At the start of a new year many of us are making resolutions to improve our physical health by exercising more or changing our diets. But how much thought are we giving to our mental health? By spending a little bit of time each day on self-care, you could help to improve and maintain your mental wellbeing.
Why is self-care so important?
All of us experience multiple pressures and demands on us every day, whether it’s from work, family life or relationships. And that’s without added stressors such as bereavement or loss, financial difficulties, health concerns or experiencing trauma. And in the midst of dealing with all of this we all too often put our own needs to the bottom of the pile.
The result of this can be that we start to feel exhausted and stressed out. Anxiety can creep in or existing symptoms of anxiety can increase. Depression can also worsen and our self-esteem and self-confidence can reduce.
How does self-care help?
Self-care can prevent or improve feelings or stress, anxiety or depression by giving you the time and space to do something that nurtures your mental, emotional or physical wellbeing.
This doesn’t mean getting all zen and meditating every day (although if that’s what you enjoy, go for it!). It means listening to your body and mind, and doing things to give yourself a break.
And if it seems daunting to fit yet another thing into the hectic demands of day-to-day life, be reassured that you don’t need to start finding large amounts of time to dedicate to it – although the more self-care you can do, the better. Even taking just a couple of minutes, a few times a day can make a big difference.
How can you practice self-care?
You can practice self-care in all sorts of ways simply by doing anything that’s about taking time for you. Here are some tips to get you started:
1) Move around and go outside
Go for a walk and get some fresh air
Do exercise, even if it’s just some simple stretches
Spend time in the garden
Have a picnic in the park
2) Pamper yourself
Have a bath or shower
Listen to your favourite record
Read a book
Watch a film
Cook your favourite dish
Buy yourself flowers
Wear comfy clothing
Put fresh sheets on your bed
Have a nap or get an early night
3) Be creative
Write in a journal
Paint, draw or colour in
Play a musical instrument
4) Take time out from stressors
Take regular breaks from your computer
Have time out from social media
Switch your phone off at a regular time each night
Chat with a friend
5) Relax and remind yourself you’re doing great
Close your eyes and imagine being in your favourite place
Practice mindfulness (try the Headspace or Calm apps)
Spend a couple of minutes focusing on your breathing
Stroke a pet
Praise yourself for something you’ve done that day
Write down things you’re grateful for
This is by no means an exhaustive list. Each of us has to find the things that relax us and that we enjoy (for instance buying flowers might be lovely for some but terrible if you’re a hay fever sufferer). But whatever it is you do, by taking the time for self-care you can improve your mental health.