You must take care of your brain if you want to take care of your whole body. You wouldn’t push yourself through a serious physical illness like the flu, would you? Likewise, you shouldn’t slog along through mental fatigue, depression, anxiety, or excessive stress. Taking steps to practice self-care every single day will improve your overall mental health. Here’s where to begin.
Focus on Your Sleep
Modern research has overwhelmingly concluded that proper sleep (quality and quantity) is vital for mental well-being. While some may argue that poor sleep is a symptom of poor mental health (they would be right), they are missing the obvious: it’s a cause as well, and the whole thing is cyclical. That’s what makes sleep so important.
If you want to improve your sleep quality, first look at what you’re sleeping on. Your mattress can make all the difference. If it’s been five to seven years since you last replaced your mattress, it may be time for a new one, but you don’t have to spend a lot of money to make it happen. There are full-size options on the market that are much cheaper than king- or queen-size mattresses, and it’s also easy to find inexpensive, quality linens for a new mattress. It also helps to take stock of your bedroom. Do you have blinds or drapes that block out light? Are you able to keep the temperature cool and the distractions to a minimum? Some people also find it helpful to use sound machines or white noise machines to help them with sleep.
You may also want to consider some dietary changes, such as limiting your food intake before you go to bed and cutting back on caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine. These simple steps can drastically improve your sleep and, in turn, your overall mental health.
Battle Stress by Making Time to Relax
Relaxing and not working are not the same thing. You can still build stress while doing nothing at all. Just thinking about stressful things is enough to damage your mental well-being. With this in mind, you should make time to destress and relax — actively. Some suggestions include deep breathing, mindful meditation, yoga, taking a bath, journaling, and using guided imagery.
Unburden Yourself from Always Saying “Yes”
A major cause of undue stress, and therefore poor mental well-being, is the inability to say “no” to people. Many of us are ingrained with a sense of duty to the point that taking time for ourselves and telling someone else “no” seems rude or worse. The fact is that people with the best mental health are able to focus on themselves and not feel obligated to do things for other people all the time. If you struggle with this, saying “no” to people may burden you with a sense of guilt. It takes time to let go of this. Try some strategies like saying “I’m flattered you would ask” and “I’m sorry but I am taking some time for myself.”
Strong Body = Strong Mind
The mind-body connection is well-known, but we often talk about how the brain affects the body. While this is certainly true, what’s discussed less frequently is how the body affects the mind. What you eat and your overall physical health plays a huge part in how you feel, mentally. Taking the time to cook and exercise is practicing self-care! Exercise not only releases happy chemicals like endorphins in the brain, boosting your mood, it also may help you be more productive at work, more creative, and put you in a better position to relax. All of these things decrease stress, and we already know how important that is to your overall mental health.
Whether you’re a busy professional looking to maximize your career, a mom or dad with a few kids, or anyone else with a packed schedule, it’s hard to take time for yourself and practice the self-care your body and mind truly need. Train yourself not to feel guilty about it and to instead make self-care a part of your everyday life.
Guest post by Brad Krause from SelfCaring.info