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Why is Self-Care Important for Mental Health? (+ 7 Tips to Take Care of Your Mind)

self-care tips for mental health

When you think of the word “self-care,” what comes to mind? Perhaps it’s a mid-afternoon nap, a special treat, or spending some time reading a book in the sunlight. Maybe it’s a trip to the spa, a jog around the neighborhood, or a good morning stretch. While these are all great examples of self-care, self-care is so much more than these acts alone. By and large, self-care is a commitment to yourself to do things that will make you feel good and live well. And, according to national sources, practicing self-care can play a major role in maintaining your mental health. Self-care is especially important for recovery from mental health disorders like depression and anxiety.

If you are struggling with mental health issues, such as persistent sadness, stress, or worry, there are steps you can take today to improve your overall well-being. Spending just 30 minutes each day practicing self-care – doing something for you – can significantly improve your symptoms.

Let’s explore the importance of self-care for your mental health, and offer some tips for incorporating self-care into your daily routine.

Why is Self-Care Important for Mental Health?

Self-care is important for everyone, struggling or not, to stay in tune and connected with themselves. In a world where it’s easy to work long hours, get lost in the bustle, and put others’ needs first, we need to take time to check-in with our own bodies and minds, as well as find relief from everyday pressures.

Self-care is important because it allows us to escape the demands of others and focus on our own needs for a period of time. It gives us time and space to refresh, recharge, and recover so that we can look, feel, and be the best we can be. This can enhance our productivity, self-esteem, as well as relationships. Practicing self-care also helps to eliminate the risk of burnout, resentment, and mental health struggles like depression or anxiety.

While everyone should practice self-care, it is especially important for those who are struggling with mental illness. Carving out time for self-care helps these individuals manage their symptoms, build resilience, and cope with everyday stressors. It also keeps these individuals in close touch with their minds, and more aware of their needs, so that when they are feeling off-base, they can turn to self-care practices to unwind and relax.

Clinical studies have shown that engaging in self-care practices has the potential to alleviate anxiety and depression, improve concentration, minimize anger, increase happiness, elevate energy levels, and reduce stress. Self-care acts also can contribute to better physical health, with research linking self-care routines to a reduced risk of heart disease, stroke, and cancer.

7 Self-Care Tips for Mental Health

Now that we understand the mental health benefits of self-care, it’s time to put it into practice. In light of Mental Health Month, we encourage you to carve out time to prioritize yourself (and model self-care for your loved ones, too!). Here are some tips on how to do so.

  1. Exercise.

The National Institute on Mental Health (NIMH) suggests that just 30 minutes of walking everyday has the power to boost your mood and improve your health. And, as we found in our recent article, The Effects of Exercise on Mental Health, physical activity can be an effective means of treating anxiety, depression, and other mental health symptoms. So, next time you’re feeling bad or overwhelmed, try to go for a run, hit the gym, practice yoga, or take a hike. Moving your body in any capacity can add up to many benefits on your mental well-being.

  1. Drink water and eat well.

As simple as it may sound, staying hydrated and nourishing your body with healthy meals is, in fact, self-care. Nutritious foods, combined with adequate water intake, can improve your energy levels and enhance your focus or concentration throughout the day. Meanwhile, for some, engaging in any substance use or consuming caffeine can actually negatively their mood.

  1. Prioritize your sleep.

Clinical research has found that sleep deprivation is a common risk factor for mental health issues. The brain needs adequate sleep to function properly—when sleep is regularly disrupted, the brain cannot regulate moods and emotions as effectively. So, as you begin to prioritize self-care for your mental health, it’s important to remember that sleep is a core part of that. Try to stick to a regular sleep schedule, and reduce activities that might disrupt your sleep (such as doom scrolling in bed).

  1. Set goals and boundaries for yourself.

Goal setting is an essential part of recovery from mental health disorders, but it can be essential for anyone who needs help prioritizing their days. Setting goals allows you to establish exactly what you want to accomplish, and take steps to achieve that within a reasonable timeframe. Through goal setting, you can decide what’s important to you and what can wait until another day. This, in turn, allows you to set boundaries – helping you avoid feelings of being overwhelmed – and feel more accomplished at the day’s end. 

  1. Focus on gratitude and positivity.

Whether you are in school or working, facing mental health issues or not, it’s easy to get lost amidst everyday chaos. Sometimes, negative feelings or intrusive thoughts can get in the way of happiness and fulfillment. As self-care becomes a priority, it’s important that you also practice self-awareness and make active, ongoing choices to find the positive aspects of life. A counselor or therapist can help with this, as well as something as simple as a gratitude journal which you can implement today. Journaling what you are grateful for, at the end of each day, allows you to remember the positive events and individuals in your life.

  1. Prioritize relaxation and wellness.

Many mental health recovery programs incorporate wellness activities like meditation, yoga, and mindfulness—and for good reason. These practices help to foster positive thinking and mental clarity, as well as reduce stress, for many individuals. Examples of relaxing self-care activities include meditating, yoga classes, breathing exercises, and massage, as well as less obvious activities like spending time outdoors, reading a book, and listening to music. Think about what relaxes you and make that a part of your daily or weekly routine.

  1. Ask for help when you need it.

If you are struggling with difficult mental health symptoms, it can feel scary to ask for help. However, therapy is becoming more and more common as people have widely accepted its benefits. It’s estimated that roughly one in every three Americans see a therapist. Whether you have a diagnosed mental health disorder, or just need help navigating a difficult time in your life, professional therapy can be an invaluable tool for you. Learn about the benefits of therapy here. Or, if you are ready to seek help, do not hesitate to reach out to Turnbridge for guidance. 

Starting Your Self-Care Journey

Self-care is important for everyone, but how its accomplished will vary person to person. As you think about prioritizing self-care for yourself, think about what makes you feel good, what you enjoy, and what brings you peace of mind. 

Not only does self-care benefit you, it can also benefit those around you. For example, if you are a parent, incorporating self-care into your daily routine can be an incredible example for your child or teenager. Modeling self-care and good mental health practices can encourage your family to take care of their mind and body, too.

If you or someone you love is in need of mental health treatment or advice, you can always contact Turnbridge for support. Turnbridge is a mental health treatment facility for young adults and teens struggling. Call 877-581-1793 to speak with a treatment professional.