Our mental health is closely linked to several factors, including how we care for ourselves. Self-care is a multidimensional process in which individuals use different tools and methods to take care of their own physical, mental, and emotional health.
The importance of self-care has risen in recent years as mental health and other health concerns have come to the forefront of society's consciousness. Self-care isn't merely taking a break or occasionally having a nutrient dense meal, but rather a continious effort of behavior geared toward improving different aspects of health.
Mental health, according to studies, is closely linked to physical fitness and emotion regulation capabilities of an individual. Research has shown that self-care activities facilitate individuals to become capable of handling life's various stressors. It also allows individuals to live their best lives geared toward growth, joy, and fulfillment.
Despite growing awareness regarding mental health and why self-care is necessary to maintain it, individuals see self-care as a luxury rather than a priority. Self-care has different meanings to different individuals, but almost all expressions of self-care follow the same core principles.
There are five different types of self-care that an individual has to pay attention to. Individuals differ in the type of self-care depends they require, and they have to address issues of balance based on their needs.
Physical care involves prioritizing meeting the needs of the body like getting adequate sleep, consuming nutritious food, exercising regularly, and getting regular medical checkups.
Socializing self-care involves us taking out time to build and maintain social relationships with those around us. This includes setting time aside from our busy lives just to interact with our friends, family, neighbors, and society. It involves putting efforts into cultivating and maintaining close relationships.
Emotional self-care involves using healthy coping skills to deal with negative emotions like anger, anxiety, grief, and sadness. It involves acknowledging and expressing feelings on a regular basis.
Spiritual self-care includes nurturing one's spirit through the development of a deeper sense of meaning, understanding, or connection with the universe. It is expressed through prayer, meditation, and attending a religious gathering.
Mental self-care involves curating the thoughts we have and the things that fill up our minds. So this type of self-care involves shifting our thought process onto a healtheir inner dialouge using self-compassion. It also involves pursuing activities, interests, and hobbies that keep our minds sharp.
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Ways to Practice Self-Care for Improved Mental Health
There are different approaches to self-care that will lead to a more balanced life and improved mental health. They can be practiced alone or in combination to achieve improved mental health.
1. Self-Soothing Approach
This approach has a bad reputation as many people see it as a distraction from the root causes of problems. While that is a possibility if used incorrectly, it is also a great way to practice self care. Self-soothing allows us to take into account things that we may be fixated on or overwhelmed by and process it by calming down first.
We can self-soothe and turn away momentarily from things that bother us by watching a TV show or movie, listening to music, eating our favorite foods, reading book, and doing something fun or that which brings us joy.
2. Intellectual Self-Care
This self-care approach involves doing things that engage our brains or use our creative abilities. This approach recharges our brains through learning, relearning, and unlearning, which helps us avoid intellectual stagnation.
3. Social Self-Care
Connecting with others on a deeper level is vital for our self-care and mental well-being. Positive social interactions with those we love result in making us feeling loved, validated, and fulfilled according to research, which boosts our spirits.
Using this self-care approach involves meeting someone in person, talking over the phone, texting to them, doing an activity with others, and meeting up with a group for a social cause.
4. Physical Self-Care
Our mind and body are connected and taking care of our physical needs on a regular basis is one of the easiest ways to achieve positive self-care. It involves everything from the simple, like brushing your teeth to the major, like getting in 5000 to 6000 steps daily.
Other ways of performing physical self-care include consuming a diet rich in essential nutrients, drinking enough water, walking a certain number of steps, and following a workout plan.
5. Changing Scenery
Sometimes changing your environment even for a short period of time can have a huge impact on your mental health and well-being. Experiencing new and diverse things by changing your scenery is linked to positive emotions, enhanced happiness, and increased sense of well-being. This can be achieved by going to a new place or visiting nature.
Another way of expressing self-care is through practicing mindfulness. Following mindfulness allows us center our attention to the present moment. This helps us become more aware of our thoughts and feelings instead of becoming overwhelmed by them.
Mindfulness also helps individuals cope with negative thoughts and emotions that they may be experiencing. This self-care approach can be practiced using guided meditation, breathing exercises, and muscle relaxation.
Self-care is not a luxury; it is a necessity for those who wish to enjoy good mental health. There are many different self-care options available that will lead to a healthier life.
Steve George Verghese is a trained psychologist with an MSc in Counseling Psychology from the Indian Institute of Psychology and Research.
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