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For the last year, self care has been at the top of my priorities list. During a spontaneous retreat with my bestie, I realized just how bad I’d been neglecting my top needs as I was reflecting on the way I’d been acting at home.

What are your top needs? + my self care flowchart

More often than not, I’d been irritable, melancholy and ready to bite everyone’s head off (we call it “going badger” in our house). It was actually pretty obvious that I hadn’t been meeting my needs with regular self care.

So I returned with a commitment to making self care more important. The first step? Figuring out exactly what my top needs were.

You see, I figured out a while ago that when you don’t know what you’re looking for, it’s going to be pretty challenging to find it. But if you sit down and make a list of what you need/desire, you’ll be surprised at how easy it is to find it. (That’s actually how we found the bus.)

Our needs are no different. When you recognize what those top needs are and write them out (and post them somewhere you can see them), you’ll be far more likely to create ways to make sure they’re met.

So I wrote out my top needs in my journal (and then added some after my husband pointed out I’d missed some):

  • Food: Duh, I know. But I often forget to eat because I really get into what I’m doing. Blood sugar crashes aren’t pretty.
  • Time alone: I’m an introvert and require a fair amount of time alone to recharge.
  • Connecting with others: I may be an introvert, but I still need a good amount of time connecting with awesome people, either in person or via text.
  • Sleep: Something most people are lacking and need much more of.
  • Sex: At least twice a week, thank you.
  • Learning new things: I’m a thinker and I love to learn. If I’m not reading/researching/listening to something new, I get depressed.
  • Creativity: This ties directly to learning. When I’m not creating something on a regular basis I can feel my soul shrivel.

With this list in hand, I was able to figure out what my non-negotiable were (those things that I refuse to let fall by the wayside) and clear away distractions that prevented those things from happening.

The result? A year of taking care of myself better than I ever had before. And the benefits extended far beyond myself. I engaged more with my family and had a greater capacity to handle stress. My creativity flourished and I found myself writing again for fun (it had been quite a while).

Self care that meets your needs. It really does make a difference.

So how do you figure out your top needs? It’s pretty simple actually.

Get your pen and paper ready and write down:

  1. If you’re having a bad day, what fixes you? Is it solitude? A walk in the woods? A nap? Time with friends?
  2. What do you crave? Do you find yourself wishing you could sign up for the cool course you just read about? Or are you longing for a retreat to a cabin in the woods? Maybe you would kill for a massage?
  3. What has your spouse/partner/really close loved one observed? Ask them! I sometimes hate to admit it (when I’m going badger, of course) but my husband knows me pretty well – maybe better than I know myself. And he’s able to offer some great insight into what makes me happy and what makes him want to get the hell out of the house.

That last one is pretty helpful, because sometimes you’re just too close to the situation to see it yourself.

In fact, I discovered a few months ago that my husband has a mental flowchart he uses when it’s apparent that I’ve been neglecting self care.

Here it is (with many of the top needs he observed):

What are your top needs? Self care flowchart.

What would your self care flowchart look like?

Need more help with self care? I’m refreshing my program that guides you through overcoming the 4 reasons why moms can’t do self-care (sign-up here to be notified when it’s ready).