Self-care: 10 simple ways to take care of your mental health!
Published 4 Nov 2021 • By Courtney Johnson
When we think about mental health, we often directly think of mental illness. But mental health goes beyond just the absence of a mental illness – it incorporates our psychological, emotional, and social well-being. Our mental health plays a role in how we think, act, feel, make decisions, and relate to others, and is a key player in our physical health and quality of life. Self-care is an important tool in keeping up our mental health.
What is self-care? How can it help our mental health?
We share 10 simple things you can do for your mental health below!
What is self-care?
The World Health Organization (WHO) defines self-care as “the ability of individuals, families and communities to promote health, prevent disease, maintain health, and to cope with illness and disability with or without the support of a healthcare provider”.
Simply put, self-care is the practice of taking the time for oneself to do the things that help us to live well and to improve both our physical and mental health.
Self-care can aid in managing stress, increasing energy, and lowering risk of illness. Even making small changes in your daily routine can help; engaging in self-care doesn’t need to cost a fortune or take up a lot of your time.
Here are 10 simple ways to take care of your mental health:
Regular exercise is not only good for your heart, but it’s also good for your mind! Only 30 minutes of physical exercise every day has been found to boost your mood, as it releases chemicals into the brain that make us feel good.
Exercising doesn’t only mean going to the gym or doing sport; gardening, going for a walk in the park, or household chores can also be a good way to keep you moving. Small sessions of activity add up, so don’t be discouraged if you’re unable to do 30 minutes at one time.
Eat well and stay hydrated
Just like our body, our brain needs a mix of nutrients to stay healthy and function properly. A healthy, balanced diet and adequate water intake can contribute to your energy, focus, and mood through the day.
A healthy diet should include:
- A variety of different fruits and vegetables
- Wholegrain cereals or bread
- Dairy products
- Nuts and seeds
- Oily fish
- Lots of water
Make sure to eat at least three meals a day, drink plenty of water, and avoid too many caffeinated or sugary drinks like coffee or soda.
Get enough sleep
Lack of sleep can affect your mental health, as it can lead to psychological and emotional problems.
Try to set yourself a sleep schedule, giving you at least 7 hours of sleep and stick to it, even on the weekends. The blue light created from our devices and screens has been found to suppress the body’s release of the sleep hormone melatonin, so make sure to shut off your technology at least 1 hour before bedtime.
Set realistic goals and priorities
Setting goals and areas to focus on can be a great way to keep yourself motivated. However, it’s important to set goals that you can realistically achieve. Prioritize what must be done now and what can wait and write down the steps you need to attain your goals. Aim high, but make sure you know when to say "no" to new tasks or activities if you start to feel overwhelmed.
At the end of each day, try to focus on what you have accomplished, not what you haven’t been able to get done. You’ll be sure to experience a great sense of achievement and confidence as you make steps towards your goals!
Take a break
Sometimes a change of scenery or of pace can benefit our mental health. Whether that be a break for lunch at work, a five-minute walk around the neighbourhood, or even a weekend trip with friends, we all need the time and space to breathe.
Even a few minutes alone to yourself can be enough to help you de-stress, so don’t hesitate to take some time to focus on ‘you’. Maybe you need a quick run by yourself, or maybe you need to put your feet up in front of a TV show or a brief nap – don't be afraid to listen to your body and give it what it needs.
Do something you love
We all have pastimes or hobbies that we can lose ourselves in. Fortunately, doing the things we love can boost our mood and therefore our mental health by raising endorphins!
Concentrating on the morning’s crossword or a hobby like gardening or sport can help you to put aside your worries for a moment and decompress.
Sometimes it can help us to remember the things good things we have in our lives. Practicing gratitude has been found to help reduce stress and improve self-esteem. Take a moment each day to remind yourself of the things you are grateful for. Write down a list of those things or replay them through your mind.
Another way to practice gratitude is as follows: think about all the times you say “thank you” to someone in a day. How do you feel when you say it? Do you say it hastily, as an afterthought or a formality? Then, the next time a situation arises when you feel the instinct to say “thanks,” pause for a moment and reflect. What do you feel grateful for in that situation, beyond the transaction or gesture that has taken place? Then say, “thank you”.
Focus on positivity
Obstacles and challenges are an important part of life. Though it can be hard, when faced with a problem, try to focus on the positive aspects, no matter how small or insignificant they may seem. For example, if a friend cancels your plans to meet, instead of focusing on your frustration or disappointment, think about how it has freed up time for you to relax or to engage in another activity you love.
This technique can help you to identify the negative or unhelpful thought patterns you may have and challenge them. Sometimes just a small change in perception can help you to find the silver lining in every cloud!
When you’re struggling with your mental health, often the instinct can be to isolate oneself from friends and family. However, it is often actually these strong family or friend links that can help you to deal with what you’re going through. Friends and family can offer different perspectives on what you may be experiencing and can share emotional support and practical help.
Don’t hesitate to reach out to friends or family to talk about what you’re going through. If you can’t meet face-to-face, give them a call, or send them a message. We’re stronger together!
Get help when you need it
If you’re having trouble coping with your mental health, don’t hesitate to seek help. No one is superhuman and we all sometimes need a helping hand.
As mentioned above, don’t hesitate to reach out to family or friends for support or a listening ear. If you’re experiencing severe or upsetting symptoms that have lasted for two weeks or more, such as:
- Trouble sleeping,
- Changes in appetite that have caused unwanted weight changes,
- Difficulty getting out of bed in the morning due to mood,
- Trouble concentrating,
- Loss of interest in things you typically enjoy,
- Inability to complete daily tasks and responsibilities,
seek professional help. Bring up your symptoms with your primary care doctor, he or she can refer you to a mental health specialist if necessary.
You can also find support within our mental health community on Carenity. Each day members come to share their stories, experiences, and support with others. Come join in on the discussions here: Living with anxiety and other mental illnesses
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