A Look At The Self-Care Wheel: Templates, Worksheets and Activities

Tess approaching burnoutWhen Tess Kearns began to forget familiar faces and was only able to manage her daily activities with a to-do list—that she was continually losing—she knew that something was wrong.

Thankfully the cause was not an underlying physical condition; instead, it was behavioral. Tess was approaching burn out.

Managing her two children, setting up a new business, learning additional skills, and keeping up with her mortgage repayments, was proving too much.

We have all experienced similar times in our lives, and burnout is real.

Irritability, drinking to feel better, trouble sleeping, headaches, and a lack of energy are all early signs that you are heading towards a meltdown (Salvagioni et al., 2017).

The Mayo Clinic describes burnout as physical and mental exhaustion, often associated with a loss of identity and the sense that we are not accomplishing anything.

So, how do you stop? How do you take care of yourself?

In this article, we explore a wellness tool that helps you regain control and focus on your busy life. The Self-Care wheel is a positive psychology tool for supporting a balanced life while maximizing potential.

Before you read on, we thought you might like to download our 3 Self-Compassion Exercises for free. These detailed, science-based exercises will not only help you increase the compassion and kindness you show yourself but will also give you the tools to help your clients, students, or employees show more compassion to themselves.

What is the Self-Care Wheel?

Work, parenting, education, and relationships are all sources of stress.

Research over the last two decades has confirmed the severe impact of our failure to handle situations in which we find ourselves.

Indeed, chronic stress at work is recognized by:

  • Overwhelming exhaustion
  • Lack of commitment
  • Negative attitudes
  • Dissatisfaction with performance

Self-care can help, but it needs to be planned, acted upon, and practiced (Windey, Craft, & Mitchell, 2019; Myers, Sweeney, & Witmer, 2000).

 

What is Wellness?

Healthy people strive towards growth, self-actualization, and excellence; it’s a natural, universal tendency (Maslow, 1970).

But all of us, at times, need help to get and stay there.

Wellness is about maintaining mental and physical fitness and having enough energy to meet occupational and personal commitments. The Global Wellness Institute describes it as “the active pursuit of activities, choices, and lifestyles that lead to a state of holistic health.

 

Wheel of Wellness

In 2000, psychologists, Jane Myers, Thomas Sweeney, and Melvin Witmer, were concerned about deaths occurring in the US as a result of poor lifestyle choices. They suggested an important shift in emphasis from a disease and illness model, to one of wellness and health (Myers, Sweeney, & Witmer, 2000).

In response, they created a tool called The Wheel of Wellness to help achieve a life defined by optimal health and wellbeing, “in which body, mind, and spirit are integrated by the individual to live more fully within the human and natural community.

The wheel is a pictorial representation of wellness. Each spoke depicts an interrelated set of tasks, that interact with the life forces affecting your life, including:

  • Family
  • Community
  • Religion
  • Education
  • Government
  • Media
  • Business and industry

Wellness wheels remain accessible and helpful in the promotion of wellbeing.

Clarion University, for example, encourages students to use a copy of their wheel as part of their wellness program. Students are asked to consider how they manage their health in each of the following areas of their lives:

  • Emotional healthmanaging stress, sufficient sleep, keeping on top of work, seeking therapy

  • Intellectual health – staying curious, learning new things, reading, joining clubs, and enhancing intellectual interests

  • Physical health – sufficient exercise, balanced nutrition, preventative medical care

  • Social health –robust social network offering guidance and reducing stress

  • Environmental health – caring for surroundings, avoiding clutter, recycling and volunteering for environmental initiatives

  • Financial health – living within financial means, creating a budget

  • Spiritual health – understanding the beliefs and values that shape who you are and guide your life.

Recent research into healthcare has confirmed the value of the wellness wheel in promoting wellness and good health in nurses and, subsequently, better treatment of patients (Windey, Craft, & Mitchell, 2019).

 

The Self-Care Wheel

The Self-Care wheel is similar to the Wellness Wheel and provides a structure for identifying and nourishing areas where you are either failing, surviving, or thriving.

