When there’s so much going on in life, prioritizing self-care and your mental health can be challenging. Often, when you have to take care of other people, whether they be friends, family members, or children, your own needs can slip through the cracks.
But you have to care for yourself before you can care for other people. And if you overlook self-care for too long, you could end up hurting yourself.
What is Self Care?
Put simply, self-care involves acts where you care for yourself physically, emotionally, or mentally.
It’s essential to recognize that self-care looks different to different people. For some, it could involve reading a book. For others, it could include getting dressed in a nice outfit and going out to buy a soda.
Here are some ways you can practice self-care:
- Go for a walk
- Play with a pet
- Lay in bed
- Make a nice meal
- Order takeout
- Light candles
- Take a bath
- Watch your favorite TV show/movie
- Buy yourself a gift
- Practice affirmations
No matter what, at the heart of self-care is self-love. If you’re not sure how to care for yourself, consider how you prefer to care for others or how you prefer others to care for you. Then, try to work it into your self-care routine.
If you place a high value on physical touch, cuddling up with a hot tea to watch a movie may suit you. If quality time is important to you, try journaling or practicing quiet self-reflection.
Why is Self-Care Important?
Self-care is essential for many reasons. Practicing self-love results in a greater feeling of well-being, and it will help improve your mental health. It’s no surprise that taking time to meet your needs enables you to manage the stress of day-to-day life.
Self-Care Promotes a Healthy Mind and Body
If you suffer from poor mental health, self-care is all the more critical. Self-care can promote healthier thought patterns that aid in managing feelings associated with depression and anxiety. And while it is no replacement for a healthy diet or daily exercise regimen, self-care can promote physical health as well. By triggering a relaxation response, your body can calm down—and if you make it a habit, finding that place of zen becomes easier and easier.
Then, when more difficult challenges come your way, you’re more emotionally prepared. Instead of getting locked into a fight or flight response, you can manage stress and relax.
Self-Care Helps You Become a Better Caregiver
Plus, if you’re neglecting your own needs, it makes caring for others difficult. Suffering from unhappiness, resentment, and low self-esteem can make you emotionally unavailable. You could find yourself feeling easily irritated, upset, or even outright angry—at both the big and small stuff.
When your needs are being met, you’re more capable of helping other people meet their needs—whether that means being there for a friend during a breakup or helping children navigate and regulate their emotions.
How to Improve Mental Health with Self-Care
Everyone can manage their mental health and reach their full potential, but, for some people, it requires significant attention and dedication.
If you feel like practicing self-care is like a mountain where you just can’t reach the top—or if you just want more ideas on how to care for yourself better—know that there are countless ways out there for you to care for yourself.
It might help to group your needs into categories. First, you have your basic physical needs. This involves things like nutrition, hydration, hygiene, and home. Then, you have your emotional needs. This will include things like stability, validation, gratitude, appreciation, a sense of self-worth—the list goes on and on.
First, ask yourself some questions and consider what the answers are—and if you want those answers to change. Reflecting on these topics can show you what areas you most would like to improve.
Ask yourself these self-care reflection questions:
- Am I taking care of myself physically?
- Am I taking care of myself emotionally? How and how not?
- What are my favorite ways that I take care of myself? Do I want to do that more?
- In what areas do I feel neglected? How can I change that?
- What activities make me feel the most relaxed?
How to Practice Self-Love Affirmations (Even When It Feels Hard)
One of the best ways to boost your mental health is through self-care is with self-love affirmations. Like with self-care, there are thousands of affirmations you can do, and what works best for you may be unique.
No matter what you’re struggling with, affirmations can help rewire your brain towards being more supportive, encouraging, and caring towards yourself.
Here are some examples you can try.
Affirmations for when you feel sad:
- I am loved.
- I am valuable as I am.
- I am worthy.
- I respect myself.
- I love myself.
- I am capable.
- I am enough.
Affirmations for when you have anxiety:
- Everything is as it should be.
- There is enough time.
- I can and will do it.
- I am safe.
- My family and friends love me and accept me.
For every piece of negative self-talk you have, there is an affirmation you can repeat to combat it. Saying affirmations like a mantra is an easy way to practice self-care even when it feels hard to love yourself.