Happy Wednesday, friends! If you didn’t already know, this week (May 3-9) marks the 70th annual Mental Health Week! To celebrate this event and continue the conversation surrounding mental health, we thought it’d be helpful to share the benefits of practicing self-care and ways to incorporate it in your everyday life. But before we do that, let’s dive into what self-care means, why it’s important, and how it can support a positive mental state.
What is Self-Care?
In the words of Katie Reed, "Self-care is giving the world the best of you, instead of what’s left of you." Essentially, practicing self-care gives us a way of coping with daily stressors that stem from either our personal or work lives, which we all experience. And we’re here to tell you that whether it’s sliding into a warm bubble bath on a Friday evening or baking your Sunday afternoon away, whatever your definition of self-care is, do just that. Take the time to do what you love and what your mind and body not only need, but also deserve. And before we share some of our favorite practices, let’s dive into some benefits of self-care, first.
Benefits of Practicing Self-Care
Boosts Physical Health
Many associate self-care with emotional wellbeing and while it’s a primary benefit (and one we’ll be touching on), self-care can support your physical health, too.
Did you know that when your body is at ease, it triggers a reaction known as the relaxation response? When your body experiences prolonged periods of stress, it goes into “fight or flight” mode (a term many are familiar with, particularly those who suffer from chronic stress). The relaxation response, which is the opposite of the acute stress response (AKA “fight or flight” mode), occurs when the body no longer perceives danger and feels threatened. During this time, the body returns to a normal heart rate, blood pressure, and hormonal levels.
When your mind is continually plagued by stress, it can wreak havoc on your heart (increasing the risk of a heart attack), weaken your immune system (leading to frequent colds), trigger digestive upset, and even speed up the aging process. So, what does this mean for self-care? Simply put, when your mind is at ease, so is your body. And if practicing self-care is what helps keep us mentally groovy, then we’re all for it.
Helps You Nurture Others
Taking care of others is nearly impossible when you’re not in the best shape yourself, but practicing self-care can change that.
When you continue to put the needs of others before your own, you run the risk of burnout, which is common for those who often take on more responsibilities than they can handle or those who allow themselves to carry the burdens of others. Biting off more than you can chew or putting the stress of someone else’s emotional turmoil onto yourself can do more harm than you think, so it’s important to set boundaries and invest some of the energy you put into others into yourself by practicing self-care and making yourself a priority. And remember that sometimes, by caring for yourself, you’re caring for others, too.
Improves Emotional Wellbeing
Same Ben, same. But it’s okay if you have a lot of feelings. In fact, practicing self-care can improve your emotional wellbeing.
With increased emotional self-care comes increased self-awareness. It also allows you to recognize how you respond to certain situations and others and what triggers certain behaviors. When you’re emotionally self-aware, it invites you to have open communication with yourself and provides a path for developing a positive and effective way to express your emotions. Whether it’s taking the time to express daily affirmations and/or positive self-talk or seeking the advice and guidance from a therapist, practicing self-care to strengthen your mental state will contribute to not only current thoughts towards your emotional health and happiness, but long-term feelings of wellbeing, too.
So, what exactly are some ways to take care of ourselves?
Ways to Practice Self-Care
There are many self-care practices that exist, but these are just a few of our simple favorites!
Write in a Journal
They often say that when in doubt to write it out and that goes for self-care, too.
Is there something that’s troubling you? Put it on paper. Is there something you’d like to express gratitude for? Put it on paper. Is there something you’re looking forward to and/or working towards? Put. It. On. Paper. Writing out our emotions helps us to disconnect, slow down, count our blessings, and allows us to shift our focus and perspective on things that truly matter. And if you struggle with any mental illness or even expressing your emotions in a healthy way, journaling can be an effective self-care practice. There’s a reason The Five-Minute Journal can be spotted on the shelves of many self-care bloggers and YouTubers.
Breathe in. Breathe out. Repeat.
Setting aside some time in your day or even week for meditation can give your mind and body the self-care boost it most likely needs. The great thing about meditation is that it doesn’t require any equipment or even a lot of space. All you need is a quiet spot and you’re good to go! Meditation has been proven to help alleviate stress and keep negative, intrusive thoughts at bay, so it’s an easy, laidback option for those in need of some calming downtime. If you’re looking for some mindfulness apps to download, you can check out a short and sweet list of some popular (and free) ones here.
Make Time for Proper Sleep
Have you ever had the sudden urge to fall back asleep a couple of hours into starting your day? Yeah, us too.
If you didn’t already know, sleep is one of the most effective ways to keep your stress levels in check. Simply put, when you’re not getting enough shuteye, your mind and body are more susceptible to feeling the effects of stress. You’re also more likely to experience brain fog (the inability to focus), changes in mood, poor coordination, and even a decrease in sex drive. When you do, however, follow a consistent sleep schedule and experience solid slumbers, these areas and more are significantly improved. If you’re looking for increased energy, the ability to act more attentively and think more creatively, and a better, relaxed, and more positive attitude, try turning in at a decent hour. And we can’t forget that better sleep leads to brighter skin, too!
Simply put, self-care is not a luxury but rather, a necessity. And remember that time taken to relax is time taken to reclaim yourself. With that said, we hope you enjoyed learning about how proper self-care supports a positive mental state and will take our self-care practices in mind when you’re in need of some downtime. Follow us on socials and let us know what’s your go-to method of relaxation. We’d love to hear from you. Until next time!