Self-care: Your Basis for Anything that Matters

How to Protect, Nurture and Grow your most Valuable Asset and Relationship 

Image courtesy of Unsplash

“Selfcare is giving the world the best of you, instead of what’s left of you.”

-Katie Reed, Blogger.

I’ve recently sat down and finally written the book I’ve been meaning to write for a few years now. The working title is “Legend Storytelling: how to find, communicate and live your Purpose” and it will be available soon, here

In the beginning of that book, and the 30-day Legend Storytelling journey embedded in it, I start with helping you create a firm basis for self-care. 

What you will find in this article

The following is an excerpt from the book. What you will find in this article is the following:

  • What Self-care truly means and why it’s important.
  • What areas of self-care to invest in, based on the Maslow Pyramid of human needs.
  • How to make smart combinations and trade-offs to create time and space for your self-care routine.

But first, a poem, and a story.

Planted Seed

The seed is happy, content as it is 
Whole, and completely complete 
In itself.

It is grateful for self, 
And the soil that it’s in, the water; 
Regardless how muddy.

The seed has a story to tell. 
The seed knows its potential 
And though it knows it’s destined, to grow,

The seed knows all is well. 
As is.

The first thing we’re going to be doing in part one of the five-week program in part III of my upcoming book on how to find your Purpose, is learning how to build effective and efficient habits for practicing mindfulness, self-direction and self-care. 

Because this is the basis for anything that matters, and anything you want to achieve. Including telling your story and becoming the best version of you.

But first:

Meet my wife — my Self-care inspiration and challenge

My fiancé — who, for some reason I keep wanting to call and introduce as my wife — is the queen of self-care. It is her instinct, her logic, and she somehow has it engrained in her entire being, that she takes care of herself, first, and everybody and everything else, second.

The only thing that seems to come between her and making self-care her priority is our daughter or our son, sometimes. And, arguably, her addiction to chocolate and to sh*tty reality tv-shows. But usually, she can manage and keep the balance.

She believes she can only be the best mother to her children, and the best help to her clients and coworkers if she takes good care of herself. I think she’s absolutely right.

So, my wife will spend money and ask for time to go to the spa. Or have a massage. Or if she can’t plan a massage at a parlor, she’ll ask me for a massage. She is the one who spends money on sweets, on new clothes, on a personal trainer.

My wife knows how to go to bed or simply take a nap during the day when she feels she needs sleep. And — all joking aside — my wife is able to do something I just can’t seem to learn: to watch mindless shows on Netflix or other streaming services, to completely shut off her mind. To rest.

My wife always used to say she didn’t have hobbies. Then she found chess, found herself in it and we made it a crucial part of our family life. She’s truly passionate about it, even more so than about chocolate, it seems. It’s beautiful what it does to our family as a whole. My daughter at three years old knows what all the pieces are called and the basics of how they’re allowed to move. My son, at twelve, is a reluctantly genius defensive player.

My wife being as good at self-care as she is, puts me in a challenging position. Precisely because it’s much harder for me personally to take care of myself and to make self-care a priority. 

Whenever she asks for time, space and energy within the space of our family life, that automatically means I have to facilitate. Making it all the more necessary and at the same time all the more difficult for me to take up space for myself.

However, I too will be a better husband for my wife, a better father for my children — a better writer, consultant, coach and everything and anything I’ll ever be — if I take better care of myself.

I’ll even teach my wife how to be more effective in the time that’s left for her to spend on self-care. And be much stronger and more effective myself whenever and wherever I facilitate her to do so.

My wife and me, and our relationship together are a really good example of the relationship and dynamic between self-care, Purpose, and communicating and relating aligned with purpose.

What Areas of Self-care to invest in and how 

It’s really funny that I’ve been working on my Purpose Alignment and the Legend Storytelling framework for over two years now, and yet I’m only sitting down to write the part on self-care now. A good while after my burnout. The Master-Student at work.

It’s about time.

How on earth are you going to maximize your potential, find your purpose, align your actions, communications and relationships with that purpose, and create the highest value and happiness for yourself and others — and not crash into a burning pile of rubble — if you don’t make sure you consistently take care of yourself, first?

I’ve been through smartphone addiction, nicotine addiction, sleep deprivation, light alcohol abuse, extreme fatigue, and burnout. Is that what it takes to start taking self-care seriously?

