• Tawanda Auston

These Common Self-Care Habits Are Easy to Overlook But Essential for Good Mental Health

Most people think of self-care as doing something extra for yourself. But what if you reframe the idea of self-care and instead focus on the bare necessities? We all assume we’re caring for our basic needs, but if you really “check in” with yourself, you may find that something is missing. Only when you stop and pay attention to how you’re feeling, both physically and mentally, can you intervene and care for those basic needs you may be unintentionally ignoring.

Physical Activity

Maybe you’ve noticed the mental health boost you get from exercise. Along with this immediate mood boost, Psychology Today reports that research has also shown a link between exercise and management of chronic conditions like depression on a long-term basis.

The trick to making exercise a part of your regular self-care routine is to find the right fit for you. For example, while some people enjoy heading to the local gym to work out, others prefer to throw on a pair of shoes and go for a run by themselves.

Sleep

Getting enough rest is a common problem for people who are dealing with mental health issues. Besides being a symptom of mental health problems, research has indicated that insomnia may also be a cause. If you struggle with sleep, this is a concern you should definitely bring up with your mental health provider. Fortunately, the good news is that a few self-care strategies can also make a major difference in getting the rest you need.

If anxious thoughts are causing your insomnia, you can often stop them with a few simple strategies, such as identifying your worries, visualizing positive things in your life, and using relaxation techniques to release tension. To prevent these anxious thoughts from keeping you up in the first place, create (and stick to) a bedtime routine that helps you unwind. This habit is a double dose of self-care because you’re (1) giving yourself permission to do things that are relaxing at night, like taking a warm bath or reading a book, while also (2) promoting good sleep hygiene that will give you the quality rest that your body and mind need.

Stress

Life involves stress — there’s no doubt about it. However, even though you can’t always control stressful situations, what you can do is manage how they impact you. Finding ways to relax when you’re stressed is tricky because the right solution for you may not work for someone else. For example, one idea is to enjoy a massage every once in a while. Not only can massage decrease anxiety, but it can also improve concentration, sleep quality, and circulation. In many cases, what you need is not just to relax on occasion but to change habits. For instance, instead of doing something mindless to unwind, why not try reading? One contributor to Self explains how changing this one little habit can snowball into other positive changes.

One effective way to relieve stress is to get a grip on your finances. If you find that you’re having a difficult time paying your bills each month, you’re likely feeling a great amount of anxiety. The good news is that there are many ways you can save money and in the process relieve stress. For example, you can set up a home yoga space instead of attending several classes a week at your local studio. Before heading to work, you can brew your own coffee and prepare yourself lunch instead of ordering out. Homeowners can also talk to a lender about refinancing their mortgages. Refinancing can lower your monthly mortgage payments, and with interest rates at an all-time low, you could save considerably.

Fasting

One area that many people may not think about when they consider self-cre is fasting. Over the past few years, intermittent fasting has taken off, particularly the 16/8 maethod. Essentially, you limit yourself to eating during a set eight-hour window — the rest of the time you avoid consuming any food or caloric beverages. In addition to helping you shed unwanted pounds and burn fat at a quicker rate, fasting also helps you control your blood sugar and boosts your brain function. Furthermore, it just gives your body a break from constantly processing calories.

This is just one example of how true self-care isn’t just an occasional indulgence. Self-care isn’t always something special. Instead, it can be as simple as assessing your basic needs and changing one habit at a time. And when your physical and emotional needs are met, the benefits to your mental health will follow.

Photo credit: Pexels

Article by Brad Krause


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