The Practice of Self-Care
It’s no secret that mental health in the United States is on a continued decline. According to the most recent The State of Mental Health in America report, 19% of adults experienced issues with their mental health in 2017-2018. That’s an increase of 1.5 million people over the previous year’s data.
Unfortunately, throughout the past couple of years, the pandemic has only worsened our mental health. The amount of people looking for help with anxiety and depression has skyrocketed, with loneliness and isolation cited as crucial contributing factors.
Of course, decreased physical health, loss of loved ones, racial injustice, financial insecurity and job instability all have a role to play as well. The bottom line is that even those who haven’t been diagnosed with clinical anxiety or depression likely experienced some sort of mental distress during this uncertain season.
It’s time to start looking after our health and well-being by practicing self-care. However, before we delve into self-care, we need to clear some things up. It may often be confused as such, but self-care is not about self-indulgence or selfishness.
While some self-indulgence in moderation can temporarily improve mental health, the WHO (World Health Organization) defines self-care as, “The ability of individuals, families and communities to promote health, prevent disease, maintain health and to cope with illness and disability with or without the support of a healthcare provider.”
Self-care is about getting you through the tough times, not escaping them. You must care for yourself to be healthy, thrive at work, be there for others and just live life well. Although it’s not a cure for mental illness, self-care has the potential to help you manage stress, increase energy and reduce the risk of illness, all of which can lead to positive mental health outcomes.
The pandemic has not been easy, but it has taught us two things: we need to be more open to discussing mental health and start practicing self-care more frequently. Even high-profile Olympic athletes, like gymnast Simone Biles and tennis star Naomi Osaka, have begun talking openly about mental health, which was once considered taboo in sports for decades.
Additionally, according to a survey conducted by The Harris Poll, 80% of adults plan on being more mindful about practicing self-care once the pandemic is over. Whether we are out of the woods with COVID-19 or not, now is the perfect time to start practicing regular self-care.
Sadly, many people don’t know where to start, but self-care doesn’t have to be complicated. It can be as simple as going to bed on time, grabbing coffee with a friend or taking a relaxing bath. In fact, here are ten ways you can start caring for yourself today:
Get enough sleep. Getting at least seven hours of sleep at night and keeping a consistent sleep schedule can help you wake up with more energy and eliminate the afternoon slump. You’ll feel ready to tackle the day and will likely be more productive and think more clearly at work or school.
Stay hydrated. Our bodies need a lot of water to function properly, but most of us don’t hydrate as much as we should. To calculate how much water your body needs, take your weight in pounds, divide that number in half and replace pounds with ounces. For example, if a person is 180 pounds, their goal should be 90 ounces of water per day (180 lbs / 2 = 90 oz).
Eat healthy and in moderation. A healthy diet means a good balance of fiber, protein, fat, carbs and sodium. It also means neither binging or following restrictive diets, which will cause your mood to swing around like crazy and lower your self-esteem.
Take a break from screens. Streaming service popularity rose like never before during the pandemic, especially as movie theaters closed down. While enjoying movies, television shows and social media can be a great way to unwind, experts say adults should limit screen time outside of work to about two hours to avoid negative effects on the mind and body.
Get outside. One way to limit screen time is to go outside. Have lunch in the park instead of eating at your desk and enjoy a walk after dinner instead of immediately sitting in front of the TV. Fresh air helps send oxygen through your blood, allowing your brain to work at full capacity. Natural sunlight is also proven to be a mood booster.
Move your body. Exercise is an often neglected piece of mental health care. However, aerobic exercises such as running, cycling and swimming increase blood flow and have the ability to reduce the impact of anxiety and depression. Those who exercise may also notice better sleep, sex drive and self-esteem.
Connect with others. A landmark 1988 study by the University of Michigan showed that a lack of social connection is a more significant detriment to health than obesity, smoking and high blood pressure. With loneliness on the rise, seeking social connection is more important than ever and can help with longevity, emotional intelligence and overall well-being.
Be creative. Creativity may be your secret advantage when it comes to caring for your mental health. Whether you like to play an instrument, doodle, write code, cook or plan parties, being creative can increase positive emotions, reduce depression, stress and anxiety and improve immune system functioning.
Treat yourself. While it’s not always the answer, as fans of the television show Parks and Recreation know, sometimes you just need a “treat yo’ self” day. While the trend has inspired many memes, in all seriousness treating yourself can be a helpful and nurturing tool for improving productivity, validating self-worth and reinforcing positive behavior.
One self-care practice that ticks many of the above boxes is taking a rejuvenating soak in the bathtub. Indulging in a bath can be a great way to practice self-care and improve your mental health. All at once, you’ll get to treat yourself, step away from screens, relax and potentially even sleep better. At Saltology®, our premium bath salts are here to help with just that.
All in all, self-care is important for building resilience, bouncing back from trauma and counteracting stress and burnout. Whether you are going through a good time or a bad time in life, caring for yourself and your mental health can help you sleep better, strengthen relationships and improve overall enjoyment of life.
It’s a cycle: the more effort you put into self-care, the easier it will be to engage in self-care activities such as drinking water, taking a warm bath or doing something creative. So, how will you practice self-care today?