We talk a lot about the benefits of self-care. It’s good for physical health and mental health, and it makes you feel good. But sometimes it can be hard to know where to start, and exactly how to take care of your mental health.
Self-care, the healthy practices that reduce stress and maintain and enhance your physical and mental wellbeing, releases feel-good hormones. You can implement it no matter how you’ve been feeling, and it can be whatever you want. You don’t have to do the same thing twice and can tweak your self-care plan depending on how you’re feeling. There’s just one “rule” for self-care: Whatever you choose to do should refuel you and not make you feel more stressed or anxious.
The Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) curriculum lays out two types of self-care strategies — physical, and mental and emotional.
Physical self-care refers to living habits that can also impact your mental health – things like healthy eating, regular exercise and getting enough sleep. Our mental health and physical health are closely related, so when you take care of your body you are also taking care of your mind. You can try activities like hiking, cooking a new healthy recipe, jogging or adjusting your nighttime routine — they’re all physical self-care.
Mental and emotional self-care refers to healthy coping mechanisms that help you manage daily stress and, if necessary, the added dimensions of a mental health or substance use challenge. Some common and helpful ones are expressing your feelings, connecting with supportive people, deep breathing, journaling and meditation. How you interact with others can be self-care, too. Creating healthy boundaries can benefit mental wellbeing and reduce stress. Participating in appropriate programs and community groups can also provide mental and emotional wellbeing supports on your recovery journey.
No matter what you choose, self-care should bring you joy and reduce your stress. If it feels like a chore or obligation, or it no longer helps, it’s OK to switch it up. Let yourself find activities you like doing alone as well as things to do with friends and family. Engage in pursuits that are healthy and will benefit your mental health in the long run. And most importantly, remember that self-care isn’t selfish. You can – and should — #BeTheDifference for yourself.
For more about self-care, check out our other blogs:
Mental Health First Aid USA. (2020). Mental Health First Aid. Washington, DC: National Council for Mental Wellbeing.