It’s easy to get so caught up in life that we neglect to care for ourselves. We care for our jobs and our responsibilities, but we might skimp on our health and happiness. Here are some simple yet too often neglected self-care practices that you should prioritize for the benefit of your mental health.
Nutrition and Exercise
Taking care of your body means eating well and exercising. Studies show that eating healthy and exercising controls your weight, reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease, prevents diabetes and keeps you alive longer. Exercise also improves your mood and makes you stronger.
Contrary to popular belief, a healthy diet isn’t a diet at all. Instead, it’s the act of eating a nutritious variety of foods. We gain weight and get sick when we only give our bodies quick-fix foods, such as macaroni and cheese and microwave dinners. Your meal plan should include plenty of vegetables and fruits, whole grains, and lean proteins.
Physical activities that can boost your fitness level are walking, running, working out, and pretty much anything that gets you off the couch. More than just increasing your muscle mass, exercise can also help you wind down and sleep, which is important for reasons noted below.
Sleep and Relaxation
You’re probably not sleeping enough during the week, and that should change. Rest is imperative for brain function and physical health, but it also helps you get through the day. Some of us get cranky and moody when we don’t sleep enough. Others might not feel the short-term impact of sleep deprivation, but insufficient sleep can wear you down over time. Be the best self you can be by getting enough rest between the days. If you’re not sleeping well, it may be time to get a new mattress. A comfortable bed can make a huge difference in how well you sleep.
You can relax without sleeping by simply resting your body and mind, which is crucial for those suffering from mental health issues or recovering from addiction. Do something that calms you, whether it’s lying on a hammock, getting a massage, meditating, practicing yoga, soaking in a warm bath, listening to music, petting your dog, washing your hair, reading a book, or learning a new hobby.
Stress Reduction and Management
The opposite of relaxation is stress, and many of us tend to do that more often than not. It could be a high-stress job, the responsibilities of life and family, illness, financial woes, or even having anxiety over minor problems. When you start feeling overwhelmed or anxious, you can manage the stress by slowing down and focusing on taking deep breaths. Practice mindfulness and relaxation, get enough sleep and eat well.
Social Connections and Saying ‘No’
Loneliness can lead to depression, so spending time with others is a key tenet of self-care. Humans are social animals, and relationships are the cornerstone of our existence. Even the quietest, most introverted loner eventually craves time with others. Social connections have a positive benefit on our physical and mental health. Find your people and focus on making social connections with them instead of people who don’t make you feel good.
Self-care also means knowing when to say “no.” If you’re the type of person whose boundaries often get crossed or who has difficulty turning people down, practice a powerful “no” as a way to say “yes” to yourself. You might not want to do everything that is asked of you with work, family, or social situations. And that’s perfectly OK. Your time is valuable and should not be wasted.
You don’t have to always help others, do things they want you to do, or make self-sacrifices to keep everyone else happy. Your happiness matters, too. Since you train people how to treat you, your “no’s” will teach others to stop asking you for requests that make you uncomfortable.
Busybodies, people pleasers and those of you who aren’t motivated to take care of yourself: stop forgetting about you. As you embark on this journey to practicing self-care, you’ll find yourself getting happier and healthier. These boundaries that you’re learning to set will soon become a habit that you won’t want to break.
Photo Credit: Unsplash