Archive for September 21st, 2020

Tips for Investing in Your Self-Care and Mental Health

Do you feel overworked, overwhelmed, and under-supported? Has it been months since you could honestly say you were having fun? Do you seem to spend your entire existence serving other people, without ever feeling fully at home in your own life?

Maybe you feel like coming up with a good self care routine would be a waste of time. Or maybe you’d like nothing better than to devote some attention to yourself, but you feel like you simply don’t have time to do it.

However you would describe your situation, unless self care is a serious priority for you, chances are you don’t get enough of it. It’s not hard to see why: with so much going on in the world, it’s easy to feel like you’re being pulled in a thousand different directions at once, and everything demanding your attention is just as important as everything else.

But it’s important to realize that self care is simply a way of investing in the one thing you’ll always have around: yourself. We change jobs, move to new communities, and have friends come and go, but we’re always stuck with ourselves. If we consistently invest in our own wellness, that investment pays off in time. If we neglect ourselves, it comes back to bite us.

To help you form a good self care routine for you, check out the tips and advice in this article. You’ll definitely find something that helps.

Relieving Stress

Stress and anxiety are common experiences for people — so common in fact that many of us have come to expect it. Beat the stress in your life with these simple tips.

Exercise

If you don’t have a good self care routine involving exercise already, chances are you don’t exactly enjoy working out. You might find the experience incredibly uncomfortable, or you may have even developed negative associations with it out of guilt for feeling out of shape.

If that’s how you’ve approached working out up until now, it’s time to change that. Instead of seeing exercise as an obligatory practice that you feel guilted into doing, recognize that it has many immediate benefits for relieving stress and boosting your mood. Working out isn’t always about losing weight or building strength. It’s best used as an antidote for stress and difficult mood swings.

Starting an exercise routine is as simple as getting outside and walking through your local park every day. There are also countless at-home workout programs you can try, many of them requiring no equipment. If you feel like you need more accountability than that, signing up for classes at a local hot yoga franchise might be your thing.

Just remember: exercise may help you develop a slim waist, but that’s not necessarily why you should do it. It’s also great for helping you feel positive and in-control in your everyday life.

Improve Your Diet

Changing your current diet to a healthier one may sound like way too much work, but you should know that proper hydration and nutrition play a big role in how your feel and how you manage stress. Drinking too much coffee can contribute to anxiety for some people, while drinking too little water may literally impair brain function, because your brain needs to be well-hydrated to function optimally. And you don’t have to completely change your diet overnight. In fact, it’s much more effective in the long term when you make small changes over time.

The next time you think about what’s for lunch, consciously choose something healthier over something quick and processed, such as fast food or a frozen dinner. When you go grocery shopping, remember to get a few vegetables to try, and maybe some salmon or chicken breast to prepare. Stay on the outskirts of your supermarket, because that’s where the least processed foods are. The inner aisles are where they stock most of the processed foods full of sugars and refined grains.

If paying attention to your diet is simply too much to manage right now, you might be able to improve your health and performance with supplementation. Some people have had success dealing with anxiety and improving their mood with natural supplements like St. John’s wort. A hemp oil supplement might be useful if you struggle with inflammation or skin disorders like acne. CBD can even help reduce pain, control epileptic seizures, and assist in mental illness and addiction recovery.

Volunteer

According to a 2013 study that examined the connections between volunteering and hypertension, doing good for others can significantly improve your blood pressure. In fact, adults in their 50s and beyond who volunteer are 40% less likely to develop hypertension in the next few years. Expressing generosity can have a similar stress-reducing effect, as a 2010 study pointed out that the less money people give away, the higher their cortisol levels tend to be.

So going out of your way to do good for others doesn’t just make you feel better about yourself. It’s been scientifically shown to improve your health and decrease stress, which makes it integral to a good self care routine.

Doing good for others in your community can be as simple as bringing flower arrangements to people who are sick, or those who have recently lost loved ones. You could volunteer at a local soup kitchen or participate in charitable activities with your church.

Try to think of ways you could support good causes and help those in need by drawing on interests and skills that are unique to you. If you’re naturally good with animals, your local animal shelter would probably be grateful to have you on as a volunteer. If you have graphic design skills, you could offer to make custom tee shirts for local nonprofits.

Create a Good Self Care Routine

We’ve been touching on the benefits of having a good self care routine already, but it’s time to zero in on just what a self care routine is: something you do consistently, every day or week, to make sure you’re always getting the care you need. If you always wait until you get burnt out to start thinking about self care, you’re just adding that much more suffering to your life. Having a good self care routine means doing things on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis to make sure that overwhelming stress stays away for good.

The problem with routines is that it’s really easy to design one that we just won’t stick to. We’ve all seen people get excited about losing weight or prioritizing their health when the new year comes around, but then they lose steam and give up within a few weeks. It’s not because people are lazy or unmotivated: it’s because they never had a workable routine to begin with. They set their standards too high, and it was too much for them to keep up with.

