The 5 Core Principles of Self-Care
by Ami Kunimura, MA, MT-BC • March 2019
If I had five minutes to sit down with you and tell you the most important things to know about self-care, I would tell you these five things.
I’ve worked with thousands of people struggling with burnout, stress, and overwhelm, and when it comes to caring for ourselves, these five principles become the anchors for sustainable self-care. I need to frequently remind myself of these five things too, so take note of what resonates with you.
1. You do not need to earn self-care.
Self-care does not need to be earned by working hard or doing things for others. Self-care can be a reward and is necessary after hard work. However, you are worthy of self-care just by being alive. From the day you were born you have been a human being worthy of compassion, love, and kindness from others and from yourself.
2. Self-care is more than just leisure and luxury.
Self-care isn’t just the nice things you do for yourself or what you do in your free time. Although things like getting a massage, taking a vacation, or doing yoga can be great forms of self-care, we also need to remember that self-care is not just about doing things for yourself.
Self-care also involves your mindset, attitude, and self-talk. And, self-care is the hard stuff too, like saying no, setting boundaries, or attending to your emotions. Self-care can mean not being so hard on yourself when you make a mistake, not putting so much pressure on yourself to do something perfectly, or saying something encouraging rather than critical to yourself when you’re having a bad day (or a good day).
Self-care might not always be what’s enjoyable to do. Rather, self-care is a choice to do what’s best for you.
3. Self-care and hard work can co-exist.
Self-care and work are not separate things. Self-care doesn’t just happen in your personal life.
You can practice self-care at work too, with things like managing your time well, advocating for yourself, asking for support when you need it, and taking on a realistic workload. And, your work can be a way to nurture your soul and can be something you feel proud of. Your work can be an important part of your identity and by honoring that part of yourself, you are caring for yourself.
And, making time for self-care doesn’t mean you’re not working hard, and working hard doesn’t necessarily mean you’re not practicing self-care. Rather, doing your best at work includes caring for yourself. Remember that working hard is a reason to practice self-care, not a reason why you can’t.
4. Self-care does not have to take a lot of time.
One of the biggest obstacles to self-care is not having enough time. However, small and brief acts of kindness towards yourself can add up to create positive change. And, some self-care practices don’t take much time, such as not being so hard on yourself when you make a mistake, saying no, or taking a deep breath.
Also, remember that when you’re busy and don’t have time for self-care – that’s when self-care is really needed. Being busy and not having time for self-care is a reason for self-care, not an excuse to let it go.
5. Self-care isn’t just about you.
The people you care about need you to care for yourself. Self-care can help you be a more effective professional, a more patient parent and/or spouse, or a better friend. Prioritizing your self-care sets a good example for your family and your community. If every single person on this planet took a moment today to truly be nicer to themselves, this world could see significant positive change. Be a part of that change.
If you feel guilt around self-care, have a difficult time giving back to yourself, or it’s hard for you to ask for or receive support – you are not alone. So many big-hearted, kind, and generous people feel this way and these feelings often come from a place of deeply caring for others, which is not a bad thing. However, to sustain the amount of giving you do and the quality of care you give to others, your big heart needs to include yourself. You are worthy of receiving the same care that you give to others.
Of these five core principles of self-care, which one is most important for you right now? Write it down as a reminder so that you’ll remember this in an hour, tomorrow, and next week.
I also want you to know that being here on this website, and reading this article is an act of self-care. Educating yourself on self-care is an important self-care practice, so take a moment here to give yourself credit for that. Sometimes as adults we need to re-learn how to take care of ourselves. This is is normal, and it’s good to re-evaluate your self-care and re-educate yourself on self-care every so often to make sure its evolving as your life changes.
Ami Kunimura, MA, MT-BC is the founder of the Self-Care Institute and the creator and facilitator of Resilience Over Burnout: A Self-Care Program, an in-depth online program that guides professionals out of burnout and stress cycles through research-based self-care practices. Ami has presented on self-care and professional burnout at international events and conferences. Ami (pronounced ah-me) was born in Hawaii and currently lives in Southern California.
Download Your Free Self-Care Starter Kit
Self-care starts now.
A free calming meditation for you to listen to anytime
Essential Daily Self-Care
Simple self-care you can do everyday that takes less than 5 minutes
Access to additional self-care resources and support