11 Basic Self Care Tips For Mental Health

Medically reviewed by Melissa Guarnaccia, LCSW
Updated April 17, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Maintaining your mental health and well-being may sometimes seem like a juggling act. The everyday demands of maintaining your health, family obligations, social life, and work can mean constantly confronting stressors that may threaten mental health. Consistent self-care habits can help you maintain balance between each area of life, mitigating the impact of stress and hardship on your mental health.

To start, it can be helpful to look at self-care fundamentals, including aspects of human well-being and practical self-care tips for improving mental and physical health..

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Self-care fundamentals: Components of wellness

American psychologist Abraham Maslow famously developed his theory of human well-being based on the idea that needs for survival, safety, love, self-worth, and self-actualization are each critical to thriving. Maslow's hierarchy of needs is a psychological health model that may encourage self-care.   

Self-care habits can help you meet your needs, from the necessities of food, water, and shelter to your intellectual need for meaning and achievement. Your daily habits are systems designed to ensure success in each area of your life, minimizing stress and promoting optimal mental health. Below are a few of these areas of health to consider. 

Physical

Physical and mental health are closely connected, and improvements in one area can often improve the other. Healthy sleep, dietary, and exercise habits can help you get energized and ready to pursue your passions and goals. 

Emotional

When negative thoughts and beliefs arise due to anxiety, sadness, stress, or frustration, behavior patterns can become affected, impacting other areas of life. Addressing these patterns may be crucial to mental health.

Social

Because humans are socially oriented, people often feel best keeping meaningful connections with those around them. Keeping healthy relationships and spending time with friends and loved ones may help you achieve more fulfillment in life.

Spiritual

How people connect to the world is often central to their beliefs and identity. Through faith, spirituality, and connectedness with nature, you may reflect on life's meaning and find the wisdom to live in a way that aligns with your values. 

Professional

Job satisfaction, career changes, and work stress can affect mental well-being. Often, it can be valuable to make changes in one's professional life to achieve mental health.

Financial

Financial stress can be a significant source of stress and hardship. Addressing financial health may be critical for improving mental health. Financial goals and habits can help you achieve the stability to maintain your mental health.

Aptitude

If you believe you aren't achieving your full potential, it may be challenging to become fulfilled and content. In these cases, recognizing your aptitudes and exploring ways to learn, grow, and challenge yourself can be essential. 

Environmental

Environment is an often overlooked aspect of mental health. Clean, peaceful spaces may help you feel calm, focused, and rejuvenated, while clutter, chaos, and tension can invite stress and anxiety.

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11 basic self-care tips to prioritize your mind and body

Mental well-being takes consistent daily effort. Positive self-care habits can help you manage each component of wellness, helping you achieve personal growth and fulfillment, including the following. 

Prioritize sleep

To achieve mental health, ensure you are getting plenty of quality sleep. Lack of sleep can impact mood, cognition, and physical health, which may have mental health implications. Keep a consistent sleep schedule by controlling your circadian rhythm. This process may involve limiting evening screen time, avoiding stimulants, exercising, and spending time in daylight each morning.

Maintain nutrition and positive eating habits

In addition to being critical to physical health, nutrition is critical to brain function and mental health. Prioritize a balanced diet of whole, nutritionally dense foods to control blood sugar, hit nutritional goals, and maintain a consistent eating schedule. In addition, you might try to address challenges affecting diet or nutrition with a doctor or mental health professional.

Get plenty of exercise

Exercise can improve mental health, emotional control, cognitive function, sleep, and health. Try walking or hiking, taking fitness classes, going to the gym, or participating in sports. No matter how you exercise, finding an enjoyable activity may be the key to staying fit. If you don't have a consistent exercise habit, start with minor tasks and challenge yourself more each time, celebrating daily victories.

Connect meaningfully with others

A robust support system and social network can be crucial for overcoming mental health challenges. Take active steps to nurture your close relationships and spend time with those you care about. It may also be helpful to seek ways of growing your social network, whether through hobbies, clubs, social gatherings, faith groups, or online communities.

Set goals and create systems

When seeking to improve mental health, it can be helpful to write down your goals and create actionable plans for addressing which areas of your life could benefit from attention. Use the SMART goals system to set goals and establish systems for achieving them. For example, if you struggle to keep a regular exercise schedule, you may set fitness goals, create a workout plan, and schedule your workouts into your calendar to help you stay on track. 

Manage time and maintain routines

With only 24 hours in a day, effective time management can help you give necessary attention to each area of your life. Consider how you can use your time wisely moment-by-moment while scheduling time to rest and enjoy yourself. Prioritize your most important tasks, set realistic boundaries and expectations with others, and use time management strategies like time blocking and the Pomodoro technique to stay on schedule. 

Track finances and financial habits

Financial stability is one way to ensure your basic needs are met. When money is tight, stress can critically impact mental health. If financial stress is challenging, consider using a budgeting app or spreadsheet to help you budget, set financial goals, and track your progress. Healthy financial habits can help you mitigate stress, plan the future, and achieve stability and control. 

Keep your space clean, tidy, and harmonious

Environment and surroundings can significantly impact mental health. For example, clutter has been proven to negatively affect quality of life, highlighting the importance of keeping up with household chores. Try to keep a daily, weekly, and monthly cleaning schedule to ensure your space remains comfortable. If stressful home situations can make it difficult to experience peace, it may be worth addressing the source of tension and taking steps to resolve the issue.

Keep up a mindfulness practice

Mindfulness offers a way to stay present and make choices that align with your goals and values. Mindfulness can help you manage the self-defeating thought patterns that impact behavior, such as impulsivity, procrastination, and idleness. A regular mindfulness practice can help you learn how to become aware of and actively manage thoughts and emotional responses. You may use mindfulness journaling, meditation, or mindfulness-based therapy to cultivate this valuable skill.

Find new ways to challenge yourself

Realizing your full potential often means continuously finding new ways of challenging yourself. A sense of success can be a powerful motivator, but to succeed, it may be necessary to get outside of your comfort zone and tap into your strengths. Challenge yourself by pursuing hobbies and interests that demand consistent practice or training, and continuously set goals and endeavors in areas you want to improve.

Connect with your spiritual self

Faith, spirituality, and a sense of interconnectedness can imbue life with meaning and purpose. Nurture your spirit by practicing gratitude and reflecting on the significance of your life and blessings. This process may include prayer, meditation, spending time in nature, traveling, or volunteering. Recognizing and appreciating the relationship between the self, family, community, and world can sometimes be a source of strength when working toward mental health.

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Therapy as part of self care

You don't have to practice self-care alone. A therapist can help you identify stressors and develop practical coping strategies for managing them in your daily life. They can help you address thought and behavior patterns that may prevent you from maintaining positive habits or reaching your goals and work with you to develop new health systems. 

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) may be valuable for those looking to improve mental health. Research has proven CBT beneficial in treating various mental health conditions, including anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). However, individuals commonly use it to address personal issues impacting their well-being, as well. 

If you are experiencing trauma, support is available. Please see our Get Help Now page for more resources.

If you face barriers to attending in-person therapy, you might consider trying CBT or other modalities online through a platform like BetterHelpInternet-delivered CBT has been proven as effective as in-person therapy and tends to be more affordable. In addition to weekly virtual sessions, you may also benefit from group sessions, webinars, and regular therapy homework, which can help you get the most out of your experience.

Takeaway

While improving and maintaining a holistic self-care routine may take time, effort, and consistency, everyday habits and practices can create failsafe systems that move you toward your goals. If you struggle to maintain a self-care practice or are unsure how to begin, consider contacting a licensed mental health professional for further support and guidance.
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