The Mental Health Benefits of Self-Care
It seems that everybody is talking about “self-care” these days. Enter the term on Google, and you’ll get over 1,260,000,000 results. A lot of self-care focuses on how it benefits your physical health, but what about how it benefits your mental health? As psychologist Guy Winch ponders in a TED Talk, “We brush and floss but what daily activity do we do to maintain our psychological health?” The fact is that when we don’t tend to our mental health, it can lead to depression, anxiety, insomnia, and chronic illness.
Read on for self-care principles that will transform your mental and physical health.
Jayne Brody, the author of The Self-Care Project, says, “You can’t care for yourself in the truest sense if you don’t understand what it is that you need, what it is that comforts you and nourishes you.” It’s important to be mindful of how you feel so you can make the appropriate choices. Are you feeling overwhelmed with work? Resentful for volunteering again? Pay attention to these feelings, as they will signal what you need to do. Self-care is very much about knowing when and how to say “no”and when to say “yes.”
Take Control of Your Life and Home
Taking control of your life involves getting on top of your finances, your medical and dental appointments, your car maintenance, and the condition of your house. In fact, research suggests that clutter has a real impacton mood. Decluttering and deep cleaning your home can have a major effect on reducing stress. You don’t have to do the job alone; for example, you can hire a cleaning service to help (in nearby Portland, this will likely cost you $114 – $256). Also, break the habit of ruminatingover upsetting events. By concentrating on positive thoughts, you will begin a new habit of positivity.
Get Enough Exercise
In addition to staying fit, the goal of exercising is to get plenty of oxygenated blood pumping to your brain. Not only does this help you stay mentally sharp, but it stimulates the production of endorphins, which is known to cause feelings of euphoria and well-being. Whether you walk, swim, dance (private lessons average $60 an hour), or do kickboxing, it’s all good if it gets you up and moving.
Get Enough Sleep
According to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF), not getting enough sleep on a regular basis affects your health, memory, and mood. It’s recommended that you get approximately eight hours per night. Insomnia can lead to chronic stress, brain fog, and a lowered immune system. Try natural remediessuch as taking a warm (not hot) bath at bedtime and diluting four to eight drops of soothing essential oils such as lavender into your bath soap or a carrier oil. Avoid caffeine after noon, and unplug from electronics the closer you get to bedtime.
Improve Your Diet
Many of us don’t watch what we eat on a regular basis. Instead of grabbing fast food or processed snakes, focus instead on whole foods, with an emphasis on vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and healthy oils such as olive and coconut. Also, take some time each day to prepare healthy meals and see how good you feel.
Take Time to Have Fun
Everyone needs a break from the daily grind every once in a while. Sometimes, this might mean having dinner with a friend, while other times it’s about doing something new, such as taking salsa lessons or volunteering at the Humane Society.
You can also use this time to tend to your relationships. Research suggests that people with satisfying relationshipsare happier and healthier.Whether you schedule a 10-minute phone call each week or get together for lunch, any investment of your time is beneficial.
While you’re at it, you can also reduce stress at home by:
- Transforming a room into your personal sanctum for meditation. This should be a quiet area of your home that includes calming decorations and comfortable seating.
- Drinking calming teassuch as chamomile or lavender (you can purchase organic tea online for around $5).
- Creating a cozy book nook where you can escape into the world of good literature.
- Keeping your house clean and orderly. Living in a mess fuels stress.
As you commit yourself to these principles, you’re on your way to being the best version of yourself. Not only will you feel more focused, happier, and calm, but you’ll also be able to help others as well. It’s true that you can’t pour from an empty cup, but when you prioritize self-care, your cup will always be far from empty.