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Can psychology help us find the right self-care? (Guest post by Alexandra Kasper)

Hello everyone! It’s time for another guest post. This time, it comes from Alexandra Kasper. I met Alexandra back in February, and by the end of one zoom call, I knew that she was a force to reckon with. We talked about a lot of topics, from being more than just mothers to her new book, Mom Has To Poop. Mostly, we talked about self care and how important it is. If you frequent this blog, you know how firmly I believe that. I get really excited when I get to talk with others who also believe, and who give me the opportunity to learn more.

And so now, here’s Alexandra to share her wisdom:

Can psychology help us find the right self-care?

The term “self-care” gets thrown around a lot, along with people’s opinions of what counts as self-care. Images of bubble baths and meditating come to mind. From a health perspective, self-care is anything we do to support our physical, mental, or emotional well-being.

What I’ve come to realize is that self-care isn’t about what we do, it’s about how we feel afterwards. Sometimes it isn’t glamorous or Instagram-worthy. Self-care can be setting a reminder to take your vitamins or putting your own laundry away. If you’re seeking the benefits of self-care but aren’t sure what you should do to get there, considering your unmet needs might help.

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a theory of psychology that says in order to be our best selves, we first must have all our basic needs met. The theory is often shown as a pyramid, with the four layers of basic and psychological needs forming the base for the highest level of “self-actualization”. I like to think of the four base levels as surviving and the peak as thriving. If you’re struggling to survive in some aspects of your life, you can’t thrive.

Using the hierarchy of needs to plan your self-care.

Start at the bottom of the pyramid and consider if any of your needs are unmet. Focus your self-care on meeting your basic needs and work your way up the layers as you get more habits and life changes in place. Let’s look at each layer and some ideas to get started!

maslow's hierarchy of needs

Layer 1: Physiological needs

This is the layer of the core physical needs of being a human being, such as: 

  • Sleep
  • Food & water
  • Shelter & clothing

If you have unmet needs in this category, this should be your primary focus of self-care. Maybe it’s prioritizing your sleep routine or meal planning to make sure you always have snacks and meals on hand. 

If finances are impacting your ability to meet these needs, you aren’t alone. In 2021, 33.8 million people in America lived in food-insecure households. You can learn more about help in your community from or

Layer 2: Safety needs

This layer includes your physical, mental, and financial security, such as:

  • Personal security, especially at home
  • Stable employment
  • Physical health
  • Social stability

Self-care at this level might look like exploring a career path that offers a more stable job or finally booking that dental cleaning. Just like the physiological needs, meeting these needs can be complex and require support from others. If you feel unsafe at home or in your community, consider reaching out to your local women’s shelter to learn about your options. 

Layer 3: Love and belonging

This layer is all about your relationships with others, such as:

  • Friendship
  • Family
  • Intimacy
  • Sense of connection

We are fundamentally social creatures and it’s important to our health to feel accepted and loved by the people around us. Self-care at this level might look like calling an old friend or joining a group to meet others with similar interests to you. Moving twice before my daughter turned two made connecting with new moms challenging for me. I’ve used Peanut, an app designed to connect women who are at a similar stage in life, to meet new friends in my area.

If there are particular relationships that are causing conflict in your life, self-care might involve setting clear boundaries or starting therapy (together or separately). 

Layer 4: Esteem

The final layer of basic needs is more abstract than the others. This layer is about your sense of self and includes:

  • Self worth
  • Respect from others
  • Recognition
  • Strength and independence

This is the layer where changing your mindset can be powerful. Consider using mantras or positive affirmations that remind you of your value and strength. For example: “I deserve rest” or “I have overcome challenges before, I can get through this”. Therapy focused on self-worth is another great way to break through this layer. If the bubbles are calling your name, make sure you let the true value of a bath soak in while you’re in the tub by reminding yourself you are worthy of rest.

And so according to Maslow, if you meet all four layers of basic and psychological needs, you’ll be able to focus on achieving your full potential and personal growth. Of course, this is just a theory but it can be a helpful way to re-think what we consider self-care and pick actions that are more likely to support well-being.

This post was inspired by my struggle to find meaningful self-care during the first year after my daughter was born. At that time in my life, my self-care centered around basic needs like sleeping, eating, cuddling, and even just finding time to poop in peace. My experience led me to create Mom Has to Poop, a book of positive affirmations for new moms that celebrates everything we do for our babies while highlighting the importance of meeting our needs, too. 

I’d love to hear if you found this post helpful and what self-care means to you. I am on Instagram at @akskasper and can be reached by email at 

Alexandra Kasper bio

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