The relationship between Self-care, Self-love, and Belief in Self

I have by now figured out that self-care is actually kind of an umbrella term for caring for self, loving of self, and believing in yourself (and cultivating that belief). The three are intimately related and reinforce each other. Here’s how:

  • Self-love
    You can only make self-care enough of a priority in your life to sustain it if you value and love yourself enough. Conversely self-care will reinforce your self-love, and help you grow so as to easily increase self-love. The hard part is coming to love yourself unconditionally. Self-love or being kind to yourself lowers blood pressure and boosts immune system. Self-love in the sense of self-acceptance is the number one determining factor for overall happiness.
  • Self-belief 
    (Or as psychologists call it: self-efficacy beliefs); believing that you will be able to keep up a self-care routine — or anything you set your mind to, for that matter — makes it exponentially more likely that you will. Believing that you will achieve your Next Steps or Purpose at all, makes it all the more easy to keep up the self-care you understand you need to do, to make achieving your broader goals possible.
  • Self-care
    Effectively making time and doing the things that you need to take care of your body, mind and soul (however you define such a thing) improves and reinforces self-love; you’re telling your Self that you are worth taking care of; and it improves and reinforces belief in self: 
    “Look at me, I’m actually doing this thing I set my mind to”.
    - As per the ‘facial-feedback hypothesis’, which predicts that whatever you do in your behavior tells your subconscious something about yourself; like when you smile or laugh and you start to feel happier. Self-reinforcing statements like the above quote are also valuable because they release a little bit of dopamine which helps you have the energy and focus to do what you need to do.

Ten areas of Self-care based on the Maslow Pyramid

What does self-care entail and how much time should we allocate or try to allocate to it?

The easier question is how much time we should allocate to self-care. The easy answer is: it’s entirely dependent on the context of your life in the moment. If you have to be working two jobs while raising three small children on your own, it’s going to be completely impossible for you to allocate as much time and energy to self-care as a person who is childless or someone whose kids are grown, while they themselves have already retired from working life.

As a rule of thumb, though, I think it would be a good thing to try to aim for/work towards having from ten minutes to one hour each day; from one part of one day (2–3 hours) to three parts of a day for yourself in a week; to free up one full day for yourself in a month and to free up one to two weeks for yourself in a year.

Now, what to do? In my view, there are three main areas of self-care to invest in, based on Maslow’s pyramid of human needs. All three areas have three related sub-areas to focus on.

Health and Fitness

1.Take care of your mind and be mindful

Walk. Meditate. Read. Learn. Read or listen to psychology books, talk to a therapist or a trusted friend. Journal. Think — take care of your mind. And your soul — which you may or may not like as a term, but which I define as the core aspect and integral wholeness that makes you, you. Be careful of how you allow digital impulses to affect your mind — more on this here.

Become more mindful. Which is to say; be more in touch with yourself, your mind and your body by asking yourself how you feel and what you are thinking. All of the above activities may help to cultivate this inner connection, or self-reflective mindfulness — which in turn gives you a ton of mental and physical health benefits. And makes you a better writer and communicator. 
Practice gratitude; for things outside of you but also for yourself and aspects of yourself. It increases happiness, and when directed at yourself it increases self-acceptance and self-love.

Mindfulness. How you really feel — and you will feel this in your body, in your muscles, in your belly and the different organs there, if you pay attention to it — is such an important source of data and information about how you’re really doing in life and if you’re doing the right things, the right way and at the right time.

How you really feel emotionally at any time is at the same time such an incredibly overlooked source of data and information, because most of us especially in the West, have been taught to ignore it. Or, conversely, we’ve never been taught to be and stay in touch with it. 

2. Take care of your body

Take care of your nutrition — eat, plan meals, learn about nutrition and what works for your body and apply it. Seek a sane balance between enjoyment and indulging — self-love — and healthy eating and drinking habits. Have no diet but a balanced, healthy, affordable and doable diet routine you can keep up for a long time — and please do have a cheat day.

Exercise. Run, play ball, lift weights, practice yoga, dance, swim, play capoeira or practice other combat/martial arts. Go sailing, rowing, surf, skate. Your body and your mind are secretly not two distinct entities; they are one. And that whole is not designed for sitting in a chair looking at a screen for the larger part of most of your waking days. It is designed to move and improve.

I personally — as a thirty-seven-year-old dad — try to drink enough water, eat whole eggs, nuts, enough veg & fruits and have about three cups of coffee per day, and some green tea. I eat quite a lot of meat, relatively — I try to take it organic, free range, and nose-to-tail as much as possible. 

