The Five Pillars of Self Care: Shaping your routine to make your life more balanced and happier
Self care is a complicated subject, isn’t it? I don’t know about you, but I always struggle to classify my actions as self care, relaxation, laziness, or even as ‘doing work I enjoy’. It has taken me a long time to discover how to work out which of my actions are true self care, and I want to share with you the format that I use! This method is based on a five pillar model of self care, discussed in a study by researchers at the University of Arizona. The five areas may sound complex at first, but I’m here to discuss each and give you practical tips on how to apply them in your life. If you prefer to listen to your information, click here for the Wilde About Wellbeing podcast episode on this topic.
Pillar 1: The Psychosocial-Emotional
Loneliness has a strong effect on our psychological and emotional wellbeing, and is something that we should be trying to minimise in our lives. Sometimes, when socialising, we can even feel lonely when we’re surrounded by others, if they’re just not the right crowd for us to be a part of.
This pillar is about finding others who you resonate with, and enjoy spending time with. In my personal experience, that’s people who are interested in self-development and being better as people — for you, it might be people who share a similar lifestyle to you, or who are interested in the same hobby or sport.
Pillar 2: The Energetic
When we talk about energy here, we don’t mean physical energy or being active: here, we’re considering the energy that flows inside of us. If you’re like me, this concept may met with more than a little scepticism, but hear me out! There’s a lot of anecdotal experiences now that suggest practices of acupuncture, yoga, meditation and so on, all connect with some sort of energy force (qi in Traditional Chinese Medicine) inside of us.
As an empath, I do feel like I absorb the energy of other people, so it’s especially important for me to be able to connect with whatever grounds me and helps me to put up healthy emotional barriers when I need to. One part of energetic self care is about taking ourselves out of conversations or relationships that shake us too much. Another part is about looking after our energy by doing activities that relax and ‘ground’ us — for me, I’ve found reflexology to be one of the most energy nurturing things I can do.
Pillar 3: The Physical
This is quite a straightforward facet of the model: people benefit from movement, no matter how small it might seem. Studies have shown that exercise is of great benefit to those with anxiety and depression, for example — so it makes sense to make it part of your self care regime.
There are obviously a gazillion ways you can move your body, from a stroll in nature to a hardcore HIIT class. For me, I enjoy a weekly group spin class and on the other days, I use on demand, online exercise classes — I try to workout every single day. I know the importance of movement for my emotional wellbeing.
Pillar 4: The Spiritual
Firstly, as an agnostic (at best!), I want to clarify something: spirituality is not about religion or belief in a god. I can, though, relate to something bigger than myself in the form of nature — to me, nature is the ultimate reminder that there are greater powers (e.g. of science) out there than lil’ ol’ me!
As well as taking myself into nature to connect with my spiritual side, I also try asking myself how I am feeling on a regular basis, letting myself feel the emotions that are inside of me at that moment. Meditation, mindfulness and breathwork are other things I’ve tried and continue to use, when I want to nurture my spirituality: they all focus me on the present moment, releasing me from concerns.
Pillar 5: The Intellectual
Intellectualism isn’t about becoming a PhD-level expert, but it is about learning and being open-minded to new ideas. In order to keep growing as human beings, we must learn new things and be exposed to new experiences. These will enable us to better understand the world around us, rather than simply living in it.
We are bombarded at school or work with emails about policies, handbooks, textbooks and so on. Yes, we may learn from them, but that isn’t necessarily self care intellectualism. In my opinion, learning becomes self care when it’s something you truly enjoy learning about, engaging with ideas not because we have to, but because we want to. If you’re not an avid reader, intellectualism doesn’t have to be about learning from books: it can be listening intently to classical music to better understand the composition; learning a language; or even painting a meaningful piece of art.
Bonus Pillar: The Crossover
The five pillars above do not exist in some kind of vacuum, and that’s where the crossover comes in. There are many activities that will cover multiple areas of the five facets of self care discussed here. These activities help to solidify self care even further, since they focus on multiple areas of personal development.
In my life, the IGNTD Heroes addiction recovery program sums up the crossover for me. I get psychosocial-emotional satisfaction from being part of an online group, where I’m able to share with others how I feel. The energetic element of the course has been a combination of the meditations that are included in some of the modules, and also the simple grounding feeling of being around people who ‘get’ me. The program has encouraged me to become more active, and it’s because of it that I now workout, so that tangentially covers physical self care. Spirituality has come, again, not from religion, but from relating to greater things than myself: the power of the IGNTD Heroes group; the awesomeness of nature and the universe; and so on. Finally, in learning and understanding my mental health through the program, I have become intellectually stimulated.
In conclusion, I think the five pillar method will really help you to see what areas of self care are lacking for you, and the areas where you’re doing well. I have found that by making an effort to include all five of these behavioural aspects in my routine, I am becoming more grounded, calmer and able to relate better in my relationships. I hope you find the same! If you’d like to hear more tips for how you can cultivate each of these pillars, take a listen to my Wilde About Wellbeing podcast on the topic!