Self-Care: Four Areas to Foster in Order to be Life-Giving to Others

In my work as a therapist I talk a lot about self-care. But self-care tends to be a confusing term for many people. We can define it in many ways, but a couple of definitions that I have referred to recently are the following:

“The process of managing responses to stressors. Self-care includes what we know about ourselves, our resources, and our behaviors.”

“One’s understanding and behavior that helps to build a healthy body, mind and spirit for himself and others.”

Four Categories
I tend to talk about four areas with my clients — and I focus on practicing these four areas in my own life. I will unpack this more in later posts, but essentially it looks something like this.

  1. Physical (exercise, sleep/rest, eating, etc.)
  2. Emotional (relational, heart connect, etc)
  3. Mental (mind, intellectual, etc.)
  4. Spiritual (prayer, silence, mindfulness, reading Scripture, etc.)

At the Hideaway Experience marriage intensive in Amarillo where I’m on staff, we often point to this verse in reference to self-care.

10:27 He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’[a]; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.

Heart = emotional/relational (i.e. date night with my wife, coffee with a friend, etc.)

Soul = spiritual (i.e. time in prayer, being involved in church, listening to God/silence, reading the Bible, etc.)

Strength = physical (i.e. running, eating healthy, walking, yoga, lifting weights, etc.)

Mind = mental (i.e. reading, hobby, taking a class, etc.)

Start With Yourself
But it doesn’t stop there with those four. It continues with…“love your neighbor as yourself.”

And my experience is that many people stop after they read the word neighbor….failing to see the phrase “as yourself.”

Self-care is not an indulgent selfish act, but rather something we do that allows us to take care of others — to be life-giving to others. But if we don’t love ourselves, and take care of ourselves, we have nothing to offer to anyone else in our lives. Not our spouses, kids, friends, family, co-workers. We are an empty well. We eventually become burned out.


What are you doing to take care of your heart?

What are you doing to take care of your soul?

What are you doing to take care of your strength?

What are you doing to take care of your mind?


Start by experimenting with one thing in each of the four-categories over the next month.

Just one thing.

And in doing this one thing hopefully you may build a habit in the process that begins this journey of you taking care of yourself and breathing life into the people around you.


  1. by Meg on March 2, 2013  2:22 pm Reply

    I just read a chapter on a book about this topic which included relational self care. While it can overlap with emotional self care- relationships can make all the difference. I know people who are choosing to pursue healthy relationships as part of their self card plans. I also know those who keep space to honor existing primary relationships in ways which nourish one's soul. A tangent in this is how we choose to use social media- it has potential to be educational and uplifting, or it could just be mindless dribble. I just started my own blog series on self care, and will be tackling this idea of relational self care in the week ahead! Thanks for sharing this important reminder!

    • by Rhett Smith on March 2, 2013  9:20 pm Reply


      Thanks for the comments. Good stuff. Yes, sometimes you see the four categories above, but sometimes I've seen things like social, relational, spiritual, intellectual, mental, physical, etc. I always encourage people that emotional/heart is about relational living. And yes, social media is huge. I talk about that quite a bit in m workshops and there are several things that I use in my personal life to make sure I have healthy boundaries around my use of it.

      Thanks for commenting, and I'm looking forward to seeing your blogs posts coming up.


    • by My Vogl on July 29, 2015  5:05 pm Reply

      bomt phenomena (jul–aug exposures. manual resources plugs socially

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