The most widely used assessment wheel, created by the Olga Phoenix Project, is based on the work of Karen Saakvitne and Laurie Pearlman (described in Transforming the Pain: A Workbook on Vicarious Traumatization).

Self-Care Wheel

 

The Olga Phoenix Self-Care Wheel consists of two sheets, each containing a set of six dimensions placed on the outside ‘rim’ of the wheel, including:

  • Psychological
  • Emotional
  • Spiritual
  • Personal
  • Professional
  • Physical

Each dimension represents an area of your life that—ideally—deserves daily attention.

The first sheet contains a suggested list of topics, placed between the ‘spokes’ of the wheel below the relevant dimension. Each item is an inspiration or a prompt for you to take an action that promotes nurture in that area.

The second wheel is left blank for personalization.

A therapist or coach typically supplies both sheets to a client, but there may be times (to avoid bias) where only the blank sheet is given.

 

Templates, Worksheets, and Useful PDFs

Vision BoardThe Self-Care Wheel provides a useful starting point and ongoing focus for your self-care activities.

However, it is essential to make the wheel personal, and to document follow up actions that address dimensions negatively impacting your wellbeing.

 

Self-Care Wheel

Download Olga Phoenix’s free starter kit for a copy of the Self-Care Wheel.

 

Creating a Self-Care Vision Board

PositivePsychology.com’s Self-Care Vision Board is particularly well-suited to practicing self-care and completing a blank copy of the wheel.

Download the tool for free as part of our Self-Compassion Exercises Pack (PDF).

The self-care vision board exercise is a positive and practical way for you to personalize the list of items under each dimension (physical, psychological, emotional, spiritual, personal, and professional).

It consists of four steps:

  1. Brainstorm self-care activities
  2. Collect positive images for the vision board
  3. Collect positive words and phrases for the vision board
  4. Build the vision board

Once done, update the self-care activities under each domain in your empty wheel.

 

Additional Self-Care Resources from PositivePsychology.com

Learning to take care of yourself is one of the most effective ways of practicing self-care. Use the Taking Care of Yourself template to understand areas of your life where you need nurture.

The following exercises and downloads offer useful guidance for specific activities listed under each dimension:

  1. Nature Play
  2. My Personal Beliefs
  3. Self-Love Journal
  4. The Five Senses Worksheet
  5. Progressive Muscle Relaxation
  6. Exploring Character Strengths
  7. Body-Scan-Meditation
  8. Stacking the Deck
  9. Eight Steps to Forgiveness
  10. Moving Toward Self-Forgiveness
  11. Fast Friends
  12. Three Loving Connections
  13. 3-Step Mindfulness Worksheet
  14. Self-Care Vision Board

 

Implementing the Wheel as Part of Overall Self-Care

The Self-Care Wheel is one part of a more extensive process on your journey to wellbeing and can be embedded in the following three steps:

Step 1 – Assess

Identify areas that require additional attention for your self-care and necessary for the completion of the self-care wheel.

  • Understand your current wellness position using the self-care wheel.
  • Download and personalize a blank copy.

Step 2 – Plan

Plan to transform those areas of your life that are currently failing, or surviving, into ones that are thriving.

  • Identify how you can progress each aspect of your self-care and complete the activities defined in step 1.
  • Write it down in a plan.

ReachOut provides a practical guide for developing a self-care plan along with a free downloadable template.

Step 3 – Implement

A plan has no value unless acted upon:

  • Schedule the actions that implement your self-care.
  • Commit to yourself that you will perform the steps and that you are worthy of self-care.
  • Share the plan with someone close, who will provide support and encouragement.

 

Self-Care Activities By The Domains of The Wheel

self-care activitiesThe Self-Care Wheel identifies actions and activities to perform— or a set of conditions to be met—that contribute to the wellbeing of each of your dimensions and your overall wellness.

For example, your spiritual dimension can be nurtured through yoga, self-forgiveness, and nature, while your psychological state will benefit from self-awareness, relaxation, and a focus on positive qualities.

Review each of the following sections for a list of activities that nurture or nourish the six dimensions of your Self-Care Wheel.