I try to limit intake of white carbs and carbs in general. I do cheat days to keep it fun and for my insulin response. I walk a lot, and I try to do at least one cardio and two strength workouts each week. 
I drink alcohol but to a limit of two days per week, and take supplements; calcium, iron, zinc, mucunia puriens, ginseng, vitamin D, magnesium and B complex. I also use cold showers, extra cinnamon and intermittent fasting.

3. Rest, recharge, learn and be inspired

Rest, sleep, seek entertainment. Go to a sauna, or a spa, have a massage or simply draw yourself a nice bath or take a long shower. Or an ice bath. Watch a stimulating movie or a mindless show on Netflix. Your damned Netflix.

Find out what inspires you. Find out what stimulates your mind. Travel. Go watch a show when and where you can. Dance. Have a drink and/or any psychoactive compound that helps you relax and/or brings you insights. Indulge, don’t overdo. Research to make sure you understand what you’re using and how to be safe. Seek help in case of addiction.

Learn new things and improve your knowledge and skill in the areas that matter to your path.

Find out what helps you to do nothing. Find out what helps you to think nothing. Learn about the science of sleep and find out what helps you sleep better and apply it.


4.Take care of your physical and environmental hygiene

Don’t forget your base in spatial and financial/societal reality. Self-care also means taking care of your physical space and personal hygiene. Take care of your body by having a check-up now and then. Go to the dentist. Check your size and bodyfat percentage. Get your bloodwork done.

A healthy mind in a healthy body, and a calm mind in a calm space.

I like to start my day by doing some light housework such as tidying up the bedroom, living room and kitchen, doing the laundry or sweeping or vacuuming the floor.

10 minutes a day keeps a gross, messy pandemonium away.

5. Take care of your financial hygiene and safety

Don’t do what I did for a large part of my life: Do your taxes on time. Self-care also means taking care of your administrative burdens on time and in order as much as possible. Schedule these all in daily, weekly, monthly repeating patterns. Seek professional assistance where necessary.

Financial/administrative stress has been shown to reduce your capacity for all kinds of thinking, reducing your IQ-scores temporarily — but increasingly so as time goes on. It also, obviously, reduces your capacity to feel happiness. And your capacity to do creative work, such as Storytelling.

6. Create buffers and surplus

If and whenever possible, create stashes of time and energy — which most often will be translated into money — that you don’t need right away. Manage your finances, energy, and time in such a way that wherever possible you siphon off little bits of them — again, mostly in yuans, dollars or euros — to save up somewhere.

This will not only give you much more safety in your life than if you don’t: it will also make it possible for you to actually invest in yourself once you will have found your path and Purpose, and come to a point where investments are useful to help you move forward on your path.

Connection, Happiness & Self-esteem

7. Stay emotionally connected

Seek a balance between a meaningful connection with self and with others. Humans are designed to survive and thrive as a pack and we naturally seek out acceptance and love as much as we seek water to drink or air to breathe. Cultivate your relationship with yourself, but also seek out and cultivate relationships with others.

This can be a life mate, a good friend, or your family. It can be your coworkers, neighbors or people at your local church or club. What matters is that the relationship is meaningful, and is aligned with whatever you define as your purpose. Good relationships can even help you find, define and live your Purpose, as you will see in chapters […] and […].

8. Stay sexually alive

Libido can be thought of as sexual appetite, but it can also be thought of as lust for life, or joie de vivre. The two are intimately connected. For instance; prolonged and a-typical lack of sexual appetite is a well-known side-effect of depression. Depression is much more a general lack of lust or excitement or feeling for anything, then it is necessarily feeling a lot of negative emotions.

Try to stay sexually active and healthy — learn about hormones and neurotransmitters and the balance between the different types. Learn what sexual activity and the achievement of orgasm or not-achieving of orgasm does to them. Figure out your daily, weekly, monthly and yearly cycles and needs (whether you identify as male, female, or other; you have these) and work to optimize them — all the while giving yourself much needed relief, pleasure and self-love.

Don’t overdo, don’t underdo. This applies as much when you’re in a relationship as when you aren’t.

9. Seek and find yourself in creativity

Libido and creativity mutually reinforce each other. Find, challenge and grow yourself spiritually through creative expression. This can be anything; creativity does not have to mean becoming the next Michelangelo or Beyoncé.

Creativity simply means finding innovative solutions. Something we can all learn to do, and to do more easily and better, in many, many different ways.

Write, draw, dance; bake cupcakes, design products or projects; organize parties or events, knit, bake pottery or sculpt; code something, build something, paint, rap, design or create clothing or furniture or devices — whatever suits your fancy. And for the love of god; write. But we’ll get to that.

