Self-Care and its Many Mental Health Benefits

Brad Krause | Dec. 21, 2018


Many have turned to self-care as a method for helping with physical fitness. Self-care techniques such as massage, relaxation and meditation help support other wellness-focused actions. For those living with mental health issues, self-care provides many benefits, but it can be difficult to incorporate self-care when struggling.


Self-care refers to actions that one takes to improve or assist in improving themselves. Self-care can include anything from a short nap to an in-depth daily revitalization plan. There are physical, psychological, emotional, spiritual and professional components of self-care. Self-care is sometimes scoffed at as just a term for pampering, but this criticism fails to see its importance, as it helps those who deal with work-related stress on a daily basis, people with mental health issues such as depression, those overcoming an addiction, and individuals who simply want to improve their overall well-being.


Self-care requires an individual assessment based on your specific needs and goals. Here are some ways to incorporate self-care and experience mental health benefits.


Sleep and relaxation

Oftentimes, stress can cause us to have bad sleeping habits. In turn, poor sleep creates stress. It becomes a vicious cycle that can slowly drag someone down into deep despair and make us physically unwell. Doctors recommend around eight hours of good sleep each night. Of course, everyone is not wired the same way, and some may need more sleep while others are fine with less. Those who exercise daily, for example, often need extra sleep to rest and recover from their workouts.


Sleep deprivation seriously impacts mental health. Those who lack sleep have difficulty concentrating and often also exhibit signs of depression and anxiety. It’s not just full nights of sleep that help our mental health; taking time to rest during waking hours is important, too. Just as a rest day is helpful to those incorporating exercise into their lives, a rest from stress aids our mental health. Seek rest and relaxation by using your work vacation days, and taking steps such as practicing daily meditation and having electronics-free time each day. Often, the constant need to check emails, texts and social media adds a layer of stress to our entire day.


Learning when to say “no”

Emotional and psychological wellness means knowing when you are at risk of being overburdened. People spend a lot of time balancing the need to please others with the desire to please oneself. While it is important to be good at your job and helpful to others, there are many times when we take on too many burdens. Knowing that it is OK to say “no” is a key component of self-care that affects emotional well-being.


Reducing stress naturally

Self-care can help people manage the stress of their daily lives, especially if they’re in recovery. Exercise is one way to manage stress without clinical treatment or medication. Working out is universally accepted as an integral component of not just physical fitness, but overall well-being. Exercise relieves tension, provides self-confidence and makes you feel well from the inside out, often displacing the poor physical feelings that trigger sadness and despair.


Add yoga to your day

Stress-relieving activities do not require a gym membership. Yoga is an activity that combines relaxation with physical fitness and other components of self-care. An activity such as yoga is fun and sustainable, which helps it fold into your everyday life without adding new layers of stress - all you have to do is unroll your yoga mat. You are in control of how much time you spend practicing yoga, as well as when you do it and where, making it the ultimate form of traveling self-care. By spending some time on your mat each day, you’ll experience some health benefits too such as stress management, improved mood, better balance/flexibility, chronic pain relief, and even an immune system boost just to name a few.


There is a component of this that is difficult for those with mental health issues to follow. This is why self-care requires more than just a suggestion to get out and exercise. It may take time, and you may need the assistance and support of others. Maybe self-care for your purposes is just 10 minutes of silence each afternoon. If you can achieve a small goal, then you can decide if your needs and situation will allow taking self-care a step further.


The benefits of self-care for mental health are numerous. These steps may sound simplistic, but mental health issues create considerable hurdles. Patience and slow incorporation of some of these tactics may be the best way for you to achieve overall wellness.


Photo Credit: Ali Kaukas

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