Mental Health Benefits of Self-Care – by Brad Krause – self care expert.
“Self-care” is the new buzzword for holistic healing methods. Specific types of self-care are dictated by individual need, but have been shown to help alleviate physical and emotional stress. Self-care helps athletes perform better and leaders in business and government work more efficiently. For those suffering with mental health issues, self-care is a crucial tool in alleviating stress and fending off depression.
Types of self-care
Self-care varies from taking a nap to getting a spa treatment. It can be as simple as a one-minute breathing exercise or as elaborate as a year-long decision to learn a new skill or change a bad habit. Ultimately, the goal of self-care is to provide a level of comfort that helps assist other areas of your life. A massage can soothe sore muscles while also providing a mindfulness opportunity.
Here are some ways to incorporate self-care in your life:
Get more sleep
Sleep is an important ingredient for good health. When we are well rested, our bodies and minds operate more efficiently. The human body is generally suited for about 16 hours of awake time. The remaining 8 hours should be spent sleeping. When we fail to get sufficient sleep, we risk compromising our ability to learn, work, and function in areas such as driving. Sleep deprivation also affects our decision-making abilities, with several studies showing well-rested people making better, more reasoned choices than those who had less sleep.
Relax when you can
Although REM sleep – the kind we get when we sleep at night for an extended period of time – is crucial to health, other types of rest impact our quality of life as well. Stress and anxiety can also be mitigated through relaxation techniques such as meditation. Meditation helps people see stressful situations in a new perspective, increase self-awareness, reduce negative emotions, and increase creativity, patience and tolerance.
Meditation is one of the simplest forms of self-care, and it can be easily combined with something like yoga, which is also good for the mind, body, and soul. All it takes is a moment of silence to get started. Find a quiet and distraction-free space, put your phone away, turn off lights and take some deep breaths. Clear your mind of what is troubling you and think about only the present moment. Even if you feel that this exercise did little to save your life, remember that we make sustainable progress through small steps.
At home, you can easily create a meditation sanctuary. Here are some simple steps:
- Carve out a dedicated space. This space can be anywhere – from a separate room to a corner of your office. As long as it doesn’t require setup before each use, such as clearing off an area to put a yoga mat down, then you will be more likely to meditate.
- Make it simple and clutter free. Your meditation space should inspire clarity through relative emptiness.
- Add natural light if possible. Mindfulness thrives in nature, so if your space cannot be outdoors, try to bring some of it indoors.
- Make it happen. The main reason people avoid creating a meditation space is a perceived lack of room, but your sanctuary can be a seat at the kitchen table or a chair in the corner of the bathroom.
If meditation and yoga don’t appeal to you, consider picking up a relaxing hobby such as sewing, gardening, journaling, coloring (yes, even adults can color), or hiking. Regardless of what you select, it’s important that the activity brings you peace and helps you relax. All of this is important for maintaining good mental health, which is crucial for those who are overcoming an addiction or suffering from a mental illness.
Reduce stress naturally
There are other natural ways to improve mental health through self-care in addition to sleep, rest and meditation. Natural stress relief is possible through some of the following practices:
- Practice positive self-talk. Telling yourself that you will get through your struggles is incredibly helpful.
- Relax your muscles. Self-massage and stretching reduces stress-induced headaches and other pain.
- Eat good food. Our diets impact our moods, as well as our waistlines. A balanced diet also balances our lives.
- Empower yourself to make the right decisions. Knowing when and how to say no is a crucial component of stress management. Often, we overburden ourselves out of fear of disappointing others. The ability to say “no” means we are in control of our lives, and control reduces stress.
Self-care can help to improve mental health in many ways. Next time you are feeling down or anxious, check in on yourself. Are you providing comfort in your life? If not, you may find that a few of these simple steps can help.
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