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The vital link between self-care and mental health

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Understanding the connection between self-care and mental health is crucial for promoting overall well-being and reducing the risk of mental health challenges

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In our fast-paced lives, many of us will often tend to neglect self-care, which can unwittingly compromise our physical and mental wellbeing. In the pursuit of meeting deadlines, supporting others, and demonstrating our dedication and commitment to our daily routines, self-care behaviours are quite often inadvertently pushed to the bottom of our priority list. Whereas, prioritizing self-care can have a substantial impact on our mental wellbeing. Self-care fosters enhanced self-esteem, increased optimism, and a positive outlook on life, and may help to reduce levels of anxiety and depression.  

The power of self-care and energy 

Quality self-care will involve nurturing and maximizing our energy sources, including nutrition, physical activity, social engagement, sleep, and mental wellbeing. Integrating these practices into our lives allows us to reconnect and rejuvenate our minds and body. Learning about self-care practices and prioritizing them in our daily lives can help equip us with the tools to fuel our energy levels and ourselves with nutritious foods, cultivate positive self-talk, engage in regular physical activity, prioritize restful sleep, and pursue fulfilling interests and connections. 

Self-care behaviours 

There are several self-care behaviours which can contribute to nurturing mental and physical health: 

Engaging in regular physical activity 

Find physical activities that you enjoy and make them a regular part of your routine. Moderate levels of physical activity can help to release endorphins, reduces stress, improve mood, and boost overall energy levels. 

Nourishing the body with healthy nutrition 

Prioritize eating balanced and nutritious meals which include a mixture of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats. While ultra-processed foods can cause inflammation and negatively affect mood, nutritious foods can have the opposite effect and help promote mental wellbeing. 

Prioritizing restful sleep 

Create a sleep routine that ensures you get adequate amount of sleep each night. Quality sleep rejuvenates your body and mind, enhances cognitive function, and can help support emotional wellbeing. 

Practicing gratitude, cultivating awareness 

Daily gratitude practices can help to diminish stress and depressive feelings and help boost the sense of happiness. Setting aside some time each day for mindfulness or meditation practices can also help cultivate present-moment awareness, which can help to promote a sense of calm and inner peace. 

Engage in rewarding activities  

Dedicate some time to activities which you value and bring you joy and fulfilment. Whether it is pursuing hobbies or spending time in nature, doing things you find rewarding can help boost your mood and fosters a sense of purpose. 

Define goals and set boundaries 

If you find it difficult to say no to people, it can be difficult to find time to meet your own self-care goals. Practicing how to say no can help to establish healthy boundaries in your personal and professional relationships, and help you reduce the risk of feeling mentally and physically overwhelmed or drained by trying to meet the needs of others. 

Building supportive relationships 

Cultivate relationships with people who uplift and support you. Prioritize surrounding yourself (either online or in-person) with positive influences, friends, and family members, who offer emotional support, understanding, and respect you as your authentic self.  

Practice self-compassion  

Try to treat yourself with kindness, understanding, and compassion. Be mindful of negative self-talk and be weary of critical self-judgement (we are often much harsher on ourselves than we are of others). Try speaking to yourself like you do to a good friend and foster having a nurturing relationship with yourself. Perhaps explore self-compassion techniques such as ‘mirror talk’.  

Take regular breaks   

Try to take short self-care breaks throughout the day to recharge and release any stress. Identify any activities that help you relax, such as a short breathing exercise, taking a walk around the office, listening to music, or muscle relaxation techniques. 

Seek professional help when needed 

We all have mental health and sometimes we may need help addressing difficult and challenging times. Break down the stigma of mental health and seek professional help when needed, as they can provide valuable support and guidance to help you navigate difficult times. 

It must also be remembered that self-care is a personal journey, and it is essential to discover what practices work the best for you. The opportunity to establish a sustainable routine of self-care behaviors will be easier if you choose easy, affordable, and enjoyable self-care habits. Essentially, self-care behaviors are a vital part of our personal toolkit for nurturing our mental health and supporting our overall wellbeing. 

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