How to Make a Self-Care Checklist That Works for You

Life is filled with unexpected challenges and obstacles. When the toughest times seem beyond your control, it can take a toll on your emotional health, especially if your overall well-being needs improvement.

When you feel physically and emotionally well, it's easier to handle stressors healthily and productively. All this makes self-care practices important to promote mind and body wellness.

Self-care doesn't look the same for everyone. Your go-to stress management approach may not necessarily work for your friend. Even people in healthy and close relationships often have different needs for things such as companionship, exercise, and leisure time.

Yes, that means there's no one-size-fits-all self-care checklist, despite what you might read online. So, how can you determine what self-care practices work best for you?

First, ask yourself these questions

As you get into self-care specifics, these questions can help you make it practical and tailored to your needs.

Do I see myself using this approach?

Your self-care plan won't benefit much if you don't follow it. For example, if you're thinking about starting a garden but don't like dirt, it might not be the best activity for you. In this case, an indoor garden of succulents or other easy-care plants might be a good choice.

Am I taking on too many tasks?

You can burn yourself out with excessive self-care activities. Scheduling too many wellness activities can have the opposite effect and leave you feeling more stressed. Having too many commitments, even if they are enjoyable, can cause stress because it leaves you with no time to sit and process your thoughts, which is an important part of self-care.

What role do finances play?

Imagine joining an expensive gym to exercise more but only going once a week. Instead of feeling energized by the increased activity, you may end up feeling more stressed about the cost. At the same time, there is nothing wrong with investing money in something that truly works.

Opting for takeout on work nights instead of cooking can also become expensive. However, if this choice lets you spend more quality time with your kids and fits within your budget, this value may be worth it.

Do I have time?

Self-care best practice needs regular practice, not just when you feel most stressed. Regularly taking care of yourself can help prevent you from reaching a point of high stress. Try to set self-care goals that can be achieved alongside work and other responsibilities.

Start by assessing your physical needs

Physical self-care needs include the things that help keep your body functioning well. To keep your body functioning well, take care of your physical self-care needs. Start by identifying your needs and taking note of the steps you already take to meet them. If you recognize areas where you could make improvements, prioritize those changes in your self-care plan.


Most adults get approximately 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night. Not getting enough quality sleep can negatively impact your health, mood, and ability to concentrate. However, it's common not to get the recommended amount of sleep, but you can usually enhance both the amount and quality of your sleep independently.


According to the current physical activity guidelines, adults who can exercise should aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity per week. If you don't enjoy your exercise routine, it can feel like a burdensome task. But when exercise is enjoyable and feels like a leisure activity, you're more likely to engage in it regularly.

When you include exercise in your self-care plan, select activities that you enjoy most. You might consider buying a cycle instead of running shoes if you dislike running.


Eating healthy foods is not the only aspect of good nutrition. Maintaining a balanced diet and prioritizing nourishing foods can greatly protect your health. If you want to feel happier with your food choices, mindful eating, and intuitive eating are two methods that can help. These approaches help you to enjoy any food in moderation without imposing harsh restrictions.


Good self-care can involve setting aside your fear of the doctor's office and checking any concerns on time. You may not see the need for an annual checkup, especially if you haven't noticed any problems. But regular visits with a healthcare provider can help you identify health problems at an early stage. Issues that start small can quickly get worse and affect other aspects of health, such as sleep and appetite.

Now, move on to your mental needs

Mental needs refer to both cognitive needs and mental health needs. To put it simply, you'll need to consider what activities stimulate your brain and help you stay mentally alert.


Setting healthy boundaries can protect your time and reduce stress.

These limits might include the following:
  • saying no when you're not ready
  • communicating needs directly to others
  • avoiding taking on additional tasks

Stress Reduction

Stress levels play an important part in our mental health. Exploring things currently stressing you out is a good way to get started. How are you dealing with those issues? Can you get rid of any? How can you improve your approach to handle them more efficiently?


Counseling is an essential aspect of self-care for many people. Collaborating with a mental health professional to address any mental health symptoms can lead to significant improvements, positively impacting both your emotional and physical well-being.

Getting professional support can be beneficial even if you don't have any specific symptoms. Everyone faces difficulties, and neglecting them can result in burnout and stress. If you're feeling overwhelmed, therapy can provide a safe space to discuss coping strategies and anything on your mind.

Cognitive Abilities

Improving and strengthening your mind can greatly benefit your overall wellness. Cognitive skills can be improved through activities such as learning new things, reading, and engaging in brain games to improve concentration.

Take Breaks

Taking breaks and relaxing can give your brain the necessary space to recharge, promoting optimal function. If you find your mind often wandering, it may be a sign that you need more mental relaxation. Consider taking technology breaks when you feel overwhelmed as part of your self-care routine. Activities such as doodling, walking in nature, or taking short naps can help your brain rest.

Don't forget emotional needs

Understanding your feelings and emotions can help you identify what you need in your life. Emotional self-care involves acknowledging your feelings, interpreting their messages, and utilizing this information to prioritize your emotional well-being.

Mindful Awareness

Letting your emotions guide you is tough when you don't know what they mean. Therefore, setting a goal to spend more time with your emotions will help you acknowledge your emotional needs and identify when they're not being met.

Meditation or journaling might be great additions to your self-care plan if you find it difficult to connect with your emotions. Sharing your emotions with trusted individuals can also provide assistance.


Interacting with others in meaningful ways is essential for most people, although the specific needs for social interaction can vary based on personality and other factors.

If you often experience loneliness, it may be helpful to increase your social connections. On the other hand, it may be beneficial to prioritize spending time alone if you feel stressed or annoyed by being around others.

Spending time with friends and loved ones can fulfill your socialization needs. However, making new connections within your community can also be beneficial. Your emotional state can guide you toward the type of interaction you need at a given moment.


As humans, we need love and affection from others that can be expressed through words, actions, or physical touch. Without this emotional support, we may feel isolated and experience anxiety or depression. If you feel like you need more love and companionship, having a pet could be a great option. Aside from the comfort and joy they offer, pets can also assist you with other aspects of self-care, like staying active and spending time outdoors.

Final Words

Everyone's self-care needs differ, and this guide may not cover everything. As you assess your personal needs, you may come across other significant factors along the way. You're likely already taking steps to meet your needs effectively. When you feel your best, consider what you're doing to support your wellness, whether intentional or not. Sometimes, self-care can be as easy as continuing those actions. Keep in mind that you know what's best for yourself.