Self-care is a buzzword we often see online, but many people aren’t exactly sure what it means. The truth is, it can mean something different for everyone, from an exercise routine to a time-out when things get busy and stressful, and it’s an important part of staying healthy. Finding the right self-care practices not only help to boost your physical health, it also keeps your mental health in a good place. Focusing on yourself is not a selfish act, which is something many of us have to learn. Once you find the best ways to feel healthy and happy, you can learn to maintain your self-care routine for years to come.
The key is to be realistic about your goals. You may find that you enjoy hiking, but if you live far away from a trail, it won’t be easy to engage in that activity anytime you want. By looking for ways to feel good that are easily attainable, you can ensure that stress, anxiety, and/or the symptoms of depression can be managed from day to day.
Some important self-care practices that are good for your mental health include:
Following your gut
Gut health is something many people overlook, in part because the things that contribute to it aren’t widely known. It’s actually a pretty important part of attending to your overall health, as it can affect everything from your immune system to your mood. Fortunately, there are simple things you can do to make sure it’s in good shape. First, get to know more about key players that work as a team to keep your gut healthy. For instance, akkermansia is a bacterium that can positively affect metabolism, while bifidobacterium affects the lining of your intestines and keeps them safe. You should also carefully choose the foods you eat, which can mean changing up your diet or including a supplement, to better support your gut.
Getting enough sleep
For many of us, the automatic reply when someone asks how we are is “tired.” There are many different causes of exhaustion, but one of the most basic is that most people aren’t getting enough sleep. Whether it’s due to being a busy parent or dealing with anxiety that makes rest difficult, it’s crucial to suss out the reason behind your tiredness and find a solution. A few helpful ideas include shutting off your phone and computer at least a couple of hours before bed, creating a relaxing bedtime routine, and getting organised so you can turn off all those intrusive thoughts about what needs to be done the next day.
Sometimes, adult- and childhood sleep disruptions are triggered not by external factors, such as everyday stressors and too much screen time, but by trauma-induced nervous system dysregulation. Some people can benefit from somatic experiencing, a form of therapy that allows you to use your body’s own healing power to recover emotionally from adverse events.
Telling stress to take a hike
Stress can affect us in many ways; in fact, you may not even realize you are stressed because it can be perceived as something else, such as a lack of motivation. When you’re feeling off, remember to take a step back and look at what’s causing the problem so that you can address it. Working long hours or perpetually saying “yes” to everything can leave you feeling overwhelmed, so those are good places to start making changes.
Creating a workout routine you can stick with
Working out is not just a great way to stay in shape; it can also boost your mood and help you cope a bit more easily with stress or anxiety. Getting outside while you’re doing it is even better, since sunshine and fresh air can work wonders for your mental health. However, if you live in an area that has unpredictable weather year-round, it may not be sustainable. That’s why it’s important to find a workout that you can maintain. You might map out a jogging route, for instance, but practice yoga on the side. Breaking up your exercise patterns will also prevent boredom.
Practicing self-care benefits your mind, body, and soul, so it’s crucial to figure out the best ways to feel better that are specific to your needs. Keep in mind that however you choose to lift yourself up, it should be done with the intention to maintain it, so you can ensure long-term mental health benefits. Brad Krause