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4 min read

Need Help With Self-Care? How to Prioritize Yourself and Boost Mental Health

a man who needs self-care

Practicing self-care is a common refrain in media across the board, and while many of us spend a lot of time and energy intending to practice self-care, fewer of us follow through. In this article, we'll share why self-care is important, and offer tips and strategies for building and maintaining a robust self-care practice.

Why Is Self-Care Important?

Most of us understand that self-care is a good thing, and that we should take some time for ourselves in this busy world. However, we are often buried under work stress, family obligations, and other challenges, and self-care is typically what gets lost in the shuffle. What may not be as clear are the specific benefits of self-care. By understanding just HOW self-care can benefit us, we may become more inclined to prioritize it. Self-care can:

  • Help you connect with yourself
  • Create joy and greater life satisfaction
  • Help manage stress
  • Decrease symptoms of anxiety and depression
  • Improve physical health markers
  • Support mental health
  • Promote self-compassion and increase self-esteem

How to Create a Self-Care Routine

A self-care practice may seen out of the realm of possibility if you think of it as massages and bubble baths, and weekend trips. While these activities can be considered self-care, there is so much more to what self-care really encompasses. The truth is that small self-care practices can be built into everyday life.

Prioritize the self-care activities you enjoy the most

There are a wide range of activities that fall under self-care, and it would be almost impossible for anyone to do them all. Examine the possibilities (we share a list below), and decide which you enjoy, will benefit you most, or are most accessible. Start with one or two, and build on as you can.

Be realistic in your expectations

Start where you are. If you are barely getting five hours of sleep a night, it may be unrealistic to make 8 hours a goal to begin with. Trying to get enough sleep can begin with smaller shifts, like creating a better sleep environment, avoiding screens for an hour before bed, and trying to go to bed at the same time every night.

Track progress and adjust your self-care plan as needed

Take one or two of your self-care practices and keep track of them in a planner or using an app. This can help you better determine goals, and give yourself credit when your me time takes precedence.

Types of Self-Care and Ways to Implement Them

The following self-care strategies are listed under three different categories: mental self-care, physical self-care, and emotional self-care. Some of these self-care practices could easily be categorized under more than one of these headings, as spending time with these activities can reduce stress, improve physical health, and support well-being.

Mental Self-Care

Take a break. Many of us work long hours and can lose ourselves in our job. Take mindful breaks from your workload at least once every hour, and every 20 minutes ideally. Stretch a bit and give your eyes a break if you're looking at a screen or doing close work.

Exercise your brain. As we get older, our brain can lose the ability to make quick connections to new material, but we never stop learning. By keeping our minds busy with new information (reading, hobbies, brain games, etc.) we can keep sharp into old age.

Get adequate sleep. Sleep is essential for brain health. During sleep, the glymphatic system in our brain comes online and essentially cleans out fatigue toxins. Poor sleep has been linked to dementia as we age, and improving our sleep time and quality can be a protective measure against this. To improve sleep you can:

  • Stick to a schedule - try go to sleep and wake up around the same time every day
  • Keep your bedroom cool, dark, and only for sleep
  • Avoid screens for an hour before bedtime, or put them in dark mode

Physical Self-Care

Self-care from a physical health perspective can include different ways to take care of your body. Many of these can also have a positive impact on mental health and well-being.

Exercise regularly. Regular exercise (getting at least an hour of moderate physical activity on most days of the week) can improve blood pressure, help prevent heart disease, reduce stress, strengthen the immune system, and increase overall health.

Eat healthy. Try to eat a wide range of nutritious meals with protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats. Don't skip meals, avoid drugs, and try to limit alcohol consumption.

Get regular medical check ups. Make appointments for yearly check ups with your medical provider. If you have high blood pressure or other health challenges, treat your conditions by following your doctor's advice.

Emotional Health and Self-Care

Your emotional health can be improved by self-care time, as well. While a self-care plan may not eliminate anxiety altogether, it can improve mental health and well-being.

Get outside. Fresh air has a number of benefits. Studies on forest bathing (getting outside and enjoying a green space) have shown increased positive emotions, and improved health markers, such as a decrease in blood pressure and cortisol levels.

Breathing exercises. Regulating your breathing by practicing deep breathing relaxation exercises a few minutes a day can help to manage stress and train you to focus on the present moment.

Practice gratitude. Keeping a gratitude journal can be an excellent way to remind yourself of the good things in your life. Self-care time can include a few minutes per day to either write down or meditate on what you are thankful for in your life.

Emotional Support as Self-Care

Despite the best of intentions, stress can get overwhelming at times, especially during times of life transition. This can be even more apparent if you have an existing mental health condition like anxiety or depression. Self-care practices are useful, but sometimes we need someone to provide emotional support. Peer support or connection with friends and family members can be helpful, or even joining local support groups. In cases where you need a little more guidance, a licensed therapist can help.

Supporting Self-Care Practices in Brooklyn

Self-care tips and building a self-care plan can help with stress management, but sometimes it can be difficult to prioritize sleep, manage difficult moments in daily life, and take the time to focus on taking care of yourself.

At Williamsburg Therapy Group, our team of doctoral-level individual psychotherapists offers both online and in-person appointments that can help you focus on creating healthier behaviors in your life.

Give us a call today and our patient coordinator will help you find the right Brooklyn therapist to identify challenges to self-care, and offer tools that can make a significant impact on reducing stress. Increase happiness, reduce fatigue, and potentially live a longer life by making your wellness a priority.

Book a Therapy Session in Brooklyn Today

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