SuperEgg asked this question, and it's such an important one. I'm going to paste it in exactly as she asked it:
"i have a question 4 Johanna or anyone...how do u know if ur taking good care of urself? i think we can all agree that taking care of others is a breeze..."
And the answer, at least according to me is.... heck if i know... no, just kidding :) I bet if you asked a million people they'd come up with a variety of things- some things they'd probably say would be very similar, and some they'd say would be unique.
Which means that there are some fundamental answers to that question (things that apply to all of humanity), as well as ones that are unique to either a group of people (say, people who live in icy climates, or people who are over 150 years old, just to pick a couple random groups) or individual people.
And, here's another thing to think about- what is taking good care of yourself for one person may be quite different from another person. Here's an example of what I mean. We all hear all the time that eating vegetables is good for us. And that's largely true. So, taking good care of ourselves includes eating vegetables.
I happen to know someone who has rare allergy to raw fruits and vegetables. Don't ask me how that can be, but it's totally a reality for her. In her case, eating a raw vegetable is definitely NOT taking good care of herself. (she can however eat most of them if they're cooked... so she's at least got that going for her :)
So, with all that in mind, how do you approach the idea of taking care of yourself? You can start with the basics- things that clearly apply to all living organisms- getting enough food and water and sleep.
Now, what's enough of each of these differs for each person- at age 49 I don't require as much nutrition as a 23 year old male Olympic swimmer, but I do require more than a 70 year old who may not walk around much.
If you're driving through the desert in a very hot car you're going to likely need more water than if you're sitting in a cool, comfortable lecture hall. So... it depends. But food, water, shelter are the basics. And I would add Connection- since we're social creatures and we do terribly without enough connection.
In addition to the basics, taking care of yourself includes many other things- for some people it's time in the day to read or to go to church or to talk with a friend. For others it's time to cook, or to volunteer...
So you can see that it's not an exact science. And, to make it more complex- it's a dynamic process so it changes! What is good taking care of yourself at one point may not be so much so at another (or the balance of what you need to take care of yourself may shift- if you have the flu you may need more sleep or more water than when you don't have the flu).
The good news is that there are ways to figure out what we need. For one thing, and you knew this was coming, being scrupulously honest is crucial. If I'm sitting in my office and my stomach growls I know I'm hungry- and taking care of myself would be to eat something. If I recognize that I'm a certain level of tired, then taking care of myself would be to rest. But If I'm not being honest I'm not going to notice or acknowledge what's real- and I'm sure not going to be able to do anything about it!
You can also ask people you trust to tell you ways they see you taking care of yourself and to what degree, as well as ways they believe you could take better care of yourself. You can, of course, do whatever you want with that information- but at least it will give you some information to have. Don't ask anyone you don't trust or respect, because what help would that be?
And one final thought for now about this (and I'm not at all pretending I've been exhaustive here- I'm counting on others to chime in with their ideas to help flesh out the topic), some ways we take care of ourselves are in the kind of "quantitative" realm- are we hydrated enough, do we have enough layers of clothes on that our bodies are warm enough... while others are in the "qualitative" realm- are we fulfilled, are we content, do we have meaning in our day and in our lives... So have a look at both realms because they are both seriously important.