How self-care benefits your mental health

Self-care is so much more than just mani-pedis, essential oils, and bubble baths. Self-care is purposefully and proactively using all aspects of wellness, i.e. physical, emotional, social, spiritual, vocational, financial, intellectual, environmental, to enhance long-lasting contentment. Taking care of your whole well-being promotes an overall satisfaction that you’re taking steps to better your life, and you are doing it all on your own. It’s empowering! And self-empowerment reminds you that you are not helpless, things are not hopeless, and you are worth every bit of your own love.

On the flip side … what happens when you’ve fallen into a deep depression? Depression is crippling. You look well on the outside but you’re dying on the inside. It drains you of all of your energy. It feels like a strong force has taken captive of your heart and soul. All you can do is hold on and take it one day at a time.

When I’m in a state of depression, I can’t get out of bed, take a shower, brush my teeth and feed myself, and have absolutely no interest in doing fun activities. It’s almost impossible to practice self-are.

So what do you do when you’re too depressed to take care of yourself? Do just one act of self-care. Just one. That’s it. It can be as simple as just getting out of bed!

When you do one thing one day at a time, self-care becomes a little less daunting. At least it is for me!

Here are some reasons why self-care is beneficial to mental health.

  • Staying active boosts your mood.
  • A healthy diet will give you long-lasting energy.
  • Having a hobby can relieve stress.
  • Spending more time with family and friends makes you feel loved.
  • Practicing gratitude helps you appreciate everything in your life, improves your mindset and how you view the world.

Incorporating self-care as a lifestyle can strengthen your resilience so that when life throws you a curveball, you are better equipped to handle it.

Practicing Mindfulness and Meditation is Self-care.

Self-care is a challenge for someone living with depression

Have you ever felt knocked down over and over again until you’ve reached your breaking point? Life is hard. You can only be strong for so long. If this is you, you’ve come to the right place.

It’s not that we don’t know how to take care of ourselves. The motivation to do so is missing. It’s as if we’re just treading water, trying to get by from one day to the next. Eventually, self-care becomes too exhausting and overwhelming at the same time. The desire is gone. It feels like a battle we just can’t win.

Wrong. Don’t believe the lies you’re telling yourself. You can win.

But you don’t have to go it alone. There is no shame in asking for help. Seeking a mental health professional is a sign of courage. It’s a sign of self-care for your mental wellness.

This is when the healing begins. Are you ready?

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. —

How to achieve some peace of mind

Peace of mind is not just in the “being;” It’s also in the “doing.”

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What makes me happy?
  • What activities do I enjoy doing?
  • Who are the people who make me laugh and enjoy life?
  • Who are the people who bring out the best in me?
  • What are three things I’m grateful for?

Then, have at it! Whatever it is, do more of it. It can be just as simple as being outdoors, in nature, and basking in some sunshine.

Whoever it is, be around them more! Fyi, texting isn’t enough. Face-to-face will have a greater impact on your mental health.

My peace of mind comes from finding the joy in everything. This takes practice of course! Joy isn’t easy to find when you’re currently experiencing anxiety and depression. I had to teach myself that for each bad thought, I’d replace it with a good thought. There is always a flipside.

How to achieve some peace of mind? Here’s my list!

  • Incorporate consistent and healthy self-care habits.
  • Go out and get some sun.
  • Spend time in nature.
  • Do something you love.
  • Get some “me time.”
  • Pamper yourself.
  • Practice gratitude often and daily.
  • Have fun with friends.
  • Go on a road trip.
  • Think only of good things.

This list is what works for me. It isn’t exhaustive nor exclusive. Personalize it to suit your own uniqueness. Only you would know what makes you happy.

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