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Building Your Self-Care Plan

Updated: Oct 16, 2023

We all have different strengths, needs, limitations, and areas where we need support. When it comes to building a self-care plan, what works well for one person may not work for the next. Here are 5 steps to help you build a personalized self-care plan that works for you.


Step 1: Fine-Tune Your Understanding of Self-Care


Self-care is any activity that we intentionally do to take care of our mental, emotional and physical well-being. Self-care are those activities that refuel us, nourishes us, and give us energy—they are the self-initiated, proactive actions we take to promote good health and well-being in our lives. Research suggests that self-care fosters resilience and equips us to better manage stress. Self-care is for everyone.


Step 2: Determine Your Stress Level


It is important to recognize stress and how it impacts you. While some stress can be positive and motivating, many people don’t recognize the toll that stress can take on their relationships, work and health. A quick way to assess your stress level is to review the signs of stress below. Or, go back and try the tools provided in Assessing Your Stress and Mental Health.

Step 3: Identify Your Current Stressors


Reflect on the specific situations, events, things, or people that cause you stress in your work and personal life. Keep in mind, that stressors can also be general (such as having too much to do, having too many demands or responsibilities, or inadequate rewards). Stressors can also be internal or external.

  • Common Internal Stressors: negative self-talk, pessimism, unrealistic expectations, rigid thinking, lack of flexibility, perfectionism, chronic worry

  • Common External Stressors: work, significant life changes (such as getting married, moving, having a baby), school, relationship or family problems, financial problems, pressure to perform without resources, unrealistic workloads or demands, community conflicts, health concerns or illness


Optional exercise: For a list of external stressors or life events that typically cause stress, see the Holmes-Rahe Stress Inventory. https://www.stress.org/holmes-rahe-stress-inventory


After identifying your list of stressors, list your five significant stressors in the Current Major Stressors column in the table in Step 5.


Step 4: Identify How You Usually Cope with Stress

Step 5. Create Your Self-Care Plan


Stress can be managed by implementing both direct and indirect self-care coping strategies.


Direct strategies are approaches that create space between a person and stressful situations. They include:

  • Reframing: taking steps to change your perception or attitude towards the stressor (R)

  • Limiting: limiting your contact or exposure to the stressor (L)

  • Eliminating: (E)

    • removing yourself from the source of the stress

    • removing the stressor

Indirect self-care strategies (SCS) are approaches that help minimize the impact of stressful situations by helping a person cope or refuel. Some examples include:

Use the chart below to list your current major stressors, your current self-care strategies, and additional self-care/coping (direct or indirect) strategies you can integrate into your life (on a daily or weekly basis).

*R-Reframe L-Limit Exposure E-Eliminate

Adapted from: Jeffries, C. Behring, S.T.; SUN Program—How to Create an Individualized Self-Care Plan. March 2015.


Additional Sources and Resources:

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