Self-care means making yourself the priority. Taking the time to relax and recharge mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
Mental health affects how you act, feel, think, make choices, relate to others, and how you feel about and care for yourself. Strong mental health is more than simply the absence of a particular mental illness. It's actually the foundation for your overall health and quality of life.
Self-care plays an important role in maintaining positive mental health on a daily basis, and also helps support treatment and recovery of a mental illness. Take the time to do things that replenish your spirit, and strengthen both your mental and physical wellbeing. Particularly for mental health, self-care can help manage stress, increase your energy and stamina, and reduce the risk of illness.
Remember, incorporating small acts of self-care into your daily life takes discipline, and can make a large impact in your life. Consider these tips to get started:
Get regular exercise. Just 30 minutes of walking every day can help boost your mood and improve your health. Small amounts of exercise add up, so don’t be discouraged if you can’t do 30 minutes at one time.
Eat healthy, regular meals and stay hydrated. A balanced diet and plenty of water can improve your energy and focus throughout the day. Limit caffeinated beverages such as soft drinks or coffee.
Make sleep a priority. Stick to a schedule, and make sure you’re getting enough sleep. Blue light from devices and screens can make it harder to fall asleep, so reduce blue light exposure from your phone or computer before bedtime. Restful, quality sleep is a must!
Try a relaxing activity. Explore meditation, muscle relaxation, or breathing exercises. Schedule regular times for these and other healthy activities you enjoy such as journaling, reading, or a relaxing bath.
Set goals and priorities. Decide what must get done now and what can wait. Learn to say “no” to new tasks if you start to feel overwhelmed. Try to be mindful of what you have accomplished at the end of the day, not what you have been unable to do.
Practice gratitude. Remind yourself daily of things you are grateful for. Be specific. Write them down at night, or replay them in your mind.
Focus on positivity. Identify and challenge your negative and unhelpful thoughts.
Stay connected. Reach out to your friends or family members who can provide emotional support and practical help.
Like with many facets of life, self-care looks different to everyone. Find your niche with activity you need and enjoy. It may take time to discover what works best in your daily routine, but stick with it and find what activities fit you best.
Self-care is not necessarily the cure for mental illness, however taking the time to decompress while also understanding what triggers your emotions and what coping techniques work best for you, can help you better manage and strengthen your mental health.
And as important a component as self-care is to support mental wellbeing in your every day life, there are times when you may need professional support. And there is absolutely no shame involved, whatsoever. If your car is having issues, you take it to the mechanic, right? Same concept. You are important, you are cared for, and you matter.
If you are experiencing any of these severe or distressing feelings for say more than a week or two, please seek professional help:
Appetite changes that result in unwanted weight changes
Struggling to get out of bed in the morning because of mood
Loss of interest in things you usually find enjoyable
Inability to perform usual daily functions and responsibilities
Don't wait until your situation becomes overwhelming. Talk through your feelings and concerns with a confidante, or with your primary care physician, who can refer you to a mental health professional if needed.
Remember, there is only one you. And you matter.