Self-Care: The Most Important Part of Mental Health and Wellness

Self care. It gets preached a lot, but often just talked about with no real plan for doing it. Self-care is way more than just taking a bath, getting a massage, or doing any one thing. It's a habit, a mindset, a part of one's life that establishes and reinforces an ongoing sense of balance. 

I've found that I more helpful question is "how do I find my balance in life?". From that concept, consider the notion that self-care is an integral part of this. Thus, this page takes a close look at specific ways you can achieve life balance. Balancing work and career, family, a social life, physical needs, and mental health is no easy feat. It's very easy to get out of balance in our lives! Still, when you look around, you'll notice that those who are truly happy also usually live the most balanced lives. At the heart of this is self-care.

Think of it this way: How in the world can you be at your best to take care of other things and people if you do not first take care of yourself? The people who count on you (your family, co-workers, friends, etc.) need you to do this! Stop for a minute. Please read this paragraph again. Think about it.

Isn't It Selfish to Put Myself Ahead of Others?

Let's call the first sentence in the last paragraph the ultimate self care question.

Okay, so logically we know this is true. However, the notion that taking care of ourselves is selfish may have been ingrained in us from an early age. The thought of putting yourself first may result in guilt, anxiety, or other unpleasant emotions. 

If that's true for you, this will require some reprogramming. "How do I do that, you ask?" Here are some options

  • Counseling can be very helpful to help you gain insight and re-align your thoughts and feelings in a way that is more beneficial for you
  • Every morning and evening, ask yourself the ultimate self-care question
  • Keep a small journal about your answer to this question
  • If you have children or others who look up to you, consider whether or not your example is helpful to them
  • Check out my page on codependency
  • If you are a helping professional, please click here for self-care specific to helpers
  • Consider your personal values and what you hold as truly important in your life. More on clarifying one's values on this page

Self-care Seems so Strange to Me. Where Do I Begin?

You start with whatever seems easiest for you. Consider whether or not any of the following life areas needs more attention

  • Physical Health
  • Mental/Emotional Health
  • Spiritual Well-Being
  • Family or Social Life
  • Work or Career
  • An important relationship

Identify specific areas where you need to pay some attention to self care. Consider what you can do right now in order to gain some life balance. Think about who will benefit from you attaining more balance (well, besides you!).

Obviously, self-care takes self-awareness! The only way we can properly self-care is if we are aware enough (and honest enough with ourselves) to understand that action is needed in the self-care realm. In working with clients, I find that self-awareness breeds self-care, and vice-versa.

Thus, routines such as walks in nature, keeping a journal, meditation, and prayer are important in developing and maintaining healthy self-awareness.

A very useful guide on self-care can be found here. This website (Help Guide) is an amazing, down-to-earth guide on self-awareness and emotional health. It includes short videos and guided relaxation exercises and tools.

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The Power of Routines

We are creatures of habit. Make self care a habit. Identify two ways in which you can nurture yourself daily. This could include

  • Relaxation exercises. YouTube has hundreds of them, or you can simply take a few minutes to engage in deep breathing
  • Physical exercise
  • Journaling can work wonders for your insight. It's amazing what we will notice in the process of writing things down; not to mention what we notice when going back and reading what we've written!
  • Reading a favorite book or website
  • Enjoying your favorite healthy snack
  • Keeping a journal of your thoughts and feelings. The benefits of this, over time, can be huge. Check out my page on journaling
  • Insert your ideas here. The list of possibilities is limitless

Even 5-10 minutes of any the above can make a big difference over time. The more you can do over time, the more your life will begin to have a greater level of balance.

If you do not think you are worth taking care of, seek help. Gene has successfully addressed this issue with many people, and can help you too. Self-Care for Helping Professionals click here

Visit this link for some great ideas on creating healthy habits!

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