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  1. Blog
  2. Mental Health
  3. November 23, 2021

How to Create a Self-Care Checklist (with Examples)

Easy ways to prioritize you

Making a soothing cup of tea can be a step in your daily self-care checklist
Photo courtesy of Drew Taylor

Why is a self-care checklist so important?

Well, there are a lot of misconceptions around self-care. Getting facials, taking bubble baths, and buying new face serums may bring you temporary joy, but these activities aren’t essential to preserving your health and wellbeing. Self-care is the practice of improving your physical and mental health. 

According to the World Health Organization, self-care encompasses hygiene, nutrition, lifestyle, environmental factors, socioeconomic factors, and self-medication. Examples include meditation, routine primary care visits, exercising, staying hydrated, and socializing with friends. As you consider the best self-care practices for you, understand the importance of self-care and building personalized checklists that optimize your health and wellness.

How to create a self-care checklist

1. Consider your physical, psychological, and emotional needs

What works for you won’t necessarily work for someone else, but self-care is a necessity. One of the best ways to understand the importance of self-care is to consider Maslow's hierarchy of needs. This psychological model suggests that every human being has a natural motivation to achieve self-actualization, but this requires their basic needs to be met.

If you don’t have food and shelter, for instance, then you can’t attend to your self-esteem or achieve personal fulfillment. To be your best self, you need to consider your needs and how you can address them routinely. Review the model’s five levels of needs, starting with the most essential:

  1. Psychological: This includes everything from food and sleep to shelter and clothing. If you’re at risk of experiencing homelessness or food insecure, housing, food, and financial needs will take precedence over everything else. 

  2. Safety: Your health, employment, education, and housing situations are all vital to your safety. If you’re working in unsafe conditions or if your house doesn’t meet quality regulations, then your physical and emotional safety is at risk. 

  3. Love and belonging: This incorporates friendships, partnerships, social connections, intimacy, and family relationships. Social connection contributes to your sense of belonging.

  4. Esteem: Respect, status, and recognition directly impact your self-esteem. Some ways to achieve this is to set boundaries at home or advocate for promotions at work.

  5. Self-actualization: This is the final, most important need. When you’re practicing self-care and meeting your basic needs, you’re equipped with all of the tools needed to reach your full potential. 

Fulfilling these needs is a personal growth process that gets you closer and closer to reaching your highest potential. Securing shelter and safety allows you to participate in community groups and develop friendships, which supports your ability to accomplish your personal goals and have the capacity to explore your potential, capabilities, and talents. This is what self-care is all about.

2. Understand the basics of self-care 

If you want to be the best you that you can be, it’s important to take care of yourself. Incorporating self-care into your routine requires a plan. As you begin to build a self-care routine, take time to consider your basic needs.

Here are some questions you should ask yourself:

  • How do you maintain your physical health? This could include walking around your neighborhood, practicing yoga, or joining a workout class. The CDC recommends 150 minutes of exercise per week, but you have to figure out what’s best for your body. 

  • Are you financially comfortable? Budgeting and managing your household expenses are critical components of self-care. If you’re living above your means or stressing about house payments, then your mental health is going to likely suffer. In order to practice self-care, you need to make sure that your financial needs are addressed. 

  • What are your medical needs? To maintain your health, it’s important to take preventative care of your mind and body. This could include therapy, medical screenings, medication management, or getting regular dental cleanings. 

  • What do you need to do on a daily basis to feel your best? This could be something as simple. Maybe you need to eat a nutritious breakfast to maintain energy or maybe you need to give yourself 30 minutes to step away from your household or workplace responsibilities. 

  • Are you in tune with your emotions? Sometimes what we want feels like a need. You may want to go away on a vacation, but what you really need is more time to yourself. You may want to quit your job, but what you really need is to set boundaries with your manager. 

  • How are your interpersonal relationships? If you’re feeling isolated or lonely, you may need to join a community group or spend more time with loved ones. If you’re feeling frustrated with your partner, you should set aside time to discuss how you’re feeling and how you can improve the relationship.

By recognizing and addressing your personal needs, you set yourself up for personal growth. Life is full of stressors and self-care can help you achieve a semblance of balance in your work and personal life. If you know you’re about to face a stressful work season, you can utilize a self-care checklist to make sure you don’t abandon your health and mental health in the process.

How to personalize your self-care checklist

Self-care is all about the self. When creating a self-care checklist, make it personal. Take your schedule into consideration, as well as your preferences and capabilities. Consider the following questions:

You know yourself better than anyone else, so it’s up to you to create the most beneficial checklists. As you get started, pay attention to your mood and energy. If you’re feeling exhausted, maybe you need to add in naps or another hour of sleep. Self-care should help improve your health and wellness.

Examples of self-care checklists

Not every checklist looks the same. What motivates you and keeps you satisfied doesn’t necessarily work for someone else. Below, you’ll find examples of self-care checklists, which can be used as a daily or weekly roadmap.

Daily self-care checklist 

  • Engage in positive self-talk.

  • Practice three minutes of meditation.

  • Drink eight glasses of water.

  • Journal before bed.

  • Add more vegetables to your diet.

  • Choose one goal to focus on.

  • Go outside.

  • Take a break from technology.

Monthly self-care checklist 

  • Spend quality time with your partner.

  • Practice your favorite hobby.

  • Make sure your medication is renewed.

  • Try a new type of exercise.

  • Write down your monthly goals.

  • Read a book.

  • Nap when needed.

  • Test out a new recipe. 

  • Review your monthly budget.

Self-care checklist by category

Psychological

  • Set your bills to automatic payments.

  • Turn off all electronics one hour before bed.

  • Incorporate more vegetables and fruit into your diet.

  • Visit a financial advisor. 

  • Book a therapy session.

Emotional

  • Spend 30 minutes of quality time with your partner.

  • Try a social media cleanse for 24 hours.

  • Write a gratitude list.

  • Take a break during the workday to meditate.

  • Say “no” to an activity you don’t enjoy.

Physical

  • Sign up for a virtual yoga class.

  • Turn on some music and dance.

  • Schedule your routine doctor’s visit.

  • Go on a walk with a friend.

  • Drink one full glass of water when you wake up.

  • Take a 20-minute nap when you’re overtired.

Intellectual

  • Take an art or cooking class.

  • Visit a new neighborhood in your area.

  • Ask your manager for constructive feedback.

  • Set up a monthly phone date with a friend.

  • Read the opinions section of a newspaper.

When making your self-care checklist, keep the list attainable. The goal of the list isn’t to set unreasonably high goals for yourself, but simply to preserve and protect your health and wellbeing. If the list is too difficult for you this week or month, make some changes to it. Self-care is personal, so personalize your lists to your current needs.

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Photo of Sarah Sheppard

Sarah Sheppard

Contributor

Sarah Sheppard is the Senior Content Marketing Manager at Healthify. She earned an MFA in creative writing from Lesley University and contributes regularly to Verywell Mind. She writes on mental health, women's issues, and redefining success.

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