While the self-care craze is somewhat new, the benefits of self-care have been well-documented for a long time. We all have a baseline for taking care of ourselves, yet sometimes it’s easy to fall into a routine where you do the bare minimum for survival. The term “self-care” has medical origins; it describes patterns of behavior that contribute to a healthy lifestyle, and consequently help reduce the amount of doctor’s care needed. However, the advantages of self-care go beyond the physical. Below, find out what self-care is, how to practice it, and some of the ways you can expect to see your mental health improve.
What Self-Care Is
Self-care may seem like a self-explanatory idea, but it’s essential to know how to tell if what you’re doing is truly an act of taking care of yourself. Mindless indulgence won’t give you the same benefits, so keep that in mind when you plan self-care activities. While a night out with your friends having many margaritas might be fun, if your physical health takes the toll the next day, it’s not really self-care. Ensure your self-care routine feels like an investment in yourself rather than a way to numb out negative feelings.
Self-Care Activities to Try
If you’ve never practiced self-care before, there are some easy ways to start. Just make sure you are intentional and carve out time for yourself. Don’t let other priorities stop you from having time allotted to self-care.
Setting boundaries is an excellent way to start caring for yourself. You can try creating a “no” list, where you say no to certain things that don’t serve your mental health. Or, say no to certain friends or family that tend to drain you rather than replenish your energy.
When you choose a self-care activity, remember to select things that will cater to you mentally, physically, socially, and emotionally. Take good care of your body by getting enough sleep and exercise. Plan activities with friends and family—even if they must be virtual. Try meditation or consider therapy to help work through emotions. Find a relaxing hobby like playing music, creating art, or gardening. Whatever you choose, it doesn’t have to be expensive or time-consuming, but it does have to be something you can commit to doing long-term.
The Mental Health Benefits of Self-Care
Self-care benefits are multifaceted, meaning that even if you are taking care of your physical body by staying active, your mental health will improve. When you start taking better care of yourself, you may find that you’re also better at dealing with stress. This is because self-care usually gives you a reprieve from whatever is stressing you out—whether that’s your job, partner, or family. Having the chance to clear your head is crucial to stress management.
Self-care can also improve the quality of your relationships. The reason why is simple: when you take better care of yourself, you have the energy to show up more for the people you love. If you do self-care together, it can also contribute to more feelings of connection and empathy. Without it, your relationships with your loved ones and even your boss could suffer. Studies have shown that exercise helps you better regulate your emotions, which is crucial to healthy relationships. Healthy relationships and mental health are inextricably linked, too.
You may experience less anxiety with a self-care routine, especially if it involves meditation. Meditation can help stop repetitive, negative thoughts from dominating your life, and it can clear space for more positive, calming ones. Meditation also can elicit a relaxation response, which effectively mitigates anxiety.
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