What is Self-Care?
Self-care refers to activities that can be done to ensure physical and mental fitness. Self-care is necessary and important part of every individual's overall health. Let's take a look at some of the main activities you can try.
1. Practice good emotional hygiene
Just like we practice personal hygiene by taking showers and brushing our teeth, we also need to adopt practices or habits to take care of our psychological health. Here are some tips to engage your mental health, actively prevent mental illness, and promote mental resiliency.
Address emotional pain
Be mindful of what experiences in life cause emotional pain for you. Some common feelings that may indicate emotional pain include feelings of grief, anger, rejection, or failure. Although we can't always control the cause of our emotional pain, we CAN practice techniques to treat it. Letting emotional pain last too long can lead to depression and other mental health conditions.
Maintain your self-esteem
Your self-esteem or level of confidence in your ability to accomplish your goals, has an important protective quality to our mental well-being. It's the lens through which we view our self-worth from day to day and it can affect how we respond to different situations. Avoid letting your self-esteem spiral out of control after an experience of failure or rejection. Have self-compassion! If we let negative life circumstances deteriorate our self-esteem we may question our worth in turn creating a false sense of doubt that prevents us from taking advantage of life's opportunities for risk of failure again.
Avoid repetitive negative thoughts
Disrupt repetitive thinking or over-thinking about distressing or negative events in your life by finding a positive distraction. Do something that requires concentration to help prevent ruminating on events situations that are out of your control or in the past. A cycle of repetitive negative thinking can lead to depression and other medical issues like heart disease.
2. Make time for friends and family
Loneliness and feelings of disconnectedness are serious threats to our mental health. Carve out enough time to regularly connect with a friend or family member, even if all you can manage is a phone call or FaceTime session. Engaging in social activities social activities like book clubs or group gym classes can also have a positive effect on your mental health. Your social connectedness can prevent you from becoming depressed.
3. Make time for yourself
Just as we need time with friends, we also need time of solitude to be alone with our own individual thoughts and feelings. Use your time alone to check in with yourself or reflect on a personal experience. Use your time of solitude to destress from the chaos of life. Engage in activities that you enjoy doing alone like gardening, reading a good book, going to the movies, or cooking. There are many ways to find peace and quiet for yourself. Take time each day for yourself, even it's only a few minutes. It's not selfish, it's vital.
4. Nourish your body with healthy food
Not only does eating healthy and nutrient rich foods help keep your body in good working order, eating healthy can also positively affect your mood. Follow these three main guidelines to increase your energy and boost your overall wellness:
Eat plenty of whole foods- fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and reduced fat dairy products
Get your protein- lean meat, eggs, fish, beans and nuts
Limit the amount of sugar, salt, and saturated fat, and trans fats you consume. These are abundant in processed foods.
Caffeine and alcohol can worsen or trigger anxiety. It’s best to drink water to stay clear, focused, and hydrated!
5. Get enough sleep
Doctors recommend getting between seven and nine hours of sleep each night to help us perform optimally at our every day lives. In fact, lack of sleep due to stress or other issues can lead to serious health problems. Click here to learn more about how sleep affects your body. Here is a short list of tips for getting some much needed shut-eye.
Set a bedtime that you stick to most nights. You body loves consistency when it comes to sleep!
Turn off the screens one hour before bed. Use this time to relax away from the stimulants and prepare your body for sleep.
Try to de-stress before bed. Many hours of sleep are lost to restless minds preoccupied with work or other stressful events. Meditate, do some light stretching, listent to soothing music quietly, take a hot shower or bath. Find what works best to put you at ease and in a restful state.
Exercise earlier in the day can help prepare you for restful sleep. However, avoid rigorous exercise right before bed.
6. Move your body
To maintain your physical health, it’s currently recommended to get your body moving and keep your heart rate elevated for at least 150 minutes per week or to get 75 minutes of vigorous exercise per week. And of course, exercise has other great benefits like boosting your energy, improving your mood, and helping you fall asleep.
Have limited mobility? Check out some exercises that may work for you!
If you are new to regular exercise, consult with your doctor before beginning a vigorous exercise routine. Always start slow and build up your capacity slowly to avoid injury.
7. Help others
Sometimes the best feelings come from helping others. Volunteer at your local food bank or soup kitchen, offer to help a friend or family member who may need your support, or donate to your favorite charity.
8. Manage your stress
Stress is the body’s way of responding to the mental and physical demands of life. Common stressors (events or situations that cause stress) include daily responsibilities and commitments like work, school, and family. Often cause for moderate to high stress situations include traumatic events, the loss of a loved one, illness or another event that significantly alters your life. Every-day stress, or short term (acute) stress, can motivate us to focus on tasks, set and accomplish personal and professional goals, and can even boost our immune systems and protect us from infection. Conversely, long-term (chronic) stress is the stress of life that wears on for weeks, months, or even years. Chronic stress can have harmful effects on our physical and mental health and can contribute to or worsen serious health problems like heart disease and diabetes and increase risk for mental health issues like depression and anxiety disorders. This is why it’s important to learn and implement stress management strategies to prevent chronic stress.
Steps you can take right now:
Identify your stressors (things that stress you out). Grab a pen and paper. Write a list and designate which stressors you CAN control and which you CANNOT control.
Find solutions- for the stressors you can control, write out a couple ways you can alleviate or remove those stressors. For the stressors you cannot control, know that you CAN control how you react to it. Imagine a scenario where you react differently to a negative stressor- does the situation work out for the better in your mind? Try it in real life. Remember, you don't have to find solutions alone. Therapists are trained in helping you find tools to managing your stress.
9. Manage other medical or physical problems
Are you taking care of your medical needs? In times of bad or negative stress or after a major life event, remember to pay attention to your body. Mental and physical health are deeply interconnected, and it’s important to deal with any health issues that may be holding you back. If health issues are a major life stressor or a factor of your depression, consider seeing a therapist who may help you adjust to your new physical reality.
10. Ask for help
You don't have to do anything in life alone. If you're having trouble caring for yourself for any reason, reach out. Your primary care doctor can provide referrals to therapists or other physicians that can address whatever may be ailing you. Your family and friends can provide support and empathy.