Many of us spend a lot of time thinking about other people, whether it’s trying to do our best at work or nourishing relationships. These are worthy pursuits, but if you neglect yourself, you’re not only harming your own well-being, and you’re unable to be fully present for others as well. Self-care is essential for good mental health, and thankfully, it doesn’t have to be expensive or time-consuming. Self-care can be as simple as prioritizing necessary but often overlooked practices, like taking time to relax and getting enough sleep.
#1 Reducing Stress
Stress is a normal part of life that can creep up on us for many different reasons. Sometimes we’re spread too thin, or we have relationship struggles that weigh us down. Whatever it may be, the bumps in life lead to stress that you may feel physically through loss of sleep or muscle tension and emotionally through anxiety or depression. When your mental health suffers from stress, you suffer personally, and those around you are affected, too.
When stress inevitably happens, recognize that you need to care for yourself and do something to get more centered. Time spent in prayer helps reduce stress, and you may even want to try prayer along with meditation. BeliefNet describes prayer as time spent talking to God, while meditation is time spent listening to God, and when you do both together in one practice, it helps quiet your mind.
As much as you need tools for managing stress, you should also be proactive about preventing it. While some things that happen in life are out of our control, there are also situations, places, and people that are unhealthy and create undue stress. Being aware of these negative influences is especially important for anyone who is in recovery for addiction. When you’re in addiction recovery, it’s crucial that you care for your mental health by avoiding people and places that cause stress and could be triggers for relapse.
#2 Taking Time to Relax
Taking time to relax is another self-care practice that helps keep you more emotionally balanced. Keep in mind that it doesn’t have to be a long time. Just five minutes spent doing a relaxation exercise like focusing on your breath or repetitive prayer can change the course of your entire day.
Another way to be more relaxed in general is to do more of what you love. When stress is high, we tend to let go of the things that bring joy. If you find yourself falling into this rut, make it a habit to do more of what you enjoy daily. Self Magazine has a great idea for staying more relaxed—live each day more like you would on vacation. You don’t have to actually take a vacation to slow down and live life more fully and be more relaxed.
#3 Getting Enough Sleep
This tip may sound simple, but for too many people, sleep is the first thing to go when stress runs high. Not getting enough sleep is not only a result of poor mental health, but it can also be the cause of mental health problems. If you’re already feeling stressed, try relaxation techniques to calm your mind before bed. Once you break this cycle and are well rested, it’s easier to keep stress at bay.
#4 Saying “No”
Setting boundaries is one of the hardest self-care practices for many of us. We may feel like we’re doing the right thing by being agreeable, but taking on too much ends up putting a strain on ourselves and those we care about. Instead of always saying “yes,” only do what truly fits into your life. Verily Magazine frames this idea well by describing boundaries as guidelines that help direct you rather than something that’s limiting.
The best way to achieve better mental health is to make these self-care practices part of your daily life, rather than just using them as an intervention when times get tough. After all, you can’t pour from an empty vessel. Make it a personal goal to practice these four tips on an ongoing basis to keep yourself from feeling drained.
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