The concept of self-care can be different from person to person, but on a fundamental level, practicing self-care means taking care of yourself physically, mentally and emotionally. Taking care of your mental well-being may not be as cut and dry as attending to the physical needs of food, hydration and hygiene. For some, simple things that keep our physical health taken care of can make a significant, positive impact on our mental health as well. Finding a personal means of self-care is important in helping you maintain your overall positive mental health.
Self-care is a general term that describes everything you do deliberately for your mental, physical and emotional well-being. As simple as it sounds, many of us pay little attention to self-care but we should as it can affect our mental health. Everyone has mental health so self-care isn’t only for those who struggle with mental illness. It is important to take time to do things for our well-being to refresh and recharge so we can feel and be at our best.
Self-care techniques and general lifestyle changes can help manage the symptoms of many mental health problems. They may also help prevent some problems from developing or getting worse. Self-care is vital for building resilience toward those stressors in life that you can’t eliminate. Many of these techniques revolve around basic concepts that can be easily neglected.
Self-care relies on increased self-awareness. Practicing self-awareness can help you recognize patterns in your emotions, including situations that can trigger worsened symptoms. It can also help identify what activities or tasks are necessary for your well-being, soothe negative symptoms of a mental illness or stress, or simply bring pleasure or relaxation.
- Identify the things that matter to you. Ask yourself the tough questions to identify the things that mean the most to you. Your answers should determine your approach to living. Keeping an eye on your priorities will help you make decisions about how you spend your time.
- Change your mindset. Too often, we focus on the negatives while showing little appreciation for the beauty that is all around us. Cherish the good memories. Take time to be still and meditate more. Adopting a gratitude mindset puts you on the path to achieving the highest level of self-care.
- Take a quick mental survey of your body. While breathing deeply, scan your whole body, releasing tension as you find it. Check your posture and adjust as necessary. It only takes a few seconds to do but can provide an immediate change.
- Sleep and rest are important elements of any self-care routine. Practice healthy sleep habits and listen to your body’s needs. Too many people are sleep deprived, and it takes a toll on our physical and mental health. Daytime naps are also an excellent way to refresh and improve concentration levels. Your body needs time to rest and renew.
- Exercise in some form. The body and the mind have a unique connection. Research has shown that regular exercise increases serotonin levels in the body significantly, improving mood and energy. While it’s recommended that you get 30 minutes of moderate exercise daily, that may not be possible. Focus on getting whatever amount of exercise you can, since even a short walk to the mailbox is better than doing nothing.
- Practice healthy eating habits. Eating regularly can help you feel better. While healthy eating is a great form of self-care, so is simply being sure to eat something each day.
Other suggestions include setting aside time to talk with a counselor, therapist or a trusted friend regularly. Read, reflect, journal or otherwise engage with your thoughts. Take up an old hobby or start a new one. Even playing with a pet can be very beneficial for your mental well-being.
Adopting self-care tips into your daily or weekly routine is not only vital for your mental health, research suggests the more we practice self-care activities, the more confident, creative, and productive we are. Not to mention we also experience more joy, make better decisions, build stronger relationships and communicate more effectively. Your self-care options will depend on what works best for you, what you enjoy, and your energy levels, personality, and other factors. Never feel guilty for taking care of yourself. You deserve it.
When you need care and extra attention for your mental health, Pathways Behavioral Health Services provides the comprehensive inpatient and outpatient services you need.