Self-care is an indispensable of maintaining good mental health. It is the practice of taking care of oneself, both physically and mentally, in order to promote overall well-being. Self-care is essential for preventing and managing mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, and stress.
Let’s start with the physical aspect. Taking care of one’s physical health across the board is important. This includes getting enough sleep, eating a balanced diet, and engaging in regular physical activity. These activities can help reduce the risk of developing mental health issues, as well as improve overall mood and energy levels. You can’t just eat right and exercise and sleep poorly. It’s not easy to get all the boxes checked, but it’s so important to keep trying. Lack of sleep and poor nutrition can exacerbate mental health issues, while regular exercise has been found to be as effective as medication in treating mild to moderate depression.
Another important aspect of self-care is managing stress. Stress is unfortunately a normal and inescapable part of life, but when it becomes chronic, it can take a toll on mental health. Engaging in activities that promote relaxation, such as yoga, meditation, and deep breathing, can help manage stress and improve overall well-being. Mindfulness practices can also be a great tool to manage stress and anxiety, as they help individuals to focus on the present moment and let go of worries and concerns.
Self-care also includes taking care of one’s emotional well-being. This can be done by engaging in activities that bring joy and satisfaction, such as hobbies and spending time with loved ones. It is also important to practice self-compassion and forgiveness, and to surround oneself with positive and supportive people. Building a support system of friends and family is crucial for mental health, as it allows individuals to share their thoughts and feelings with people who care about them, and offers a sense of belonging and community.
It’s also important to take care of one’s mental health by seeking professional help when necessary. This may include seeing a therapist or counselor, or taking medication for mental health issues. It’s important to be open to the idea that self-care may not be the only solution for mental health issues, and that seeking professional help is important for the well-being of the individual.
Another dimension of self-care is actually about how connected your “self” is. How you are enmeshed in the world matters a great deal since we’re such social creatures. Finding ways to take care of others and involvement in some form of community goes a long way. This can include volunteering, participating in community service, and supporting others who are struggling with mental health issues. Giving back to the community can bring a sense of purpose, and can also help to reduce stress and anxiety.
It’s important to note that self-care is an ongoing process and requires time, effort, and commitment. It’s not something that can be done in a day or a week, but rather it’s a lifestyle change that requires daily practice. It’s also essential to recognize that self-care looks different for everyone, and that what works for one person may not work for another. Therefore, it’s important to find self-care practices that resonate with you, and that you find enjoyable.
A metaphor we often work with is to think of Mental health as a “journey” – This metaphor emphasizes the idea that mental health is something that can be travelled through and overcome with time and effort.
Self-care is a constant touchstone throughout the Psychotherapy process. Your psychotherapist will often check in on their client’s sleep, diet, appetite, exercise, stress levels, and social functioning. The reason for this is that disruptions to self-care may indicate something is happening that you may not yet be conscious of. Your self-care is a Marker connected to how you experience yourself in the world. For example if we notice someone isn’t sleeping during sessions focused on their relationship, it’s worth exploring how the 2 are connected. We may find the low sleep due to work stress has led to a shorter fuse with their partner. Another example would be when someone wonders why they aren’t happy despite stating their self-care is fine. We may discover that while they may have a healthy routine, they are isolated, which is not something humans tolerate well. The awareness of how our self-care is impacted by stressors of our life helps us identify sources of stress, develop coping strategies and improve overall well-being.
In conclusion, self-care is essential for maintaining good mental health. It includes taking care of one’s physical health, managing stress, engaging in activities that bring joy and satisfaction, and seeking professional help when necessary. It’s also important to recognize that self-care is not just about taking care of oneself, but also about taking care of others and the community. By making self-care a priority, individuals can improve their overall well-being and reduce the risk of developing mental health issues.