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As a psychiatrist in Augusta County, VA, I help a lot of patients come up with self care routines. There are a million ways to make a self care routine but one way I like to look at it is by analyzing Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. As Neel Burton M.D. writes in Psychology Today, 

“In his influential paper of 1943, A Theory of Human Motivation, the American psychologist Abraham Maslow proposed that healthy human beings have a certain number of needs, and that these needs are arranged in a hierarchy, with some needs (such as physiological and safety needs) being more primitive or basic than others (such as social and ego needs). Maslow’s so-called ‘hierarchy of needs’ is often presented as a five-level pyramid, with higher needs coming into focus only once lower, more basic needs are met.”

While it may be overly simplistic, I use the first four tiers of the pyramid to identify a leading question to help identify what you can do to meet that need. Maybe you don’t need to do this activity in every situation, but with these questions you can create an actionable self care plan.

1. What does your body need?

The bottom of Maslow’s pyramid, which represents your basest needs, states that humans, at the lowest possible bar, need:

  • Food
  • Sleep
  • Water
  • Warmth

Turning this around to self care, you have to ask: does your body need something? You have to ask if maybe you need to eat right now, or maybe you need some water. Sometimes your body just needs things to put everything in perspective. It’s not that binging on food or hiding in your covers is helpful behavior, but in moderation it can be something that can get you to a better place mentally.

2. What do you need to feel safe right now?

In the next tier we find that people need to have a place to stay, need to have a security of property, need to have access to employment and resources, and need to be able to maintain good health. Bringing this to self care, think about the thing you need to feel totally safe. Ask questions like:

  • Do you need a sweater or a good blanket?
  • Do You Need A trinket or a teddy bear?
  • Do You Need a good movie?

Whatever you need to feel safe is always the thing that you need. You should never not feel safe, especially when you’re upset.

3. Who do you need to talk to?

The next tier of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is intimacy. It’s about having people to talk to, to love, and to understand you. That’s so important. Beyond seeing a psychiatrist in Augusta County, VA, you need a supportive network of peers to turn to when things get shaky.
Make a list of people that you can call and talk to as part of your self care routine. Even join a support group or start group therapy as means to keep the self care going. It’s good to see people that can help you and take care of you.

4. What can you accomplish?

Right under self actualization on the period is the emphasis on self esteem and the ability to accomplish tasks. Doing something creative or active is such a big part of self care. By asking yourself, when you’re feeling low,

“What small thing can I do today?”

You’re setting yourself up for success. Whether it’s drawing a picture, writing something in your journal, meeting up with a friend, anything you can do is something. After, you can use that sense of accomplishment to pull you through the rest of the day.

How Else Can You Improve?

The top of the pyramid is “self actualization”, which includes:

  • Morality
  • Creativity
  • Spontaneity
  • Problem Solving
  • Lack of Prejudice
  • Acceptance of Facts

Through figuring out how to best serve your mind and body, both creatively and creating a safe space for yourself helps to get you to that place of self actualization. More than examining yourself and what you need, it always helps to have someone that knows the way. At Shenandoah Psychiatric Medicine, our psychiatrists help patients in Augusta County, VA develop self care plans and with cognitive behavioral therapy. If you’re ready for help dealing with anxiety, major depression, schizophrenia, and mood and thought disorders, contact us and we’ll help you with your own pyramid.