We as humans tend to have an innate tendency to put the needs of others before ourselves, whether it is a family member, friend, or co-worker. When your mind is going 90 miles a minute and the stress is starting to take a toll, “the healthiest thing we can do is to stop and consider how we can take care of ourselves,” Tiny Buddha points out. You aren’t being selfish or needy. Instead, you are rejuvenating your mental health and set an example to others as to how you should be treated. Below are five simple ways to start making self-care more of a priority.
You already know all the physical benefits of eating, but did you know there is a link between nutrition and mental health? The food you eat fuels your brain by interacting with the chemicals in your brain. Carbs increase the production of serotonin, the neurotransmitter responsible for reducing anxiety and creating that calming effect. Healthy fats that are rich in omega-3 and omega-6 have been shown to reduce depression. Plus, when you eat better, you naturally feel better, and that mood boost can carry you through the day.
Don’t Put Sleep on the Backburner
Setting aside sleep to do other things can be tempting, especially if you are able to check a few extra items off your to-do list, but at what cost? That lack of sleep can cause you to be more emotionally reactive and become fixated on negative thoughts, and it can even cause anxiety and depression. So, how can you get a good night’s sleep? Choose a bedtime and stick to it, but if you’ve been wide awake for 20 minutes, get up and do an activity to help you relax, such as reading or yoga, before trying again. Watch out for nighttime no-nos such as caffeine, midnight snacks, and blue light from phones and tablets.
Working up a sweat stimulates your brain to produce serotonin and dopamine, both of which can improve mood and fight off feelings of anxiety and stress, making exercise a crucial part of your self-care routine. There are plenty of activities to try. You could get outside and enjoy the rush of kayaking down the river or along a calm stream in one of these top-reviewed kayaks. Perhaps you’d enjoy playing a game of basketball as a family to let off steam and bolster your mental health with a great basketball hoop that can withstand slam-dunks and alley-oops. Anything that gets you moving will do, so find something you enjoy and run with it.
Make Time for Yourself
This sounds easier said than done, right? Well, making time for self-care might mean that you have to schedule a time each day to do something for yourself, such as 15 minutes of yoga, 25 minutes of exercise, and 20 minutes of doing something you enjoy, such as reading, drawing, sewing, etc. Break it up into chunks throughout the day so you aren’t stressed about dedicating an entire hour or so to yourself. Take advantage of all that free time and create your own self-care rituals to make it a habitual practice.
Learn to say “no” to prioritize your needs. Whether it’s lunch with a friend, a birthday party, or an extra responsibility at work, understand that it’s more than okay to turn down plans or even cancel them. Once declining becomes a little easier, you’ll likely find that you are better able to prioritize your needs and feel good about doing it. Most importantly, remain consistent. Once you’ve decided to start putting yourself first, don’t fall back into old habits.
There’s nothing wrong with helping others, but when it comes at a personal cost, it’s time to focus on yourself. Self-care is the best thing you can do for your mental health. These tips will help you get started, but remember that self-care is a journey that looks different for everyone.