Many of us are so used to taking care of others that we have a tendency to forget about taking care of ourselves. Between thinking about the needs of our friends, our spouses, our family members, and our little ones, it often seems like there’s no time left in the day. Plus, many of us are also enwrapped in busy schedules, stressful timelines, and financial pressure, so it can be very difficult to make time for self-care, much less even think about it.
Because today is World Mental Health Day, I want to not only emphasize the incredible importance of taking care of ourselves (mind, body, and soul), but also challenge you to make more time in your life for taking care of you. Health is very much a holistic state of being, which is certainly incomplete without self-care. Without it, we wouldn't have the ability to heal, recuperate, grow, or be aware of our own dynamic needs.
The ways you can incorporate self-care into your routine are endless. And quite honestly, it ends up looking pretty different for everybody. Experiment with different methods and find what speaks to you, comforts you, and helps to alleviate the daily stressors in your life.
Here are some ideas for self-care activities:
Listen to your favorite music, write a journal entry, and reflect on your life. It’s important to spend time thinking about what you’re thankful for, and what you might want to change moving forward.
If something in your life is causing you stress or unhappiness, take some time to reflect on what you might be able to do to improve the situation. If you can’t come up with an answer, seek out help or advice from someone who has your best interest in heart.
Take time to routinely check in with your mind, body, & soul. Are you happy? If not, why? What could you do to be happier? What emotions are you feeling? Why are you feeling them? Are you experiencing any pain, fatigue, or changes in your body? Are you stressed? What is the cause of your stress? What could you do to feel better? Do you need to reach out for help?
Be very mindful of self-talk, and work on ways to make it more positive. As human beings, we have a tendency to be pretty tough on ourselves, but the way we talk to ourselves really, truly matters. Whenever you notice a negative thought directed at yourself, stop immediately and change your way of thinking to be more respectful. This isn’t easy but will make a huge difference in your life.
Breathing exercises are excellent for alleviating stress and increasing mindfulness, so take 5-10 minutes to do them whenever you can. Read more about breathing techniques here: https://greatist.com/happiness/breathing-exercises-relax
Think about body positivity and what you can do to better respect yourself. If you ever want to change your meal plan, eating habits, or exercise routine, that is fine, but you need to do it for the right reasons. It should never be about how you look, but rather about improving the way you feel. Respect your body, in all shapes and sizes, because it is a beautiful and powerful gift that moves you places.
Because I'm a dietitian and I know many people struggle with this: remember that food is fuel, and make sure you have a healthy relationship with food. If you have any negative feelings associated with food, such as stress or guilt, you should revisit the way you think about eating. Consult a dietitian and/or therapist for help with this.
Go on a hike. It doesn’t have to be long or difficult. Just breathing in fresh air, moving your body, and appreciating the beauty of the world around you can be truly healing.
Enjoy a good laugh by watching a comedic movie, watching funny YouTube videos, or just goofing off. Anything that brings a smile to your face is therapeutic.
Make plans for a vacation, weekend getaway, or even just an afternoon out sometime in the future. This will give you something to look forward to and is a wonderful way to take a break from daily life stressors.
Take a class doing something you enjoy or something new you want to try (yoga, painting, music, cooking, etc.)
Take a bath, light a few candles, and listen to music or enjoy the quiet.
Enjoy a night-in watching your favorite show, having a treat, and relaxing. Never feel bad if you need some down-time away from others.
Meditate. Put on some spa music, stretch, and quiet your mind.
Put on some upbeat tunes and bust a move Grey's Anatomy style.
Read a book, magazine, or internet article on a topic you enjoy.
Find healthy recipes that sound good to you & make it with friends or family.
Write down compliments that people tell you, so you can revisit them later and remember all the special things that others value about you. Even better, write down compliments from yourself that you can revisit when you're feeling down.
Consider scheduling an appointment with a counselor, therapist, and/or psychologist. This is a wonderful resource of support for people from all walks of life.
My last and most important piece of advice:
Never hesitate to ask for help when you need it. Whether the help you need is big or small, have a strong support system in place (of family, friends, and healthcare professionals) who can be contacted when needed. Respect yourself by being attune with your needs and acting accordingly, because you are worth it.