Note that these are suggestions. Some actions may be more, or less, appropriate and can be added to, or removed, from your list.

The list is modified from the Self-Care Wheel created by Olga Phoenix but also contains links to articles within PositivePsychology.com to further your understanding and provide additional guidance.

Other useful advice and practical tips are available from the University of California and Princeton University.

 

Self-Care Activities for your Physical Domain

Your physical health is vital to your overall wellbeing, And, according to the American Nurses Association, it is not only the absence of disease, but also the lifestyle choices that avoid preventable illnesses, while maintaining a balanced mind, body, and spirit.

Things you can do to nurture yourself:

  • Eat healthily
  • Exercise regularly
  • Be sexual (safely)
  • Put good sleeping habits in place
  • Take vacations
  • Take time off and ensure downtime
  • Schedule regular massages
  • Seek out a qualified acupuncturist
  • Take relaxing baths
  • Kiss (your partner, family, your dog)
  • Ask for nurture
  • Take daily walks (if possible in nature)
  • Turn off, or put on silent, your cell phone

Consider putting in place:

  • Safe housing
  • Regular medical care and check-ups

 

Self-Care Activities for your Psychological Domain

Psychological wellbeing is crucial, not only to your state of mind but also to your physical health. According to the American Psychological Association, it involves being both happy and content, with low levels of distress, good mental health, and quality of life.

Things you can do to nurture yourself:

  • Perform self-reflection and self-awareness
  • Journalling
  • Sensory engagement
  • Schedule aromatherapy
  • Do something creative, draw, paint, quilt, cook, etc.
  • Go to the ballet, a symphony or a concert
  • Relax in your garden, park, or at the beach
  • Garden
  • Read a self-help book
  • Think about your positive qualities and your strengths
  • Practise (and visualize) asking for and receiving help
  • Practise mindfulness

Consider putting in place:

  • Therapy
  • Join a support group

 

Self-Care Activities for your Emotional Domain

Emotional wellness can be described as being aware, understanding, and being comfortable with your feelings, and being able to express emotions constructively.

Things you can do to nurture yourself:

  • Perform affirmations
  • Cry
  • Social justice engagement
  • Laugh
  • Say “I love you” (show positive emotions more often, and mean them)
  • Watch a funny or a heartening movie
  • Find a hobby
  • Flirt (if appropriate)
  • Buy yourself a present
  • Spend time with your pet
  • Practice forgiveness

Consider putting in place:

 

Self-Care Activities for your Spiritual Domain

Spiritual wellness has a different meaning for each of us. Still, typically it is about having values and beliefs that provide meaning to your life and having the opportunity and motivation to align your behavior to them.

Things you can do to nurture yourself:

  • Perform self-reflection
  • Spend time in nature
  • Self-cherish
  • Meditate or practice mindfulness
  • Sing and dance
  • Play with your children
  • Be inspired
  • Practice yoga
  • Bathe in the sea, a river, a lake
  • Watch the sunset or sunrise
  • Pray
  • Find a spiritual mentor
  • Volunteer for a cause close to your heart
  • Foster self-forgiveness

Consider putting in place:

  • Join a spiritual community (that aligns with your values and beliefs)

 

Self-Care Activities for your Personal Domain

Being engaged intellectually and at a profoundly personal level, in your actions, environment, and social group, is likely to promote growth and wellbeing in your personal domain.

Things you can do to nurture yourself:

  • Learn who you are
  • Explore what you want out of life
  • Plan short and long-term goals
  • Make a vision board
  • Foster friendships
  • Go on dates
  • Get a coffee or drink with a friend
  • Learn to relax
  • Write poetry, short stories or a book
  • Spend time with loved ones
  • Cook
  • Learn to play an instrument

Consider putting in place:

  • Get out of debt (this may be aspirational)

 

Self-Care Activities for your Professional Domain

Wellbeing in the professional domain is most likely when your work and studies leave you feeling fulfilled, while you continue to grow and learn, and make meaningful contributions.

Things you can do to nurture yourself:

Consider putting in place:

  • Set boundaries. Where does work start and end?

