Over the past few years, as self-care has risen in popularity, it has also risen in complexity. With products, classes, activities, and recommendations coming from every direction, it can feel really challenging to weed through everything and see what’s right for you. It can feel hard to even know what self-care is. The most key element of self-care is that is it individual—so your definition of self-care will always be the best definition, just as your story is the most important. But there are a few elements of self-care that are important to building an understanding of self-care and putting that understanding into practice.

Self-care is:

Listening to your own needs
Sharing ideas with others can be a helpful way to grow your self-care routine or think about it in a new way. But no one else can know your story and what you need as well as you. If you’re finding it difficult to know where to start, asking yourself “what do I need right now?” can help you tune in to what self-care might feel like for you.

Not the same every day
Grief is not linear. Living with injury or illness brings many ups and downs too. Every day is different. That means that self-care might be different every day. This is where listening to your own needs really comes into play. Having a self-care routine does not mean putting that routine on auto-pilot. Knowing when that routine isn’t serving you and when you need to change it up to respond to how you’re feeling today is a major part of self-care. Having a self-care routine also doesn’t mean beating yourself up if you don’t practice self-care every day. It will be there when you need it, in whatever form you need it to be.

It can be very easy to feel selfish for practicing self-care. Putting ourselves first doesn’t always feel natural, especially if we’re caring for others in any capacity. It is a mental shift to go from thinking we don’t need to take care of ourselves to prioritizing it as something that will allow us to do our best. It is not easy to make that mental shift—so in the meantime, finding little ways to practice self-care that don’t take up too much time can make it easier to feel less guilt. Maybe it’s just taking your coffee with you on the dog walk so you can enjoy it in nature. Those little moments will add up over time