-being

Professional support to supplement self-care 

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, mental health is not the absence of mental illness. Mental health can involve your actions to keep your mental, emotional, and physical self healthy. Whether you prefer calmer, quieter activities or if you are more extroverted and outgoing, there are activities you may enjoy that help you remain healthy and happy. A therapist can also be a valuable resource if managing your physical, mental, or emotional health difficult.  

For many people, setting up appointments and traveling to an office for therapy is challenging and may keep them from seeking professional support. Online therapy is beneficial in these cases, as you can set up a convenient time in a comfortable space. In addition, it is often more cost-effective, and there may be more options for a therapist available to you online than in your area, especially if you live in a rural town. 

Research has also shown that online therapy is equally effective in treating mental health as in-person therapy. For example, a study published in the peer-reviewed research Journal of Clinical Psychology revealed that, in over 100 different online counseling trials, overall attitudes between counselors and participants were as favorable as with in-person counseling

If you are considering online therapy, contact a counselor through a platform like BetterHelp for professional medical advice and support. Asking for assistance can be brave, and you may find that a therapist has unique and personalized suggestions for self-care that you haven’t heard before.  


Self-care is a comprehensive coping skill comprising many activities and healthy living options. There are many ways to practice self-care, and creating a routine can be personal. If you’re struggling to create a self-care routine or find that your current routine isn’t working for you, you can also consider contacting a therapist for further guidance and support.
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