“One thing that I often hear people express is the belief that taking time for self-care is selfish, rather than a necessary component of mental health,” says Liat Fruman, LMSW. “Another big misunderstanding is that people believe they don’t have the time or resources to practice self-care.
Oftentimes, individuals envision self-care as going to an expensive spa or a beach vacation. However, not all self-care needs to look this way. Self-care can look like taking a short break from the computer, doing some basic stretches, going to bed at a reasonable hour, having a healthy snack during the day, or engaging in a hobby that brings you joy. It can also be recognizing if you’re feeling overwhelmed and asking for help. By starting off in small steps, self-care can slowly but surely be incorporated into even the busiest of schedules.”
Below are 10 self-care tips that can give a big boost to your mental health:
1. Say Goodbye to Negative Self-Talk
You might not realize it, but as you go through your daily routine, there is a voice inside your head that critiques how you are doing. Sometimes that voice can be reasonable but when it’s not, the negative self-talk can become destructive to your mental health.
Self-deprecating thoughts can harm your confidence and happiness and keep you from reaching your goals. So how can you stop this from happening? First, take notice when you begin to talk badly about yourself. If you constantly think in terms of “always” or “never” like, “I always mess up my relationships” or “I will never get a job,” then you will be stuck in that mindset. Replace those damaging thoughts with positive ones like, “I’m learning from my relationships” and “I’m a worthy candidate.” Over time, you will be able to better control those negative comments and speak to yourself with kindness.
2. Take Care of Your Body
Studies show that regular exercise is linked to having a stronger body and healthier mind. Exercise helps your brain to better focus, reduce stress, and lower the risk of mental decline with age. If you haven’t exercised in a long time and don’t know where to start, have no worries. There are online fitness blogs that can teach you how to gradually incorporate physical activity into your day. Social media platforms like YouTube, Tik Tok, and Instagram can also offer tips and free videos to help you to develop a sustainable workout routine.
Be sure to eat nutritious meals, stay hydrated, and get enough sleep to fuel your body for the day, and give yourself the energy needed to work out efficiently. Don’t delay; your body and your mind will thank you.
3. Spend More Time Outdoors
Whether it’s a ten-minute walk around your neighborhood or a hike up a mountain, spending time in nature provides significant benefits for your mental health. This simple self-care method can clear your mind and keep you feeling grounded. It can also increase your memory and attention span, and help you gain a better sense of belonging.
Next time you are feeling overwhelmed, consider going for a walk in the park. Try to spend some time out of your house or apartment every day. Even simple activities such as drinking your morning coffee in the backyard or reading a book on your balcony can make a difference when it comes to improving your mental health.
4. Take a Break from Screens
Electronic devices are an inescapable part of our daily lives. We need them to work, do school assignments, communicate with other people, and of course, entertain ourselves. Studies have found however that an excessive amount of screen time can actually lead to depression.
When we spend too much time watching shows, gaming, and scrolling through social media, we tend to become insular, sedentary, and disengaged with the real world. Social media, in particular, can exacerbate feelings of loneliness and inadequacy. Make it a point to set aside time each day to put down your device, step away from the digital world, and connect with the real one.
5. Find a Hobby
If you work or attend school full-time and have daily personal or family commitments on top of that, developing a hobby probably sounds like the last thing you would want to do. However, individuals with overwhelming schedules are the ones who need hobbies the most. Studies have shown that overworking can lead to fatigue, apathy, memory problems, and sleep deprivation. When your to-do list is never-ending, it is easy to put off things that bring joy into your life.
Prioritize your self-care by setting time aside for yourself to discover your passions and pick up a new hobby. Hobbies can look like drawing, hiking, planting a garden, learning to cook new dishes, or gallery hopping. Refocusing your attention on something fun reduces stress and allows you to come back to your daily life feeling refreshed. Remember, you can be successful in your professional or educational endeavors without denying yourself blissful activities.
6. Enjoy the Moment
Oftentimes, we hear people say that it’s important to live in the moment. It sounds great in theory, but how can we do that when we are constantly fixating on our past mistakes or worrying about the future? The key is accepting that you can’t change the past and tomorrow is not guaranteed, so invest your energy right here, right now.
As cliché as this self-care method might be, reminding yourself to stay in the present can provide many benefits in your life. Appreciating the little moments can improve your overall mood and teach you to look at the positives no matter where you are. When you focus on what’s right in front of you, you become more skilled at what you’re doing, you strengthen your relationships, and big projects and deadlines stop being scary.
7. Learn to Say Yes
Fear is a powerful emotion, but you don’t need to let it dictate your life. Start saying “yes” to new experiences and challenge yourself to step out of your comfort zone. Saying yes more is not about agreeing to things you don’t want to do, but about not letting fear stop you from trying things you have always wanted to do.
Many times, we experience different fears such as fear of failure, judgment, and the unknown. Saying yes is a great self-care method that can raise your inner strength and help you overcome any doubts that are holding you back. So, if you find yourself ruminating on a dream such as switching your career path or writing a novel, now is the time to push yourself. There is so much that you can achieve when you don’t limit yourself—so start saying no to fear and yes to living.
8. Learn to Say No
Knowing when to say “no” is just as important as saying “yes.” Boundaries are crucial to your mental well-being, but establishing them is not always easy to do, especially if you are someone who has difficulty expressing your needs. If you’re accustomed to saying yes all the time, you know how quickly things can spiral out of control. Before you know it, you have agreed to cover an extra shift at work, run errands for your neighbor, or host a game night with friends without even considering what you really want.
When you agree to everything out of fear of letting others down, you end up overextending yourself and not having enough time for your own needs. To respect yourself is to say no to things that you can’t or don’t want to do. Although this form of self-care can be difficult to master, with practice, it is possible to achieve.
9. Reach Out to Someone You Love
Staying in touch with friends and family members is an excellent way to improve your health. Studies have found that loneliness can lead to a wide range of both physical and mental ailments including sleep issues, obesity, substance abuse, and personality disorders. Sadly, people who are isolated face a 50% greater risk of premature death than those who have stronger social connections.
Whether you connect with friends or family members in person or virtually, doing so lifts your mood, increases your self-esteem, and keeps you mutually involved in each other’s lives. You are never alone and reaching out to a friend or a relative is an invaluable form of self-care.
10. Address Your Emotional Stressors
Pretending that something isn’t happening won’t make it go away. Repressing your emotions can make you feel irritable, impact your communication skills, and even harm relationships. Therefore, if you are feeling sad, nervous, angry, or lonely, do not ignore your feelings. Instead, try to get to the center of the problem. Ask yourself, “What is making me upset? Can I do something about it?” If you had a fever, you would not ignore it but rather take steps to address the problem and accelerate your recovery. You can and should do the same for your mental health.
“Self-care is ultimately about treating yourself gently—doing things that can help reduce anxiety, depression, and stress, which in turn help improve your concentration, energy, and overall well-being,” says Fruman. Find what interests you and can provide you happiness and serenity every day, not just during stressful times. Rather than feeling like self-care requires more time than you have, you should take as much time as you need.
If you are feeling overwhelmed and are struggling with your mental health, professional help is available. A mental health expert can help you identify the root of your issues and equip you with the tools needed to heal your mental and emotional well-being.