Self-care and the concept of protecting our mental health can be difficult for many Americans, especially in the age of technology, when stressful news is constantly at our fingertips. For those who are working long hours, who are raising families, or who are battling mental health issues, self-care is especially important because it can reduce those feelings of stress, anxiety, and even depression in a healthy way.
It’s not necessary to make major life changes all at once. In fact, this might actually have the opposite intended effect by bringing new stressors into your everyday routine. Instead, think small but impactful. You might arrange to get more sleep, learn to say “no” at work, or spend more time with your loved ones. Think about the things that bring you the most stress or negativity or the things that you want to work on, and start from there.
A Mouth and Gut Check
Certain aspects of our physical health can be significantly impacted by our mental health because of the connection between various body systems. For example, oral health can suffer by way of tooth decay or gum disease if we experience prolonged depression, ongoing stress, or anxiety. Find a dentist in your area for a checkup and to confirm your oral hygiene is on the right track. In the same vein, your mood and gut health are also closely intertwined. By keeping close tabs on your gut microbiome and incorporating probiotics and prebiotics into your diet, you can ensure your digestive health stays on track along with your mood.
Take a time out
It’s not always easy to take a break when you need one, but getting away from the noise of everyday life can really help you reset and focus on what’s most important. One popular and highly effective way to unplug and recharge is taking a few minutes each day to meditate. If you are interested in pursuing meditation for self-care, consider setting up a calming space in your home where you can practice free of distractions. Other strategies to get away for awhile include taking a vacation, taking the long way home so you can enjoy the drive, and finding a hobby that helps take your mind off the things that bring you stress, such as painting, writing, or playing an instrument.
Get in a workout at home
Finding the time to exercise is something many of us struggle with, but the good news is that, if you can sneak in a workout every day, you’ll feel better and will even be boosting your mental health while you do it. You don’t have to join an expensive gym, either. Practicing yoga at home (you’ll save $12 - $16 that you’d spend on a class) or running up and down the stairs a few times at the office is just as effective for getting your heart rate up, and it’s easier to fit into your schedule. One suggestion is to use a spare room in your home for a home gym. When designing your home gym, make sure you’ve got the right flooring and enough outlets; you can even add a ceiling fan and pull-up bar.
Get some rest
Getting good sleep is imperative, and it’s not just the amount of time you spend slumbering that will help you feel better; it’s the quality of your sleep, as well. This means deep, REM sleep for at least seven to eight hours every night. Otherwise, you’ll wake feeling groggy and unrested, which can have negative effects on the rest of your day and can impair your judgment and memory. If you want to feel better and be more productive, look for ways you can improve your sleep. You might start a rest routine at night that will help you relax before bed, or start putting away light-emitting devices such as your tablet, smartphone, or laptop at least an hour before you go to sleep.
Protecting your mental health is imperative because it affects your physical health, as well. Look for ways you can slow down and practice self-care as often as possible, especially if you tend to work long hours or have a lot of stress in your life. With a good plan, you can start feeling better in no time.
By: Brad Krause