• Christina Siau

The 3 Levels of Self-Care

I recently came across a post* on Instagram (check them out @letstalk.mentalhealth!) that categorized self-care into 3 categories namely - Basic needs, Instant relief and Future relief. But what do they actually mean? We've all heard of various self-care activities to take part in from time to time but how do we prioritize which ones come first in our busy and hectic lives?


To break it down, these 3 categories signify the type of activities that we should focus on while doing activities in the name of ‘self-care’. Following our recent article on Signs you're not caring for your mental health, we suggest going through these 3 levels of self-care activities that you should plan for yourself.


Level 1: Basic Needs


Imagine a food pyramid. Right at the bottom of the pyramid, are your physiological needs such as the need for food, water, warmth and rest. In the same way, self-care follows a similar structure. Getting plenty of food, water and rest are signs of taking good care of yourself and ensuring that your physical body is getting the nutrients that it needs. If you thought you had to prioritize meditation as part of your self-care routine, think again. What is more important is taking the time to recharge yourself before getting into any form of routines that might prove to be ineffective due to burnout. Routines can come later only when your body is fully recharged.



We also advise a healthy diet that includes vegetables, fruits, proteins, whole grains and of course, water! We are aware of how hectic school life can get but try to aim to have at least 8 hours of sleep everyday to keep your body energized. Some tips on sticking to a regular sleep schedule (yes, this is for you!) is to pick a regular bedtime and wake-up time everyday. Skip the snooze button because we all know that we would only wake up a few hours later after the snooze....(oops!)


You should also avoid any caffeinated drinks in the evening and only eat a light snack before bed. A light snack refers to a combination of carbs and protein such as crackers and cheese. You can check out more fast fixes for food before bed here! A healthy body is a healthy mind. A regular sleep schedule and a healthy diet have proven many benefits and it's not too late to start now.


+ Activities that fall under this level include: Having a healthy diet, drinking enough water and sleeping at regular hours (avg 7-8hrs recommended for uni kids!)


Level 2: Instant Relief


On this second level of self-care, instant relief means doing activities that provide you with bursts of energy recharge and happiness. This level involves activities you can do to keep your body fit and get those endorphins flowing. It is not enough to have a healthy diet and a regular sleep schedule, one must also get out in the sun to exercise and get that Vitamin D! Running or going to the gym helps to keep your body healthy and fit. Showering is also a form of self-care and actually increases endorphins and relieves stress. Taking a cold shower for up to 5 minutes has actually shown to relieve symptoms of depression.



Other than showering, taking a walk or a nap and doing some meditation exercises can also keep your mind at peace. Check out your neighbourhood parks, running stadiums and gyms and slot in a weekly schedule for exercise. Better yet, call a friend to exercise with! (Psst! Did you know that entry to UTown Gym is free for all NUS students?) For more information on ways to destress especially during examination times, read it on our blog here.


+ Activities that fall under this level include: Exercising, Doing various sports, showering, taking a stroll, meditation and mindfulness exercises! (anything to keep your endorphins up)


Level 3: Future Relief


If you wondered where mindfulness and journaling comes under 'self-care', you are thinking of the third and last level! In this stage, reflecting and reconstructing your life goals can be a therapeutic process and should be prioritized as the last stage due to its sustainability and enrichment (instead of needs) in your life. While this stage requires a higher sense of commitment and introspection, it is a long-term investment that will be most effective in providing relief and ensuring an effective self-care routine. Not only will it help to tackle the roots of your stress directly, but it will heighten your self-awareness and serve as good documentation of your life journey.



This level is an additional step towards strengthening self-care and reflecting on your choices in your daily activities. If you find it helpful, you can start by clearing your room Marie-Kondo style which can help your mind get rid of unnecessary clutter. For those who don't know how to get started, get inspired by viewing Tidying Up with Marie Kondo on Netflix!



Other than decluttering your space, start making journaling a habit. Listen to some lofi-beats in the background and pick a specific time and space to think through your day and your stressors. Very often, we live by each day without stopping to evaluate our choices and actions which can lead to burnout in the long run. Expressing your thoughts through writing, drawing or talking to a friend can help to ease your mind and recognize what's most important in your life. If you are interested to start journaling, we recommend reading our previous article here to tell you all about it.


*Activities that fall under this level include: Journaling, Reconstructing your life goals, Talking to a friend



That is all for the 3 levels of self-care I’ve uncovered in this article! Hopefully, you have learned a thing or two about which activities to prioritize for yourself in the name of self-care. As the semester is drawing to a close, why not take the break to plan some self-care activities for yourself?


Let us know what activities you are thinking of doing in the comments below! :)


*You can view the original post here: https://www.instagram.com/p/CMmysCDDia0/. All credit goes to the owner.

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