Obviously stressing yourself out over a routine you’re supposed to keep up with will defeat the purpose of having a good self care routine at all. Instead, you should plan on doing things that are enjoyable, and don’t give yourself too much to do at any one time. If your routine involves activities that you generally find pleasurable, you won’t have as much resistance towards sticking with it. And if you practice self care in moderation — say, performing one activity every evening, or spending one full afternoon per week focused on yourself — you won’t get overwhelmed and give up after a week.

Besides having a good self care routine to keep yourself cared for throughout the week, it’s a good idea to notice how even everyday activities can feel pleasurable. You just have to pay attention to them by practicing mindfulness. Some people find cleaning the house or washing dishes very relaxing. Simple things, like fingering stones or running your hands through wood chips in the back yard, can be almost rejuvenating when you’re mindful of them. While it’s no replacement for a dedicated routine, you can make many mundane activities rituals of mindfulness and enjoyment.

Besides the tips we’ve already shared, we’ll talk about more items you might add to your daily or weekly routine in the rest of this article. The important thing is to choose a few of them that work for you, and practice them consistently, either every day, every week, or every month.

Treating Yourself

Treating yourself can be a strategy for decreasing stress, and strategies for reducing stress can sometimes feel like treats. But giving yourself a treat now and then — whether it’s getting a massage or hitting the local gun ranges — is essential to self care. Unlike rewarding yourself for a job well done, treating yourself is something you do just because it makes you feel better. Then, once you feel better, you’re more likely to perform well.

Ideas for Treating Yourself

If you don’t show yourself the love and appreciation you deserve, you can’t always count on it coming from anywhere else. So to help you add a little more fun and self care into your day, try some of the following simple ideas.

  • Set a timer for five minutes, and treat yourself to some well-deserved time spent doing nothing at all. Deliberately doing nothing for a set time can do wonders to clear your mind and boost your mood.
  • Prepare yourself a healthy snack or beverage, and then enjoy it slowly, lingering over the experience. Hurrying through our meals takes a lot of the enjoyment out of eating.
  • Treat yourself to a facial at your favorite beauty salon. If you’re normally the type who doesn’t splurge on such things, it will mean even more as a special experience.
  • When you start your workweek, begin by making a list of things you’d enjoy doing on the weekend. So often we let our weekends slip by while binge-watching television, never really getting to the things we’d like to do. Making a list of ideas at the start of your week will give you something new to look forward to.
  • Pretend to be a tourist in your hometown. Try to forget about your busy life and pretend you’re on vacation and enjoy all of the sights and sounds that are unique to your area. It’s easy to take a place for granted when you live there. Go outside and really enjoy it.
  • Buy yourself a new outfit or at the very least a new accessory. Again, this is more special if you aren’t already a shopaholic.
  • The next time you have a late morning or early afternoon off, go see a movie by yourself. There’s something remarkably relaxing about seeing a movie alone in a near-empty theater.

Treating yourself can be an extravagant affair, like seeing a plastic surgeon to enhance your appearance, or very simple, like reading a poetry book. You get to decide what to do — just make sure you do something to make yourself feel great.

Getting Support

Even if you have a really good self care routine, we all need support from outside sources. Whether that be from a church or community we’re a part of, or from a counselor or therapist we see regularly, everyone needs someone to offer them advice and help them through life. Here we’ll offer some ideas for finding supporting people and communities to be a part of.

Find a Local Community

The first step to finding a local community to be a part of is to be willing to be open and vulnerable with people. This doesn’t mean you tell the first stranger you meet about all your hopes and fears, but it does mean being ready to open up gradually as other people open up to you. You can’t be closed off or afraid of what others think of you and expect to make friends quickly.

Next, you have two options for finding a community: either you can find a place to visit regularly based on your interests, such as a church or library; or you can find local communities based on certain interests online. Websites such as Meetup.com allow you to find groups in your area that all have similar interests, such as gaming or music.

Look for a Coach, Counselor, our Therapist

Everyone needs a helping hand or a voice of reason now and then, and sometimes you can’t really expect your friends or family to help you process your situations. This is where a counselor or life coach can come in handy. Getting help like this isn’t a sign of weakness, and it certainly isn’t just for people who struggle with mental health issues. In fact, literally everyone can benefit from having a good counselor or coach to visit now and then. It’s like the way the best businesspeople have mentors to help them navigate the world of business. For everybody else, counselors and therapists are mentors when it comes to processing past events, overcoming personal challenges, and navigating relationships.

There are several websites online that allow you to look up counselors and other experts in your area. You can even find someone to coach you long-distance over the phone or video chat.

From designing a good self care routine to getting support from a coach or counselor, these tips should be all you need to invest in yourself by bringing some self care into your life.