Whether you live with mental health problems or not, self-care is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. In simplest terms, self-care can be defined as anything you do to keep yourself physically, mentally, and spiritually healthy, either with or without the support of a health-care provider. While taking care of yourself may sound like common sense, self-care is often the first thing we neglect when we find ourselves in challenging situations.
In a society where “success” can equal long hours of work and few vacation days, there often develops an underlying belief that we must always be busy and productive. This thought pattern can ultimately blind us to important opportunities for self-care. This oversight can result in serious consequences such as burnout, depression, anxiety, resentment, and increases in the likelihood of heart disease, stroke, and cancer. Ironically, by neglecting self-care in an attempt to be more productive, people become less productive and also harm themselves both mentally and physically.
By taking time to engage in self-care practices, you can relieve the pressures of everyday life and reset yourself to a healthy point. There are a variety of ways you can do this.
- Make healthy lifestyle choices.
Engaging in physical activity, eating a healthy diet, drinking plenty of water, and making sure to get enough sleep every day are some of the top ways to keep yourself healthy. Sometimes, when your body is sending out signs of distress, what you, simply, may need to do is stop what you’re doing and take a walk, a nap, or drink a glass of water.
- Practice good hygiene.
Good hygiene is important for social, medical, and psychological reasons. It not only reduces the risk of illness, but it also improves the way others view you and, most importantly, how you view yourself.
- Connect with others.
Spending time with positive, loving people you care about and trust can ease stress, help your mood and improve the way you feel overall. They may be family members, close friends, members of a support group, or a counselor. You can expand your social network by getting involved in community organizations that bring people together who share the same interests, taking local classes, or by volunteering with groups that help fill a specific need. Responsible social media use can sometimes also be helpful for connecting with others, (especially now when opportunities to engage in person are limited) but it’s important to remember to keep things in perspective and to know that social media’s relative anonymity can make it less safe.
- Try to do something you enjoy every day.
This can be anything that makes you happy: read, watch a favorite TV show, garden, paint, or dance. Do something just because it makes you feel good and ignore any feelings that you should be doing something “more productive” instead.
- Find ways to relax.
Meditation and yoga are both excellent tools to use for relaxation. Other ways to relax could include going out into nature, taking a bath, using scented candles, or getting a massage.
- Use prescription and non-prescription medicines and supplements, responsibly.
Medication isn’t for everyone, but for some people with mental health problems, it can be a literal life saver. Work with your doctor to decide whether prescription or non-prescription medicines could be helpful for you and, once you’re on a medication, do not discontinue it without also talking to your doctor. When people go on psychiatric medication, it’s very common for them to stop taking it once they start feeling better, but this can be very dangerous and should never be done without a doctor’s supervision.
If you’re struggling with your mental health right now, please reach out to someone who cares for you or call (607) 737-5369 for 24/7 community mental health crisis service.
Steele Memorial Library