I want you to imagine your favourite pie – apple, blueberry, rhubarb or a rebel mix of all three. I want you to picture yourself eating this freshly baked, perfectly flakey pie, one beautiful bite at a time. In math class, you may have learned to associate pies as a metaphor to illustrate fractions.

If Jane eats two-thirds of a pie, how much is left for John?

In this equation, your favourite fruit pie is a metaphor for self-care, but this self-care pie is all for you, baby.

Self-care can be taken quite literally; it is the vital practice of caring for your physical, emotional, mental and spiritual health. In other words, it is a preventative measure where you take responsibility for your whole health, not just a component, a fraction, or a slice.

Self-care is concern for your whole being, including living a balanced lifestyle (being mindful of sleep, nutrition and exercise), exerting healthy boundaries for self and others (saying no to people or things that don’t serve you), practicing self-acceptance, and becoming more mindful and aware of your thoughts, behaviours and actions.

While it may sound simple, for many, learning to love yourself can be the most challenging task you face.

Through this practice of nurturing yourself and extending love inwards, you deepen your ability to care, to provide for others and to love.

Many women in particular fall into patterns of nurturing and caring for others, and this compassion does not go unnoticed. However, in the process of caretaking, their own needs may go unmet. This can create an unhealthy cycle of giving, where fatigue and resentment grow.

Throughout life, many of us are taught to extend love outwards – to be kind, to share, and to shower others with compassion, empathy and generosity. Yet, when it comes to directing these gifts inwards, it doesn’t feel as acceptable. It can be hard to recognize that you deeply deserve adoration and love – from others, but more importantly, from yourself. Perhaps you feel you don’t warrant such gifts, but your ability to love others, depends on your ability to love yourself.

Loving yourself does not make you selfish or self-centred. On the contrary, loving yourself deepens your ability to care for others and broadens your capacity to love. Pointing your compassion arrow inwards, fosters increased empathy for those around you. You can’t care for others if you don’t care for yourself first, and self-care is the art of loving yourself.

In helping you harness love for your whole self, and to encourage you to eat the whole pie, here are six elements of self-care to practice as often as you can.

Physical

Physical self-care is caring for your body internally and externally. Your physical well-being is connected to your emotional well-being and oftentimes, when navigating difficult or painful emotional conflicts, it takes a toll on your physical health. Bodily self-care might be ensuring you get eight hours of sleep every night, taking a long walk, enjoying a bath, or preparing yourself a healthy and wholesome meal.

By prioritizing things like sleep and nutrition, you can optimize your energy levels, which means you have more energy for yourself and for others.

Emotional

Emotional self-care is so important for your overall health – inside and out. You can take care of your emotional well being by processing and verbalizing feelings with trusted friends or family members, or by releasing negative emotions through an expressive form of your choice.

Art, music, singing, dancing and writing are wonderful mediums where you can experience release and opening.

Practice avoiding situations and people that cause you undue emotional distress, exert healthy boundaries, and learn to be in touch with your thoughts and feelings. Practice externalizing your emotions, verbally or nonverbally, so you can work through them. If tapping into your emotional landscape is difficult, foster acceptance and non-judgement, be patient and find a form of expression that feels safe for you.

Mental

You can practice mental self-care by trying new activities that challenge and stimulate you intellectually. It’s common to get caught in stagnation traps, so trying a new activity or hobby can help in shaking off the mental cobwebs. Engage in an inspiring, philosophical or meaningful conversation with a friend; try a puzzle; pick up a new craft like crocheting or knitting, or delve into a new book.

Spiritual

Spiritual self-care might be achieved through meditation or yoga, by donating your time to a worthy cause, or by spending time in solitude in nature. Activities like yoga and meditation can assist in body mindfulness, flexibility, acceptance, gratitude and openness. For some, spirituality is found in books and for others, it is found in wilderness. Your spirituality is personal to you and only you. This form of self-care can assist in feelings of connectedness, oneness and universality, and help diminish isolation and loneliness.

Social

Social self-care is taking time to nurture positive relations in your life. You might practice social self-care by spending quality time with individuals who nourish and support you, like your friends and family.

If you are trying to escape negative social circles that don’t support you, social self-care might be creating new, meaningful friendships and connections. You might join a club or volunteer at an event or festival to network with new people.

It is normal to become isolated in our individual routines, and it is healthy to reach out to connect. At the same time, if you have an active social life, it is important to take time for yourself by spending quality time alone. Time in solitude can be as simple as enjoying a quiet cup of coffee, taking a scenic drive, or exploring a new park or trail. Taking time for yourself allows you rest, refuel and reenergize.

Practical

Practical self-care involves caring for routine aspects of your life that support you (housework, groceries, logistics, finances). These things might feel like chores, but they are also to-do’s that can bring organization, calmness and peace of mind. Sometimes tackling to-do list items that you have long put off can feel incredibly empowering and rewarding. You might declutter your home, create a calming space for yourself, or routinely pay your bills.

Remember, self-care is never selfish. By caring for yourself and choosing to put yourself first, you model to others how important this wonderful practice is for themselves as well. Love and honour your health and well being, and feel free to dish up as much of that pie as you wish.