Self-care in relation to mental health

By the Counselling Department

Self-care is an aspect of our lives that is vital in all spheres. Our optimum performance as human beings is compromised by inadequate self-care or lack of it thereof. This is because its deficiency is bound to affect our physical, social and psychological wellbeing. Often times, people use self-care and psychological health interchangeably and this can be attributed to how adversely lack of self-care affects or could affect our psychological wellbeing.

Self-care is the mindful sparing of time to take care of your mental, physical, social and emotional wellbeing. It is often what is missing in the life of someone who is busy and stressed. You don’t have to wait to experience burnout to practice self-care, you can intentionally incorporate self- care activities in your daily or weekly activities to avert burnout. Self-care entails putting your needs first and taking time to rest, reflect, refill, and refresh oneself. Taking stock of your own needs, aspirations, health, and successes is part of self-care, as is taking time to nourish and nurture all of who you are.

What does self-care look like?

  • Getting adequate sleep is crucial when it comes to self-care and knowing how to rest your body. An adult needs 7-9 hours of sleep every night.
  • Eating well and healthy. Ensure you eat a balanced diet in the right portions. Incorporating a healthy and balanced diet in your daily routine ensures you have sufficient nutrition throughout the day that translates to better health.
  • Knowing who you are and your limits: This means knowing when you are doing more than what your body is used to and knowing how to slow down. If there is need to scale up, you do it in a progressive way hence giving your body room to adaopt to the changes.
  • Self-awareness; Taking time to get to know yourself better is an example of self-care. Self-care is becoming aware of one's own temperament and attempting to anticipate one's own particular limits. Identifying your temperament and triggers and making plans to address them could be beneficial in managing your day today life.
  • Identifying what you enjoy doing including leisure activities and incorporating them in your weekly or daily activities. For example, playing a sport, instrument, singing, journaling, going to the gym etc. These activities play a role in unwinding and in turn help in de-stressing.
  • Practicing mindfulness; Mindfulness techniques can aid us in focusing our attention and observing our thoughts and feelings without passing judgment. It can also assist in the regulation of emotions, as well as the reduction of stress, anxiety, and sadness.
  • Use of relaxation exercises and/or practice meditation. You can do these exercises at any time of the day.
  • Creating time for your loved ones. Work life balance is important when it comes to self-care. A good example would be having a culture of having dinner together with your family.
  • It also entails taking time to appreciate and cherish yourself. There is only one of you, and you are the expert on yourself.
  • Laugh more; purpose to be happy.
  • Seeking therapy for any psychological related issues.
  • Lastly, be intentional about practicing self-care. Do not just let it happen by chance when it happens. Incorporate it in your itinerary.

Benefits of self-care
It helps declutter your life by getting rid of unnecessary thoughts, habits, stressors that would otherwise weigh down on your spheres of health.

Boosts your self-confidence; Practicing self-care often results in one feeling good about themselves. Many people who are dealing with mental, emotional, or physical issues can boost their self-confidence by practicing self-care. Self-confidence that is in good shape can provide several benefits, including motivation.

Established routine and consistency; when self-care is practiced, mental stability and peace can be reached. This is due to the fact that having a steady schedule is reassuring. It gives you peace of mind because you know how your day will unfold. “Predictable, repeated routines are comforting and can lower anxiety,” according to a Piedmont Healthcare article. They'll also assist you in taking charge of your day and, as a result, you'll be more productive.

How you deal with your mental health issues can either benefit or hinder your mental health. Temporary happiness does not imply long-term happiness. It's natural to have good days where you feel great about yourself, but it's also natural to have bad days where you feel depressed and unmotivated. The manner you choose to deal with these situations is determined by how you care for yourself.

Remember the common adage “you cannot pour from an empty cup.” There is no better way to describe self-care than from this common adage. Agnes Wainman says, self- care does not take away from us but invigorates us instead. Remember your body needs to be taken care of for it to function effectively and efficiently. If you do not intentionally take care of it, it will force you to take a break when it ultimately breaks down.

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