 

A Look at Popular Self-Care Apps

Headspace

HeadspaceHeadspace is a top-rated, subscription-based app that provides a mental wellbeing program for individuals and teams along with support for mindfulness meditations.

Find it in the Apple Store or Google Play.

 

Anxiety Solution: Calmer You

Anxiety SolutionThis subscription-based app, based on The Anxiety Solution by Chloe Brotheridge, provides an anxiety toolkit, covering practices to help you focus on self-care, overcoming anxiety, worry, mindfulness, and improve your sleep.

Find it in the Apple Store.

 

Grateful

Grateful AppGrateful offers tools to help you manage anxiety, stress, and work through worries. Use the tools included to calm your mind and balance your body.

Find it in the Apple Store.

 

Gratitude

Gratitude AppUse the Gratitude app to capture the things in your life for which you are grateful and focus attention on the positive things in life.

Find it in the Apple Store or Google Play.

 

A Take-Home Message

Balance in life is crucial.

When you have it, you can divide your time and energy across all areas of your being—ensuring an appropriate focus on family, learning, spirituality, and career, etc.—while nurturing overall wellness.

However, when balance falters, parts of your life remain unnourished. They begin to fail, impacting other areas, and overall wellbeing. You begin to burn out.

If you step back and look at your life, you can see the warning signals — overeating, over-drinking, lethargy, stress, irritability, all are signals that change is needed.

And yet, if you recognize them, then you can do something about it.

Firstly, download the self-care wheel, and along with some of the other tools introduced, identify and document the actions and steps that will help you find balance, and ultimately lead you to flourish in life.

You may not have time, or resources, to play out all the actions—or put in place every condition—but be realistic. Plan how you are going to perform the activities that are going to give you the big wins. Once they are in place, you can begin to find other ways of including the smaller, complementary, positive changes in your life.

After all, you have what it takes to make your life more complete, but it takes self-care.

Perhaps, most surprisingly, the crucial takeaway is not that you have the potential to put in place a routine of self-care, but that you deserve it.

You, like the rest of us, are worth investing in.

So, what’s stopping you? Use the self-care wheel to take stock, regain focus, and take control of your busy, precious life.

We hope you enjoyed reading this article. Don’t forget to download our Self-Compassion Exercises for free.

If you wish to learn more, our Science of Self-Acceptance Masterclass© is an innovative, comprehensive training template for practitioners that contains all the materials you’ll need to help your clients accept themselves, treat themselves with more compassion, and see themselves as worthy individuals.

  • Maslow, A. (1970). Motivation and personality (2nd ed.). New York: Harper & Row.
  • Myers, J. E., Sweeney, T. J., & Witmer, J. M. (2000). The Wheel of Wellness Counseling for Wellness: A Holistic Model for Treatment Planning. Journal of Counseling & Development, 78(3), 251–266.
  • Rockwood, K. (2015, November 30). Burned out? Know the signs and how to fix it. Retrieved July 28, 2020, from https://edition.cnn.com/2015/11/23/health/signs-of-burnout/index.html
  • Salvagioni, D. A. J., Melanda, F. N., Mesas, A. E., González, A. D., Gabani, F. L., & Andrade, S. M. de. (2017). Physical, psychological, and occupational consequences of job burnout: A systematic review of prospective studies. PLOS ONE, 12(10).
  • Saakvitne, K. W., & Pearlman, L. A. (1996). Transforming the pain: A workbook on vicarious traumatization. New York: W.W. Norton & Company.
  • Windey, M., Craft, J., & Mitchell, S. L. (2019). Incorporating a Wellness Program for Transitioning Nurses. Journal for Nurses in Professional Development, 35(1), 41–43.

About the Author

Jeremy Sutton, Ph.D., is a writer and researcher studying the human capacity to push physical and mental limits. His work always remains true to the science beneath, his real-world background in technology, his role as a husband and parent, and his passion as an ultra-marathoner.

Comments

  1. Rose Reilly

    love this article! thank you!

    Reply
  2. jack austin

    Very useful Blog. Thank you for sharing

    Reply

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