Why self-care plays a vital role in mental health

Self-care is so much more than just mani-pedis, essential oils, and bubble baths. Self-care is the act of purposefully and proactively using aspects of wellness – i.e. physical, emotional, social, spiritual, vocational, financial, intellectual, environmental – to benefit your health and quality of life.

Taking care of your whole well-being also promotes an overall satisfaction that you did it all on your own. It’s empowering. Self-empowerment reminds you that you are not helpless, things are not hopeless, and you are worth it!!!

But, you may ask, “What do I do if I’m too unmotivated to take better care of myself? Depression and anxiety can cause this. Both can be equally debilitating and suck all the motivation out of anyone afflicted.

There was one instance when I was severely traumatized after a major disaster that displaced my husband and me. It left me so psychologically and emotionally compromised that all motivation for self-care was gone and replaced by a frantic desperation to survive, even though the incident was over and I was safe.

Once I succumbed to anxiety and depression, I forgot all about taking care of myself. But that only made matters worse. I developed a life-threatening illness that stemmed from accumulated stress and lack of self-care. Fortunately, I was blessed with a second chance – only, now, I know better. Self-care plays a big role in my mental well-being. I vow never take my life for granted ever again.

Like everyone else, there are good days and bad days, of course. This time, though, I take advantage of my good days to do healthy things for myself as much as possible so that it becomes a part of me and my daily routine. Then, on bad days, when just simply getting up in the morning is a struggle, I try to do at least one simple act of self-care because I know there would be repercussions if I don’t. I learned my lesson the hard way!

In such cases, when even the thought of self-care seems inexplicably daunting, I recommend doing just one that day – one act of self-care you know you can handle. Just one. That’s it! Do it at your own pace, without expectations or judgment.

Start out by keeping things simple such as eating just one healthy meal, or going for a short, leisurely walk, or taking an extra long shower. Make sure it’s doable and achievable as to not overwhelm you while you’re going through a hard time. You’ll most likely not give up if it’s something small and simple. You can bump it up gradually until self-care becomes habit. The point is that you’re doing something – no matter how little it may seem. That alone is self-care.

Here are some examples of self-care and how they can support your mental health. These represent some parts of wellness that make up the whole.

Self-care for your body

Whoever said “food is medicine” got it right. Depriving your body of essential nutrients can cause the kind of fatigue that leads to depression.

  • A healthy, well-balanced diet gives your body the fuel it needs to keep your mind active, alert, and focused.
  • Nutrient-dense foods prevent chronic inflammation which can trigger physical pain and fatigue. They also help your body ward off diseases.

Staying physically active doesn’t necessarily mean working out at the gym. Exercise can come in different forms — like dancing, playing a sport, gardening, or anything that keeps you moving more and sitting less. But it’s important that you choose the kind of physical activity you know you will enjoy. You are more likely to stick to it if you like it.

Spiritual self-care

Spiritual health is closely linked with mental health as it tends to influence the way you think, your attitude and outlook in life.

  • Having relentless faith in God promotes hope and perseverance.
  • Volunteering your time to a worthy cause makes you feel good knowing you’re making a difference in your community.
  • Provides a sense of purpose, gratitude, and appreciation for life.
  • Helping the less fortunate takes your mind off of yourself and your troubles.
  • You begin to see the bigger picture: You’re not alone in the universe. You’re not the only one who is struggling.

Financial self-care

Learning to manage your money well promotes a sense of control over your life, thus, easing the burden of anxiety. Here are some tips:

  • Establish a monthly budget to stay on track with your finances.
  • Learn about your spending habits and how to correct them.
  • Pay attention to how much money is coming in and going out to ensure you’re bringing in more income than incurring debt.

Vocational self-care

You can avoid stress, anxiety, and depression when your job …

  • Grants you an adequate work/life balance.
  • You feel safe, free from harrassment and bullying.
  • You’re treated fairly in compensation, opportunities and as a person.
  • There is room for growth.
  • You’re comfortable with the pace and workload.

Social connectedness

Taking time out to spend quality time with others, especially those closest to you and supportive of you …

  • Builds a stronger bond and sense of belonging.
  • Helps relieve stress.
  • Makes you feel loved.
  • Takes off some of the weight you’ve been carrying on your shoulders.

Perhaps most importantly, incorporating self-care as a lifestyle can strengthen your resilience so that when life throws you a curveball, you’re better equipped to handle it.

— As always, consult with your psychotherapist. —

Published by Micaela Christina

A gen-xer who knows a thing or two about the hard knocks of life.

3 thoughts on “Why self-care plays a vital role in mental health

  1. Wonderful post. Thank you for all the examples of the different things we can do for ourselves during such trying times with our mental health

    Like

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