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  • Writer's pictureMelissa Perry

Revisiting the Basics

The Importance of Basic Needs

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs has come to mind many times during the pandemic, particularly at the beginning as many of our stabilizing forces such as school, shelter, food, work (insert toilet paper comment here) shifted abruptly or became threatened. Our sense of safety was fractured. After a year of adjusting and readjusting our tolerance for the uncertain, it seems as though we are finally getting our sea legs.

Therapists always address Basic Needs first. If basic needs aren’t satisfied, it’s hard to expect anyone to perform well. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs gives us a sense of how important a foundation of safety is for personal growth. A way for us to understand this visual tool is to recognize that generally speaking, the lower areas on the triangle need to be satisfied before attending to the higher performance levels. Level 1 addresses our Basic Needs including food, water, rest, clothing, shelter and general health. Level 2 is another Basic Needs category that addresses safety: emotional, physical, and financial. Level 3 represents our need for love and belonging. Level 4 relates to our esteem needs which include our need to feel respected and confident in our growth. Level 5 (a Growth Need) is self actualization and this is our need to fulfill our potential and refine skills. Branching out and caring for others are also aspects of this need.

Over the past year, many innovative and inspiring things have happened (for a shortlist click however, the other reality is that it’s been a year of collective stress and grief.

When we experience heightened stress, it is exceptionally challenging to learn new things, but look at us now, Zooming away. We didn’t give up or give in, we have been adjusting and adapting.

But are we still tending to your basic needs?

Here are some friendly reminders:

Consider safety, both emotional safety, and physical safety. Be curious about the unique needs of your family members and what makes them feel safe. Listen to your body and your heart. Check-in on your needs and your feelings often, and honor them. Pace yourself. It can seem as though things are being constantly renegotiated right now. Give yourself grace when you forget something or have to slow down. Take breaks. You may need more breaks, your kids may need more breaks. Collaborate with family members on their ideas of what a break feels like. Go outside and move your body. Let nature nurture you. Connect. Let yourself weave in and out of the stresses of life and remember how healthy it feels to laugh and connect with others. Ask for help. Modeling to your children what asking for help looks like is a valuable, lifelong skill your children can learn about right now. Practice Compassion. We are on a journey, not a race. You’ve probably learned 100 new skills this past year just to get by. Give yourself and your loved ones credit for a job well done!

To learn more, click what-is-maslows-hierarchy. Prefer learning through videos? Click khanacademy.

Take good care,


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