Image of a woman drinking herbal tea.

Self care gets a lot of coverage but it’s usually presented in a really broad way. Lists of activities like meditation and applying skincare abound. While those are wonderful self care habits, what doesn’t get talked about as much is how to prioritize these practices. Cleansing your pores with a charcoal face mask is a lovely act of self care, but it’s not going to improve your life enough to matter if you’re starving to death or battling depression.

Unfortunately those in most urgent need of self care are likely overwhelmed, scattered, exhausted – a difficult place to make decisions from. When that’s the case, it’s important to prioritize our needs as we approach self care.

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a helpful visual representation of how all of our major human needs should be prioritized in order for us to thrive.

Image Source: Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 4.0

When planted, a seed doesn’t sprout up into a fruit-producing tree immediately; the fruit would be far too heavy for its young fibers to support. The eager plant would collapse under the weight of its giving.

Instead, the seed creates roots to hold it firmly to the ground when the winds blow. It grows tall and strong. Then it begins bearing fruit.

This framework helps us do the same in our own lives, so that we can ultimately live in a way that feels good, makes a positive impact, and is in harmony.

It’s useful when we feel overwhelmed – not really sure where to start or what steps to take to feel better. It’s a tool we can use to recognize our most important needs in each moment, meet them, and enjoy more consistency when it comes to feeling well.

Seeds: Physiological Needs

  • Are you getting adequate nutrition?
  • Are you getting enough quality rest and sleep?
  • Do you have consistent access to safe, healthy shelter?
  • Are you able to breathe fresh, clean air?
  • Are you warm enough?

Roots: Safety + Social Needs

  • Do you feel safe the vast majority of time when you’re going about life as usual?
  • Do you feel confident that you’ll be able to keep a roof over your head and food on the table?
  • Do you have steady employment and income that you can count on?
  • Do you have people in your life that you could count on to help you in an emergency?
  • Do you have friends and family members that you enjoy spending time with?
  • Do you feel loved and appreciated for who you really are?

Fruits: Self Esteem + Actualization

  • Do you like yourself?
  • Do you have time to enjoy your favorite hobbies and interests?
  • Do you make a positive impact on the lives of others?
  • Do you participate in spiritual practices that inspire you and bring you peace?
  • Are you able to pursue ongoing learning and educational opportunities?
  • Do you feel like you’re living out your ‘calling’ in life?
  • Does your career bring you fulfillment?

You can see how meeting all of these needs in the correct order is the best way to feel well consistently. Consider using this approach to self care whenever you are feeling overwhelmed and unsure where to start. Over time, you’ll see how helpful it is to prioritize your most fundamental needs first.