Practicing Self-Care for Better Mental Health

Self-care is an important component of mental health maintenance. Unfortunately, many people don’t realize the importance of self-care, or if they do, they face obstacles when performing self-care rituals. From a lack of time and money to skepticism regarding self-care’s ability to make a difference, there are many reasons why you might not practice self-care as much as you should. However, forgoing self-care has consequences for your health.

What is self-care?

Take This defines self-care as “the intentional actions and lifestyle choices that we make to improve our mental well-being.” It includes both preventive efforts, such as adopting good sleep habits and exercising regularly, as well as reactive efforts, like taking time to relax.

What happens when you don’t practice self-care?

Increased stress, impaired cognitive function, low energy, and a loss of motivation are short-term effects you might notice if you don’t practice self-care. Over time, more serious problems, like depression, low self-esteem, and a weak support network, can emerge.

Neglecting self-care doesn’t only affect mental health. When you don’t take action to relieve stress, it builds and turns into chronic stress. Chronic stress contributes to mental health problems such as depression and anxiety, but as the Centre for Studies on Human Health explains, chronic stress also harms cardiovascular health, interferes with the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar, and increases the risk of obesity.

How can people get started with self-care?

Dedicating time to your personal well-being can feel foreign if you’re accustomed to putting the well-being of others above your own. However, many self-care practices are surprisingly simple, so they’re easy to adopt without radically changing your lifestyle.

If you’re new to self-care, these four practices are a great place to start.

1. Schedule enough time for sleep

You can’t have good health without good sleep habits. Yet, many people don’t allow enough time for the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep, let alone practice the sleep hygiene habits that promote high-quality rest. If you’re getting less sleep than you should, commit yourself to spend at least eight hours in bed each night.

2. Get your house in order

A cluttered environment contributes to stress. When you’re overloaded with visual stimuli, it’s harder to focus on what matters and shut off any mental noise. Maintaining a clean and organized home allows you to fully relax and be present with your family, instead of being constantly distracted by chores that need to be done.

3. Spend time outside

Spending most of your time indoors may protect against sun damage, but it comes with other consequences to your health. Not only are vitamin D deficiencies linked to depression, but people with limited greenspace exposure experience higher rates of type two diabetes, cardiovascular problems, and stress than people with more access to nature. Spend time outdoors every day, opting for parks, forests, and other natural settings when possible. When you are indoors, make sure that the air in your home is as clean as possible by investing in an air purifier. Studies have demonstrated that clean air can increase happiness and is beneficial for cognitive health. There are a variety of air purifiers available, so make sure to do some research to find the best model for you and your home.

4. Take time to look inward

With so many responsibilities, it’s easy to get caught up in to-dos and lose sight of why you’re working so hard. Find time in your life to pause and think about your goals. Assess where you are today, where you’d like to be in the future, and whether your current actions have you on the right path. If not, what changes can you make to stay oriented toward the life you want?

Adopting new habits isn’t easy, especially when you’re already living a busy life. However, most people find that when they practice self-care, they actually have more energy and focus in the day-to-day. If you’ve been neglecting self-care because you don’t think there’s room for it in your life, try these four self-care practices for a few weeks. You might find self-care makes keeping up with life’s responsibilities easier, not harder.

Article by: Brad Krause
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