Ways To Improve Mental Health Through Self-Care
Updated August 28, 2020
Medically Reviewed By: Tonia Cassaday
Self-care and mental health oftentimes go hand-in-hand for people. Without caring for yourself, it is very challenging to main a healthy mindset and not become overwhelmed. The best self-care practices can look different from person to person. With that being said, the ways you improve your mental health can look very different. Below, you will read some more on self-care and the different practices you can try out.
What is Self-Care?
As mentioned above, self-care can be several things. It looks very different for everyone depending on their lifestyle and preferences. According to an article by Psych Central, self-care is anything that you do to deliberately care for your mental, physical, or emotional health. This definition is important because it points out that routine care for yourself such as brushing your teeth or brushing your hair is typically not considered self-care. It is anything that you do to intentionally improve yourself such as getting some exercise, journaling, or taking a bath.
Why is Self-Care Important?
Think about when you have just boarded an airplane and are listening to the flight attendant give the safety speech and demonstration. They always, without a doubt, mention that you need to put on your oxygen mask first before you assist others. It might seem confusing to hear that statement because many people try being noble and make sure to help others first. But if you think a little deeper about the situation, putting yourself in a safe place first can help you help more people overall. With that being said, self-care is how you nurture yourself, mind, body, and soul, to feel renewed and refreshed so you can keep going. Self-care can help you balance out your life and bring some much-needed peace into your daily routine. Spending a moment to take care of yourself helps you keep your relationship with yourself intact, positive, and healthy.
Although self-care can be defined differently for every single person, it is important to stay in touch with what helps you specifically and what you prefer. It is important to note that each person has different needs and that it is okay to need a different level of self-care than someone else. It is also important to know what isn’t self-care. Self-care is not about being self-centered or about having selfish motives. It is, however, about taking care of yourself in order to be your best self for your own well-being and for the well-being of the people that you love. Self-care is not about scheduling another thing for yourself that adds even more anxiety or stress. It is about pinpointing what actions you need to take part in to keep yourself afloat and content.
Types of Self-Care
For most people, there are days where you need a mental health reboot and some days where you need a physical reboot. As mentioned by the Psych Central article referenced above, there are three different areas in which you practice self-care. These areas are mental, emotional, and physical. Each of these self-care areas requires different methods and offer different benefits. They also all relate to each other, but especially mental health.
Although there are many different types of self-care, mental self-care is the most pressing for this topic. A buzzing mind can be innovative and productive at times, but a buzzing mind can also be distracting and tugging to lengths to which someone can care for their mental state. For many people, they experience feelings of anxiety or depression when they do not prioritize their mental self-care. The impact of mental self-care on mental health is significant and should not be overlooked.
According to MentalHealth.gov, mental health is our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. With that being said, good mental health can improve your overall outlook on life and can even make your life feel more fulfilling. Mental health plays an important role in how someone feels, thinks, acts, and progresses. While mental health dilemmas are common for people to have, some have more trouble combatting them than others. When you feel as though your mental health is lacking, it is important to take action. Try journaling your talking out your feelings with a trusted person. Or, you can start attending counseling to speak with a professional, such as one from BetterHelp. Do whatever helps make you feel more at peace and happier.
Emotional self-care can be very similar to mental self-care as mental health and emotional health are heavily related. If you ever feel as though your emotions are all over the place, it is likely time to practice emotional self-care. Doing this can be incredibly helpful as you will feel much more in control of your emotions once you are done.
For many people, emotional self-care just looks like a night of relaxation. This could be taking a bath and indulging in their favorite foods or watching their favorite movie. It can be anything that gives your emotions a break and gives you time to get your mind off things. For others, it could be spending time with people you love. Consider what would help you give your emotions a break and do it.
Physical self-care is the most different of the three types. Typically, it is anything that benefits your body. It could be eating a nutritious meal or going for a sunset walk. Or, it could be giving your body a break from hitting the gym. If you listen to it, your body will tell you what it needs and what it is lacking. Listen to whatever it is craving and do it so you can improve your physical health.
Physical self-care can have a large impact on your mental health in a variety of ways. For one, exercising helps release endorphins, which are the “feel-good hormone.” Second, when you take care of yourself physically, you can improve your mental health and your self-esteem. For many people struggling with mental health, it is hard to implement physical self-care. But when you get around to doing it, it can feel motivating and make you feel accomplished.
How Can Self-Care Improve Mental Health?
Practicing self-care can usually only be done when you come to the realization that it is needed and deserved. It is important to know that every single person has a state of mental health and self-care is not just something for people who experience mental illnesses or challenges. Everyone can and will benefit from caring for themselves and taking the time to do so. Below are some of the reasons why.
Feeling good about yourself can be an outcome of practicing self-care. For many people struggling with any mental, emotional, or physical problem, they can improve their self-esteem through self-care. This is because you are acknowledging that you deserve care. Additionally, you are taking the time to improve yourself. A healthy self-esteem can give many benefits including confidence and motivation to keep moving forward.
Routines and Consistency
Some mental stability and peace can be achieved when self-care is implemented. This is because the establishment of a consistent routine is comforting. It is comforting because you have a plan for how your day will go. An article by Piedmont Healthcare states, “Predictable, repetitive routines are calming and help reduce anxiety. They’ll also help you take control of your day and subsequently, your life”. Stability can overall be beneficial for someone who is looking for a boost in their mental health. After all, a lack of stability can be the cause of emotional turmoil or anxious thoughts.
Staying Aware of Your Mental Health
This might seem like an obvious thing to point out, but it oftentimes gets lost in the mix. If you are more aware of something, you are more likely to keep track of it and stay on target with making improvements. Sometimes caring for yourself can just mean staying on top of things. It could be good to buy a planner, make a list, or create a reminder on your phone to help yourself to remember to check on yourself. These items can help you stay aware and consistent with your mental health and improving it. You are more likely to do this if you have reminders in place to help yourself out.
How you cope with your mental health struggles can help or hurt how your mental state is. Temporary joy does not mean long term contentment. It is normal to have good days where you feel amazing about yourself, but on the other hand, it is normal to have days where you feel down and unmotivated. How you choose to cope with these times depends on the ways you care for yourself. The improvement of your coping skills and mental health is directly correlated with the amount of time you spend helping yourself or lack thereof. With that being said, if you are having to cope or grieve anything, it is highly recommended to take some extra time caring for yourself.
Decluttering Your Life
Sometimes stress is added to our lives because we leave messes for ourselves to “deal with it later.” This can be not only physical clutter but also mental clutter. A declutter or renovation of the things that are significant for us can improve your mental health by lessening the baggage that pulls at you. Self-care can mean getting rid of physical items or just habits that hurt more than they help you.
To declutter your life, take note of the things that weigh you down. This could be any mundane task or even a person in your life. Or, it could be a box of things you haven’t been able to go through. Do your best to declutter these things while you are implementing self-care and trying to improve mental health. It will feel relieving to finally be free of the things that hold you back.