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Why Self-Care is Essential to Improving Mental Health

Embrace the power self-care brings to one’s daily life with 5 tips to incorporate more in your daily life


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Exhaustion. Loss of energy. Skipping out on social invitations. Sound familiar? Today’s society values the go-go-go mentality. To feel productive and valued, we fill our days from morning to night with activities ranging from work deadlines to family obligations. This constant level of high activity increases stress and, if left unchecked, cannot be sustained long-term.

Self-care is a proven coping method to mitigate the effects of stress and constant activity. It can be defined as “any activity or action that bolsters our wellbeing in the present and promotes consistent good health in the long term.” These movements may change over time as we age and evolve into various stages of life. 

Experts believe implementing a daily regime of self-care techniques can reduce stress, increase self-confidence, and reduce the risk of exhaustion. Self-care gives us the opportunity to pause, take a deep breath, and manage the current stressors in our lives. “In fact, connecting mindfully with our breath is one of the easiest, quickest, and most reliable forms of self-care available to use,” says Dayna Kurtz, LCSW, CPT, a psychotherapist and author of Mother Matters. “Breathing techniques that enable a shorter inhale and longer exhale, for example, can trigger the parasympathetic nervous system, reducing cortisol, the stress hormone, and other ‘fight or flight’ responses.”

Filling up our mental, emotional, physical, or even social wellbeing “tanks” gives us the ability to take on the hardships in life with renewed energy. So why is practicing self-care not a more common practice?

Several dynamics impact society’s view of self-care. Our culture values the “hustle.” It hails those who work 50-plus hours per week as heroes. Domestic goddesses avoid sitting down on the couch to read or relax, fearing the criticism they might face for sitting down on the job. Those who consider self-care as a part of their daily routine voice concern that others may view their choice as selfish or indulgent. This negative mindset is enough to deter some from the practice of self-care. People equate self-care to extravagant, expensive getaways or to experiences only wealthy people can afford.

These misconceptions could not be further from the truth.

Refueling our tanks through self-care gives us the best shot at being our best selves for those we love, serve, and support. We cannot care for our friends, families, communities, or colleagues on an empty tank. “Self-care replenishes the energy that we expend each day and provides the boost we need to go higher,” says Sherita Gaskins, M.D., a retreat host for A Weekend For Me. “Self-care is a superpower! It is the secret sauce that positions us to achieve our next level.” The best part? Effective, meaningful self-care does not have to cost lots of money, nor does it need to take lots of time. “Self-care is spa days and bubble baths, but it is also positive self-talk and therapy,” says Gaskins. “Self-care is reading a good book, cuddling with your partner, or meditating.”

Here are five ways to incorporate a daily self-care routine:

  1. Take personal inventory—check in with yourself throughout the journey. Ask yourself what you need or what feels good or right to do next. Honor your body, mind, and spirit. Take notes on how you feel and what you learned during a particular experience or activity. Note taking does not need to be a full page in a diary. It can be a short phrase on a post-it or a quick add to your Notes app. Read the observations weekly. See how far you have come, and celebrate the small wins along the way.
  2. Personalize your time—make sure to personalize the self-care activities in which you participate. Think about the “tanks” that need filling. Identify which ones need attention first, then list different activities you enjoy within those areas. Recognize that your tanks and where they land in the priority list change depending upon life events. Acknowledge this and honor it as you continue your self-care journey.
  3. Book it in your calendar—this is not a new tip for implementing change into routine. It is one that proves effective repeatedly in completing tasks and attending events. Add the action items and deadlines from your self-care plan into your calendar. Make sure the time on your calendar shows “busy,” and do not accept invitations during these sacred times. Booking new activities into your calendar ensures you have budgeted the time, which reduces the stress of trying to find the time.
  4. Build a self-care plan—according to Gaskins, building a daily, weekly, monthly, and annual self-care plan provides a roadmap to accomplishing one’s goals. Without it, the goals become good intentions and individuals fall back into past habits. Actionable goals give clear focus to making a lifestyle change, giving direction to the new journey. Assigning due dates for the goals sets a deadline to accomplish. Putting a plan in place provides accountability and a way to gauge success.
  5. Grant yourself grace—starting something new comes with many opportunities to learn. You might not get it 100 percent correct the first few times. Keep trying. You might tackle a new activity in the financial arena only to find out it does not apply to your current situation—that’s ok. Keep trying. You might sign up for a weekly yoga class only to find out it conflicts with an upcoming work deadline. Consider taking the class after the deadline and replace yoga with another activity. Be kind to yourself, and keep a positive mindset. Each day, each week, and each month will become easier. Keep trying!
About The Author
Katy Peterson

Katy is an executive sales leader who has spent 15-plus years in the healthcare field. She lives in Milwaukee, WI, with her husband and five children. Katy has a passion for health and wellness, especially as it relates to nutrition and women’s health. When not working, she loves to spend time with family and friends. She also likes to read, write, and practice yoga.