The Importance of Self-Care for Mental Health
Special to Palmetto Counseling’s Blog | January 19, 2018 12:20 PM EDT
This issue features an article by Kim Thomas
There are many clichés that actually discourage us from looking closely at our own self-care, such as, “when the going gets tough, the tough get going,” “no pain, no gain,” or “if it doesn’t kill you it will make you stronger.” However, without tending to our own mental health needs, we leave ourselves vulnerable to stress, anxiety, depression and other concerns. Chances are if you’re trying to get through a situation by clinging to those old clichés, you would be better off embracing healthy self-care.
Harvard Health Publishing compares good self-care habits to putting on an oxygen mask when an airplane is in trouble; without first ensuring you will be okay, you can’t help anyone else. When time is tight and energy levels are low, self-care is often the first thing that is pushed aside. However those are signals to make self-care a priority.
What self-care isn’t
Many people are concerned that self-care is selfishness in disguise, but making good choices that keep you healthy and promote wellness will allow you to better tend to the needs of others, not just yourself. Psych Central explains that good self-care is also saying “no” to overcommitting, and to participating in activities that create stress like attending gatherings you don’t enjoy and checking email before bed.
What self-care is
Self-care won’t happen on its own. Self-care is planned and scheduled, and should happen every day by making a conscious choice. As you establish a good program, you may find it helpful to follow a checklist for guidance. Reach Out Australia offers a template you can download, or you may want to create your own.
Taking care of one’s physical well-being is an imperative first-step toward a good self-care program. When your body has insufficient energy due to exhaustion or lack of good nutrition, you can’t perform well. Experts explain that you leave yourself open to debilitating physical issues, both now and in the future. Good care of your body keeps you strong and resilient, ready to face the challenges life brings your way. It helps lower risk for heart disease, diabetes, cancer, even colds and the flu.
Here are some important components in a self-care program:
- Sleep. Getting sufficient sleep is vital to good physical and mental health. Your body and mind regroup during sleep. Average adults need between seven and nine hours of sleep every night.
- Exercise. You don’t need a trip to the gym to improve your fitness program. Jogging, biking and hiking are excellent, but even taking the stairs instead of the elevator can improve your body’s fitness. Being active increases your body’s release of feel-good, stress-fighting chemicals, so ensure you make physical activity part of your daily routine.
- Eat right. Good nutrition is a building block for staying healthy. Eat balanced meals that provide for your body’s energy needs and don’t contain harmful products. Aim for whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and foods that are not processed.
- Relax. It’s important to allow yourself some downtime. Practice methods of relaxation, such as meditation, breathing exercises, prayer, and sensory focusing techniques to lower stress and anxiety and maintain a healthy outlook.
- Hobbies. Engaging in healthy hobbies is an important outlet and part of personal development. Reading books, creating artwork, playing sports and tending a garden are all hobbies noted by experts as helpful to your well-being. Participating even when you’re short on time can improve your energy and perspective.
- Relationships. Don’t allow busyness and stress to isolate you. When life is difficult it’s important to participate with your support network. Make sure you nurture your social life and engage with family and friends.
Choose good health
It’s important to recognize that self-care is a conscious choice and important to your overall well-being. Incorporate self-care into your routine to improve your energy levels. Good choices promote your ability to handle situations as they arise, as well as promote your long-term health and wellness.
About the author
Kim Thomas’ mission is aligned with that of US Health Corps, and that is to triumph over chronic disease. Her mission is to advocate for those suffering from chronic disease and enjoys writing about maintaining a healthy lifestyle.