Creating a personalised self care plan

Creating a self care plan can help us ensure that we are doing enough to look after ourselves. Put simply, it is like using a map to get somewhere, or a recipe to bake a cake. It is there to guide us and help us to check that we are on the right track. Contrary to popular belief, we aren’t programmed to just be instantly happy. Self-fulfilment requires practice just like any skill. Often, we have habits which we turn to when we need to take time for ourselves or need something to help us cope with certain situations; however these are not always healthy or caring towards ourselves.

Identify whether your current coping strategies are healthy or unhealthy by considering those that apply to you from the lists below:


  • Going for a walk
  • Exercising
  • Reading
  • Watching a film or show you enjoy on TV
  • Taking a bath / shower
  • Using breathing or relaxation exercises
  • Meditation
  • Yoga
  • Talking with friends
  • Socialising
  • Sitting with a warm drink
  • Enjoying a hobby
  • Resting
  • Enjoying some fresh air


  • Withdrawing from friends and family – not socialising
  • Smoking
  • Drinking more than the recommended amount of alcohol
  • Taking illegal or excessive legal drugs
  • Becoming frequently angry or aggressive
  • Overeating / skipping meals / eating a lot of junk food or sugar
  • Isolating yourself
  • Not taking care of your personal hygiene because of how you are feeling
  • Not sleeping or oversleeping

If you find yourself selecting more behaviours on the ‘unhealthy’ list than the ‘healthy’ list then you may find it helpful to evaluate how you are coping. Although some of the things on the ‘unhealthy’ list may feel good at the time, they may not be helping you in the long-run.  Consider how practising self-care could help, by considering replacing some of these with more ‘healthy’ behaviours.

Five key areas of self-care

There are five main areas of self care and thinking about it in this way might help you understand your needs. Remember self-care isn’t about things that you feel you need to do, but things you do for your own personal benefit.

  1. Physical – nutrition, exercise, sleep, personal hygiene, smoking, drinking, drugs
  2. Emotional – general wellbeing, how you feel about yourself / your accomplishments, enjoyment of activities, relationships with partners, friends, family, children
  3. Psychological – general mental health, spiritual practices, meditation, journaling, gaining support, learning new skills, being adaptable, practising positive thinking
  4. Social – time with friends / family, communicating with people, setting up / attending social groups or occasions, social hobbies
  5. Professional – managing work duties / pressures, work-life balance, achievements, professional relationships, relationships with co-workers, time management, time outside work spent on work related activities such as checking email) and finances, (budgeting, paying bills, debt, disposable income).

To help you understand your current self-care routine (or lack of one), it may be useful to think about what you already do and what you want to change under each of the areas above and write these down. You can see some examples of this below.

Positive self care things I do already:

Physical, eg: walk the dog every day

Emotional, eg: I work at being happy in my marriage

Psychological, eg: I meditate every day

Social, eg: I attend a weekly walking club

Professional, eg: I work hard and produce work I am proud of

Things I would like to change about my self care:

Physical, eg: I’d like to cut down on my drinking

Emotional, eg: I need to spend more time with my family after work

Psychological, eg: I need to stop being so hard on myself and think more positively

Social, eg: I need to stop making excuses to friends about meeting up

Professional, eg: I need to stop working such long hours

Self care things I would like to try

Physical, eg: I’d like to try a pilates class

Emotional, eg: I’d like to join a book club and make time to read more

Psychological, eg: I want to do a photography course to learn about techniques

Social, eg: I would like to meet at least one friend a week

Professional, eg: I would like to learn more about social media in my job

Goal setting

Identify a goal you would like to work on and how you can make time every day to practice this. Take things slowly, start small and you can build up as you get the hang of it. You can also use a diary or online calendar to record areas where you have done well with your self care and where you might have struggled, or needed more support or found barriers to your goals. Don’t feel silly about adding in small things, such as taking a long bath or taking half an hour for a cup of tea, as these all add up to improve your overall self care and wellbeing. The important thing is to make it personal to you. It might help asking a trusted friend or family member to look over the diary with you especially if it’s someone you live with. They might have helpful suggestions and also be able to offer support to you in some areas, such as not disturbing your set ‘me time’ or accompanying you to events.

Set weekly goals

To help with your goals, you may find it helpful to set weekly goals using your diary or calendar. Here is an example of this – where the goal is to work on confidence:

  • Monday – pin affirmations next to the mirror and read them each morning
  • Tuesday – join the the book club
  • Wednesday – pick out three outfits which I feel comfortable and confident in and take photos on my phone so I can refer back to them when I am feeling nervous about what to wear
  • Thursday – find some recipes online for healthy meals I can take to work
  • Friday – go out for coffee or lunch with a colleague at lunch time
  • Saturday – create a relaxing space in the bedroom
  • Sunday – walk the dog in the park and talk to at least one other dog walker

Weekly reflection

At the end of each week, look over your weekly goals and think about what you have achieved. What do you feel proud of? What worked out well for you? What did you take control of? Were there any barriers holding you back? What could you do differently to help you? For example, you might ask a friend to come to the first book club meeting if you felt too nervous to go by yourself.

Some of your goals will have been achieved and you can move on to the next stage for this goal or try another goal to improve your self care. And don’t forget to congratulate yourself on what you have achieved. At times, some goals may need to be transferred to the next week to try again – don’t beat yourself up about this; it is fine. Try to think of practical and helpful ways you might achieve them.

It might see a bit daunting at first, but by breaking it down into smaller, more manageable tasks, you will start to see some changes and feel the benefits of self care.

What is self-care?


Practising self-care


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