Self-care is a collection of strategies that enhance your well-being. There are several kinds of self-care, including physical, mental, sexual, and emotional. Though the term may sound vague, self-care is actually a straightforward set of behaviors that help you recognize and take care of your own needs.
Self-care can include setting boundaries, stating your needs clearly, resting or moving your body when you need to, meditating, or limiting interaction with people who drain or upset you. Self-care isn't just about feeling better in the moment. Done right, it can help increase your resilience and reduce stressful reactions to things you can't control.
All forms of self-care are important, but mental self-care is essential to feeling peace and happiness. Let's take a closer look at mental self-care, its benefits, and how to practice it.
What Is Mental Health?
Mental health refers to your emotional and psychological well-being. Your mental health impacts your thoughts, moods, emotions, and behavior, and influences your relationships and decision-making. Mental health is a significant part of your life at all ages, from infancy to old age.
Your mental health can change over time due to stressors, life circumstances, changes in brain chemistry, and treatment such as psychotherapy.
What Is Mental Self-Care?
Mental self-care means prioritizing your mental health, being aware of the mental effects of work, your physical health, and relationships, and practicing behaviors that make good mental health more likely.
These behaviors can include:
- Getting enough rest. Sleep has been shown to have a direct effect on mental health. There is a strong link between insomnia and mental health difficulties like depression and anxiety.
- Staying physically active. Exercise reduces stress, improves sleep quality, and boosts your immune system. It also helps stimulate the release of endorphins, natural substances that make you feel happier and more relaxed.
- Practicing mindfulness. Mindfulness helps you focus on what matters most in each situation, rather than getting caught up in negative thinking or worrying about the future. It also helps you notice and respond to difficult situations without reacting emotionally.
- Setting healthy limits. You don’t always have to be available for everyone or able to help. When you say no, you’re not rejecting someone; you're saying "I'm not able to give you my full attention right now." Setting limits is also known as setting boundaries, and is key to relationships that are reciprocal and emotionally healthy.
- Being kind to yourself. Many of us put ourselves down or are critical of ourselves, which can lead to feelings of shame and guilt. Being kind to yourself means treating yourself with respect, recognizing your strengths and weaknesses, and accepting who you are.
How Does Mental Self-Care Help?
Mental self care gives you tools to manage your own mind and emotions. These skills can help you cope with everyday challenges and build resilience so you can bounce back after difficult days or challenging periods in your life.
When we talk about mental self-care, we're talking about taking care of our minds, bodies, and spirits. Here are some of the many ways you can benefit from mental self-care:
- It helps you stay calm. Maintaining a positive mindset can keep you from feeling overwhelmed by stressful events.
- It helps you manage your moods. If you struggle with depression or anxiety, learning how to recognize when you’re experiencing these conditions can allow you to take appropriate action.
- It helps you cope with everyday challenges. Learning how to identify and overcome obstacles before they become major problems can make you less likely to experience burnout or other health issues.
- It builds resilience. Resilience refers to your ability to recover quickly from difficult situations. It's the ability to rebound after a tough time, whether from a breakup, physical illness, or career setback.
Mental Self Care Tips
Here are some tips for practicing mental self-care:
- Get plenty of sleep. Getting at least seven hours of uninterrupted sleep every night is important for maintaining a healthy brain.
- Take breaks throughout the day. Try to get away from your desk for a few minutes every hour or two. This allows your body and mind to relax and recharge.
- Practice gratitude. Focus on all the things you appreciate about life, such as family, friends, and nature.
- Keep a journal. Writing down your thoughts and feelings may help you process them better. Journaling has been shown to help increase self-awareness and compassion toward ourselves and others.
- Don't compare yourself to others. Everyone has different talents, interests, and abilities. Don't let anyone else's success or failure affect your own happiness. If comparison is an issue for you, try turning off social media and focusing on your own life instead of online images, many of which are altered to look perfect.
- Be patient. Life doesn't work out perfectly, but if you learn to accept normal ups and downs, you'll find more satisfaction in life. Practice being patient. Work toward your goals with an understanding that success can take longer than you expect.
- Learn something new. Take an online course, join a class, or read a book on a topic you've been curious about.
- Be mindful. Practice being aware of your surroundings, including your breathing, your body language, and your emotions.
- Be present. Pay attention to the moment instead of letting your mind wander off into the past or future. Being present can help reduce anxiety and worrying about events that may or may not happen.
- Try meditation. Meditation has many benefits, including reducing stress and improving concentration. Meditation has been shown to reduce symptoms of depression and increase levels of well-being.
- Connect with others. Spend time in conversation with people who share common interests. Notice when you feel lonely and seek out friends, family members, or acquaintances to spend time with. Pursue hobbies, sports, volunteer opportunities, and activities that bring you into contact with others and allow you to form new relationships throughout your life.
- Do what makes you happy. Find activities that energize you and bring out your best qualities. Make sure you enjoy yourself and seek out the joy in life. While it's normal to experience grief, down days, and complex emotions, allow yourself to do what you love, with people who care about and support you.
- Seek help. If you continue to struggle with anxiety, family dysfunction, depression, or other mental health issues, seek out a licensed therapist for help. Therapy can help you process complex emotions, understand your role in your family dynamics, and learn effective ways of coping with challenges.