Self-Care and Your Mental Health: What’s the Connection?
Self-Care, Depression & Your Mental Health: What’s the Connection?
Guest post by: Melissa Howard, Head of Suicide Prevention Outreach StopSuicide.info
You probably take care of your family, your home, your pets, and your job, but are you taking care of yourself and your mental health? You might think you don’t have time for self-care with your busy life; however, neglecting self-care is a recipe for burnout. Not to mention that it can have a significant effect on your mental health. Incorporating self-care is crucial for mental and physical health.
What is self-care?
Self-care isn’t one specific action or activity. Rather, The Law of Attraction defines self-care as “just about anything you do to be good to yourself.” That could be taking a mental health day, going on a run, calling a friend, or anything else that buffers against stress. The exception is activities that provide short-term stress relief but increase stress over the long-term, like abusing drugs or alcohol.
Self-care includes the basic acts that are necessary for health, like eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, sleeping well, and caring for personal hygiene. It also includes activities you do to relax and connect with yourself, like reading, meditating, engaging in hobbies, and spending time with loved ones.
What are the benefits of self-care?
Self-care improves your physical, emotional, and mental health. The simplest acts of self-care, like eating well and exercising, prevent illness so you feel your best each day. And when you feel your best, you’re more capable of handling life’s challenges without getting overwhelmed.
Self-care affects your mental health directly, too. When you take time to relax, center yourself, and do things you enjoy, you reduce your stress so you’re less susceptible to mood disorders like depression and anxiety. If you do have a mental health condition, self-care activities help manage the symptoms of your illness so you function your best.
How can people make time for self-care?
Self-care isn’t a luxury for people with spare time. Everyone needs self-care to stay healthy. Neglecting self-care because you’re too busy leads to burning out — and when you burn out, you can’t be productive at all. Finding time for self-care is the only way to sustain a busy lifestyle for the long run.
Look at your schedule to see where you can make time. If there’s no time, you’ll have to say “no” to something else in order to make room for self-care. It’s hard to say “no” to your boss, your friends, or your kids when they want something from you, but you must prioritize your own needs too.
What are some ways to practice self-care?
Self-care looks different for everyone. It may take some experimenting to find the self-care activities that relieve your stress and fit into your lifestyle. If you’re not sure where to start, these are three self-care activities worth trying:
- Start a hobby: Hobbies aren’t just for kids. As adults, hobbies provide a break from monotonous routines. They’re also a great way to meet like-minded friends. Find something you’re interested in and commit a couple of hours each week to your hobby.
- Reduce stress at home: Home should be a refuge, but for many, it’s another source of stress. Make home life more peaceful by finding ways to simplify chores, like decluttering, hiring a cleaning service, or getting groceries delivered. It’s also important to have a space where you can unwind uninterrupted, especially if you have kids. Design a room for meditation and relaxation and personalize it so it feels like a space of your own.
- Keep a journal: Negative thoughts can overwhelm your mind if you don’t have a way to express them, but not everything is right for sharing with friends. As Harvard Health explains, a journal is an outlet where you can be completely honest and organize your thoughts.
Self-care is a simple concept, but it’s not always simple to employ. People get caught up in responsibilities and forget to make time for themselves, but self-care is central to long-term wellness. If you’re not making space for self-care in your life, it’s time to start.
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