Self-care pioneer, Jennifer Louden, calls the baby steps we need to regularly take to be healthy and happy the minimum requirements for self-care.[1]

Although all humans need certain basic things—sleep, food, movement, water, air—different people have slightly different needs, and what you need may change over time. For example, getting enough sleep is a minimum requirement for everyone, but how much sleep you need may be different from how much I need or how much you needed ten years ago.

I invite you to identify your minimum requirements for self-care now.

Grab a pen and a piece of paper. Get settled. Then write what comes up in response to the following questions:

  1. How much sleep do you need? Some people need seven hours. Others need nine. Most are somewhere in between.

If you’re not getting enough sleep, it will be hard to change any other aspect of your life. Sleep is so important that I’d say it may be more important than anything else in this book. If you’re not sleeping well, please make improving your sleep the top priority.

  1. How much exercise do you need to have enough energy? Some people don’t need very much for their mental health (though their bodies still need it). Others need to exercise every day.
  2. What do you need to eat to have enough energy?
  3. How much water do you need to drink to have enough energy?
  4. What other self-care practices do you rely on to nourish yourself and replenish your energy? This may include spending time in nature, journaling, singing, dancing, martial arts, laughing, walking, breathing, settling your body, taking naps, eating slow meals, talking with friends, meditating, praying, cuddling with your children or pets, connecting with loved ones, or anything else that nurtures you.
  5. What are your minimum requirements for self-care? Daily? Weekly?
  6. Make a commitment to experimenting with one small self-care practice for the next month.

For example, your minimum self-care commitment might sound like:

I commit to…

  1. Stretching for one minute three times throughout the day.
  2. Packing a healthy lunch every night that I can easily grab when I’m hungry at work.
  3. Going to bed at a time that allows me to get enough sleep.

If you’re not yet quite clear about what your body needs, keep paying attention. Take notes about your energy as you go throughout your days. The more you pay attention, the more you will understand your needs and the easier it will be to meet them.

[1] Jennifer Louden, The Woman’s Comfort Book: A Self-Nurturing Guide for Restoring Balance in Your Life. (San Francisco, CA: HarperOne, 2005.)

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