I used to think that self-care was taking a day off, getting a pedicure and washing my hair often enough that I didn’t frighten young children.

Even more so, years ago, the words “self-care” rarely entered my mind. They had no part in my routine, let alone my vocabulary.

In grad school, any attempts to take care of myself vanished. I felt a surge of shame every time I wanted to do something for myself aside from work. I wondered, what’s the point?

Then I reached my breaking point and realized that I was a tired, inactive, malnourished and unhappy mess.

As I started writing Weightless, I was getting much better, but I still had a very narrow view of self-care. Then, my friend and fellow blogger Christie Inge taught me an important lesson.

Like she always says, “Self-care is more than bubble baths and good books.” For instance, she believes that creating and sustaining solid boundaries is also part and parcel. I had no clue!

Recently, I came across a great chapter in the Handbook of Girls’ and Women’s Psychological Health: Gender and Well-Being Across the Life Span that speaks to the many layers of self-care. It’s written by Carol Williams-Nickelson, Psy.D, who I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing several times now for Psych Central.

In her chapter, “Balanced Living Through Self-Care,” Williams-Nickelson outlines seven types of self-care. All of these contribute in one away or another to a positive body image, good health and emotional well-being.

When you have some time, jot down these types, and then consider what you’re doing to fulfill each one. Are you lacking in one area? No problem! What can you do to work on that? What activities truly make you happy?

Here are William-Nickelson’s self-care categories, most of which are followed by related posts from Weightless that provide more info.

1. Physical self-care basically involves getting active, eating well and taking care of your physical health. It’s moving your body by participating in physical activities that you enjoy. It’s listening to your body’s hunger and fullness cues. It’s going to the doctor for a checkup or when you think you might be sick.

Related posts: Body Image & Strength: Running Like a Girl, 5 Ways to Find the Joy in Moving Your Body, The Personas We Create That Paralyze Us, Intuitive Eating, Becoming a Diet Survivor: Part 1, Part 2 & Part 3.

2. Emotional self-care is identifying, accepting and expressing a range of feelings, which is vital to women’s health, according to Williams-Nickelson. She suggests finding outlets for your feelings. This could be anything from drawing and sewing to landscaping and playing music, she writes. Relaxation techniques also help.

If you’re having an especially hard time, don’t hesitate to see a therapist.

Related posts: Write Haiku, A Story of Trying to Feel Your Feelings, When Anger Remains Unexpressed, Journaling.

3. Spiritual self-care is “an ongoing search for meaning and understanding in life and what may extend beyond,” she writes. It’s exploring and expressing our beliefs and values. It’s also a woman “understand[ing] her place in the universe and connect[ing] to a larger purpose.”

Spirituality isn’t synonymous with religion but it can be for some people. Research has shown that spirituality means many different and subjective things to women, but it’s definitely good for us.

Again, Williams-Nickelson says that you can be spiritual through religion, observing nature, learning about other religions and even visiting museums.

Related posts: Q&A on Mindfulness: Part 1, Part 2 & Part 3, Thinness, Spirituality & Peace, Living Your Life with Purpose.

4. Intellectual self-care involves critical thinking, an interest in ideas and creativity. You can approach this type of self-care in many ways. For instance, you might focus on career development or your favorite creative pursuits.

Related posts: Body Image & Creativity, Connecting to Your Creativity.

5. Social self-care means nurturing relationships with people outside of your immediate family. For women, friendships are actually critical to our qualify of life. Research shows that friendships become especially important over time, because as we age, we face difficult challenges like sickness, divorce and the death of loved ones.

Related posts: 9 Ways to Help Others Improve Their Body Image, What to Do When a Loved One Diets or Wants to Lose Weight: Part 1 & Part 2.

6. Relational self-care is strengthening relationships with significant others, kids, parents and other family members. Daily familial interactions also greatly affects people’s health.

Related posts: Body Image & Social Support, A Lesson in True Beauty, Empowering Your Daughter.

7. Safety and security self-care involves being proactive about ensuring personal safety, understanding your finances and having health insurance. As Williams-Nickelson writes, many people wait until they experience a threat or breach of safety to evaluate and ensure their safety. Also, women oftentimes don’t learn about finances until they’re faced with divorce or death.

Always remember that regardless of how busy you are or what your weight or shape is (I used to think I had to be thin in order to take good care of myself), you deserve to feel safe, good, happy and fulfilled.

Please never forget that!

Want some more ideas for self-care? Check out this great post from Sally at Already Pretty.

By the way, stay tuned for tomorrow’s post which includes an inspiring interview & another giveaway!

What does self-care mean to you? How do you take care of yourself in the above areas? What areas do you need to work on?