Last spring, my body let me know something was wrong. I didn’t feel like myself, and I wasn’t acting like myself. In a moment of overwhelm, I actually smashed a casserole dish on my kitchen floor. After that I knew I needed to slow down and make some changes. I pledged to drink less soda, start running again, and log seven hours of sleep a night. And most importantly, I would finally get to the bottom of the bladder infection I had developed six months ago.

The various antibiotics I’d tried hadn’t helped. So I made an appointment with a specialist—a highly skilled urologist, who discovered the underlying problem: I had a gargantuan-sized kidney stone. She explained that left unattended, it could have been fatal. All I heard was: You could have lost your life.

Believe me when I say, I intend to be on this earth for a long, long time. I want to watch my kids grow up. I plan to write more books. So I was grateful for the reminder: If I want to stick around, I need to take care of myself the way I care for the people I love.

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I’ve learned a lot in the last few months since that scare. These days, I think more clearly, handle frustration better, and sleep through the night—all thanks to minor tweaks in my perspective and daily habits. Below are six of the self-care tips that have truly worked wonders for me.

Acknowledge yourself

The first step: Remember that it isn’t selfish to look after yourself. It is critical for your happiness and well-being. You have limits, and they are crucial to help you honor your health. You have needs, and deserve affection, rest, sustenance, and grace—just like everyone else. And you have dreams, and are worthy of the time it takes to pursue what makes your heart come alive.

Gift yourself

When is the last time you did this? Each week, choose something that will add to your life: A colorful water bottle to encourage proper hydration. A beautiful new journal to record your dreams. An extra hour of sleep, or exercise, or creative expression. If nothing else, give yourself a moment: We all need a moment of grace, forgiveness, or acceptance every now and then.

Restore yourself

Think back to what made you feel happy as a child. Was it the smell of a library book? Or listening to the crickets at night? Maybe it was strumming a guitar, or walking barefoot in the grass. Try to recreate those experiences of simple pleasure.

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Speak up for yourself

Choose a trusted soul and voice the unspeakable: “I need help.” “I am afraid.” “I haven’t felt like myself in awhile.” There is something about voicing the burden that makes it lighter. Give the people close to you a chance to support you.

Take the pressure off yourself

What are you telling yourself about your parenting skills? What are you telling yourself about your appearance? What are you telling yourself about your long to-do list? Now try setting more realistic expectations. Lower the bar; let something go. Ban the word “should” from your vocabulary today. And when you lay down in bed tonight, ask yourself, “Did I show up?” If the answer is yes, that is enough. It’s more than enough.

Notice the good in yourself

Take a moment to recognize any tough obstacles you’ve overcome, or lessons you’ve learned—and think about how far you’ve come. Then try to see yourself through the eyes of those who love you. They don’t see imperfections, failings, and mistakes. They see love, never-failing love. Try to see it too.

Rachel Macy Stafford’s new book is Hands Free Life: 9 Habits for Overcoming Distraction, Living Better, and Loving More ($16, amazon.com). Read more from her on her blog, Hands Free Mama.