When you’re ‘down and out’, or ‘feeling small’, will self-care act like a bridge over troubled waters? Forgive our music comparison, but exactly what part does self-care play in helping us overcome the stresses in life? Some say it’s a cure-all, while others are less enthusiastic about how much help it actually provides. The real question should be how to effectively use self-care for improved mental health.
Stress Is Part of Life
Some stress can be a productive motivator, but when someone has elevated stress, it can lead to all types of issues. Irritability, sleep problems, changes in appetite, lack of focus and concentration are all possible reactions from too much stress in your life.
Prolonged, elevated stress can lead to many serious mental and physical issues. It can weaken your immune system, lead to heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. Consequently, when we can’t control our reactions to prolonged or elevated stress, anxiety and depression become a dangerous part of this mix. In fact, 18% of Americans have anxiety disorders.
What Part Does Self-Care Play in Improving Mental Health
Getting a massage every week, taking a long vacation, or setting aside one hour per day to be alone can certainly be considered self-care. These methods can work as long as this self-care doesn’t create guilt.
Some adults can become obsessed with self-care to the point that it creates even more issues and exacerbates their anxiety. The idea that you must jog for an hour each day, walk this many steps, or eat this many mg of protein every day can wind up heaping additional stress onto yourself.
As with most indulgences, effectively using self-care for improved mental health means finding the right balance and the peace of mind that works for you.
Best Tips for Improving Your Mental Health
Figure out your own coping skills. Separate the useful from the frivolous and practice those.
- Indulge in a mini getaway in your head as you daydream for a while to give yourself a break from critical thinking.
- Schedule some down time without devices or distractions.
- Plan healthful behaviors like getting enough sleep and eating balanced meals.
- Do meditation if it helps.
- Spend time with upbeat and supportive friends. Maintaining healthy relationships prevents loneliness, which is a known early step toward depression.
- Choose activities that bring you joy like gardening, cooking, hiking, or playing with your kids.
- Pick any type of exercise and be faithful to it, even if it’s just walking several times a week.
The Greatest Form of Self-Care
The greatest form of self-care is recognized when you’re not getting the desired results needed to make you a happier and more productive person. If that is the case, ask for help from a professional like Dr. Gardner.
Take the time to care for your physical, emotional, and mental health to live a happy and fulfilling life. Schedule an appointment with Dr. Gardner if the stresses in life are causing uncontrolled anxiety or depression.