Overarching: 10. Self-reflect and align with Purpose to level-up, self-actualize and self-transcend

Last but not least — and this is the quintessential one to do, underlying and driving all of the others: Align yourself with your Purpose continuously.

Self-reflect, redefine your image of self; learn about yourself through taking tests and more reflection; reexamine or redefine your purpose; take notes, journal, and revise your Purpose Alignment plan for the month, year, or week. 

Essentially: make it a routine to think about how to maximize your potential for greatness and happiness. Make choices. Plan. Set yourself and the people that matter to you up for success by setting up the right cues and controls for the near and further future.

Of course; you need to next act on these thoughts and insights by actually doing things that align with your purpose, and you will almost always need to communicate about them as well.

Then you take the results and feedback from your actions and communications back to your inner lab, and reflect on them and yourself some more.

And so the cycle continues.

Creating space and time for self-care: trade-offs and combinations

Now the funny thing with self-care is — and you can already feel it as you read through this list of ten areas to focus on: it comprises a lot of different aspects, and there’s no separating it from the two other core life areas of relationships and value creation.

That means that you can and have to make both trade-offs and be smart about how to combine and integrate self-care with relationship management and value creation.

For instance; challenging yourself to creatively self-express can be or become a part of your job; it can be something you do with people in a group or club, or you can literally use it to attract a mate or surprise your partner with a nice gift, home-cooked meal, poem, letter, or a cool date. It will for sure be a core aspect of your Storytelling journey.

Or; you can play sports, practice yoga or meditation either alone or in a group, as we often do. Sexual health and activity can be alone or with others, obviously, again regardless if you’re in a relationship or not. Apparently, there are always ways.

Last example; going for meditational walks daily can be something that you have to negotiate with your boss or manager, or you can make it a habit to do this together with your team at work, or your spouse — on some days or others. 

Depending on how much time you as person really need for yourself (depending on your place on the extravert-introvert scale) and how much time you can actually make for yourself in your life.

Wrap-up and reflection

Self-care is built up of the three interconnected areas of self-love, self-efficacy beliefs and self-care. These are what any human or group of humans needs to be able to function properly, let alone to tell excellent stories; to thrive and to grow. There are nine main areas of self-care divided in three main categories: Health & Fitness, Safety, and Connection, Happiness & Self-esteem. The overarching tenth principle is to be mindful, self-reflective and self-directing.

Questions to ask yourself here at the end of this article:

  1. When and where have you been taking time out to practice self-care the last 12 months?
  2. What are responsibilities or relationships that you have to negotiate with to find time for self-care?
  3. If there were no restrictions in terms of time and even money, what would your ultimate self-care routine look like for a week, or a month?

Additional Self-care insights: Meet Jenny

If you want to learn more about self-care, be sure to check out my friend Jenny’s work. Jenny is a friend of my wife’s who — after going through a lot of sh*t of her own and then crawling back up out of it — created a combined lifebook, planner and guide called “The Seasonal Guide”.

In The Seasonal Guide, Jenny describes how to take better care of yourself and devote more of your time and attention to the things that matter to you in life, over three major themes of body, mind and soul, spread out over twelve months of the year.

Her Seasonal Guide smartly takes into account the seasonal flow of the human body and mind. The fact that people will generally be more prone to investing in their social relationships in summer, and more likely to want to spend time investing in their mind and self-care routines in, say, autumn or winter. The Seasonal Guide is meant mainly for women — though it can be very insightful for men as well — and takes into account your natural cycles. 
Learn more on Jenny’s website, here:

The above has been an excerpt from my upcoming book. I’ve just finished writing it, and the working title is: “Legend Storytelling: How to Find, Communicate and Live your Purpose”. I’m also starting a trial with a small group of people who will be helping me evaluate and improve the 30-day Storytelling journey included in the book.

If you’d like to be updated when the book becomes available, be sure to sign up for my newsletter on my website — you’ll also receive monthly updates and the occasional freebie. If you want to be included in the 30-day Storytelling journey, connect with me here.

My previous book “Life Beyond the Touch Screen” is available here as an e-book or paperback. It’s a meditational booklet designed to increase our consciousness around the impact of digital technology on our lives as individuals, in organizations and society. A reminder to choose. Take back your energy, focus, and time: get your copy now.

For a limited offer use code MentalHealthFocus2020 on my website for a 15% discount on all items.


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