Practice Self-Care — Your Mental Health Needs It

Practice Self-Care — Your Mental Health Needs It
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Practice Self-Care — Your Mental Health Needs It

Good mental health isn't a matter of luck alone. While it's true that genetics and environmental factors play a role in mental health, maintaining a healthy mind also requires effort. Self-care is one important way you can protect and improve your mental health.

Self-care is doing things with the intention of caring for your body and mind. Self-care should relieve your stress, help regulate your emotions, and improve your self-esteem. You don't have to be wealthy to practice self-care. This practice is often confused with treating yourself with luxury goods and services, but true self-care is much more basic (and more affordable) than that.

Here are six ways to practice self-care that are so easy and cheap, anyone can do them.

1. Eat a healthy breakfast

Rushed and hungry is no way to start a day. Set a mindful tone for each day by sitting down for a healthy breakfast in the morning. You'll have to wake up earlier, but you'll benefit from a sharper mind and a stronger sense of well-being throughout the day. It's also easier to make healthy food choices for lunch and dinner when you start the day with a meal that balances your blood sugar.

2. Clean up your space

A cluttered environment invites stress. Whether at home or at work, it's hard to organize your thoughts when your physical environment is in a state of disarray. Declutter and organize your home and office for a more serene setting. After you've cleared some space, add house plants to bring life back in. Nature is known to reduce stress and lift your mood, but when you're stuck inside, potted plants are the next best thing.

3. Take a walk

Sitting at a desk all day isn't good for you. If you have a sedentary job, incorporate more movement into your day by going for a walk at lunch. A midday walk gets you closer to the 150 minutes of exercise per week recommended by the American Heart Association and offsets the health risks of sitting all day. Walking also boosts your cognitive function and pulls your mind away from workplace stress so you return in the afternoon ready to do your best work.

4. Stop multitasking

It turns out multitasking isn't such a good skill after all. Multitasking not only leads to poor performance, it also increases stress. If you want to do better work, do it more quickly, and feel more relaxed while doing it, focus on one task at a time.

5. Learn to say no

Saying no isn't fun. Whether it's to your kids, your spouse, or your boss, it's hard to feel like you're letting someone else down, but if you always say yes to everyone else, you won't have the time and energy to say yes to yourself. Routinely neglecting your own needs in favor of others' is a recipe for burnout. Learn when it's okay to say no, and remind yourself that it's not selfish to put yourself first sometimes.

6. Volunteer

Sometimes, the best thing you can do for yourself is serve someone else. Volunteering helps you feel connected to your community, increases your sense of self-worth, and provides a healthy distraction from your problems. If you're feeling aimless, serving others could be just the thing to instill purpose into your life.

As you can see, self-care is actually quite simple. However, that doesn't mean it's not hard work! Maintaining healthy self-care habits requires constant effort and regular check-ins to ensure you're filling your cup as fast as you're emptying it. If you're new to self-care, keep a journal to track your daily self-care practices and stay accountable to yourself.