Self-Care Practices to Improve Your Mental Health
Experiencing depression or other mental health issues can be very difficult, but small changes to your daily routine can help ease and improve your mental health, or prevent symptoms. Practicing good self-care — that is, the things that you do to maintain your physical, emotional, and spiritual health — can make a big difference in how you feel. This guide explores several ways to start using positive self-care habits daily.
Look After Your Smile
If you’re struggling with mental health issues, brushing and flossing your teeth might be the last thing on your mind. However, poor dental health can be a contributing factor to depression. Even if it feels daunting to tackle your dental hygiene, consider taking small steps to get back on track. Start by brushing and flossing your teeth daily, and then make an appointment for a check-up. If you need dental work, don’t wait to schedule it.
Some dental conditions may prevent you from feeling confident about smiling. For example, in addition to your confidence, misaligned teeth can affect both your ability to keep your teeth and gums clean. Addressing it will improve not only your physical health but help you feel better about smiling — which, in turn, will boost your mood and self-esteem as well as improve your mental health.
Dress to Impress
By the same token, it’s important to feel confident about how you look from a wardrobe perspective. After all, the more you like how you look, the better you’ll feel about yourself. To help you along, look for some clothes that leave you feeling fantastic. Look for comfortable clothes that don’t sacrifice style. For example, some new loungewear like a bra, robe, or pair of leggings can make you feel great whether you’re relaxing or trying to keep up with the kids at home.
When your stress level is high for a prolonged period of time, it can impact your mental health. Do what you can to keep stress at bay. The first step is to address your self-talk habits because negative self-talk can keep you in a chronic state of fight-or-flight. Are you kind and compassionate towards yourself? If you tend to be judgemental or harsh in the way you speak to yourself, try to practice self-acceptance and work towards changing your self-talk. This takes time and practice, so be patient and celebrate your wins.
Scheduling regular massages can be an essential part of your self-care routine. Not only can massage therapy reduce stress and pain, but it can also help you feel more relaxed and improve circulation, energy, and focus. Fortunately, the licensed massage therapists at Michigan Massage & Wellness can help you live a pain- and stress-free life.
Finances can be a source of a lot of undue stress, so determine how you can strategize to get them under control. This strategy can include creating a budget and sticking to it, living a life of minimalism by downsizing, and driving a less-expensive car. Also consider refinancing your mortgage, a great option at this time thanks to low interest rates. When you think about it, refinancing is self-care for your wallet. Other benefits of refinancing include a bump in your credit score and the ability to consolidate debt.
Another way to reduce stress is to practice saying ‘no’ to others, especially when their requests make you feel uncomfortable or exhausted. This can help reinforce healthy boundaries and allow you to put your own priorities first. You may find that saying ‘no’ feels great as it can give you more time, energy, and confidence. By carving out time in your day to relax and meet your needs, you’re sending yourself a powerful message: “I matter, and someone is caring for me.”
Believe it or not, hobbies are actually a great way to relieve stress and unwind at the end of a long day. So, if you’re not setting aside time to pursue interests that bring joy to your life, then try to do so every week. Do you enjoy playing video games with your friends? Devote some time on the weekend to your favorite multiplayer game. Does the thought of curling up with a good book make you feel cozy? Try to read a few pages before bed. The point, of course, is to identify what you like and make time for it — you may be surprised by the benefits.
Last but not least, if you work from home you’ll want to prioritize self-care during the work day. If you find yourself getting down or depressed during the winter, open your curtains, take vitamin D, move your desk near the window, and purchase a special lamp that simulates the effects of the sun. Also incorporate a few indoor plants and put a few pieces of inspirational artwork on the walls. Little steps like these can go a long way toward being more productive and happy at the desk.
Improve Your Sleep Quality
There is an established connection between poor sleep and poor mental health, says the Sleep Foundation. The body and mind both require seven to nine hours of sleep per night to fully recover from the day. While you may not be able to fix sleep problems overnight, adjusting your sleep habits can add up to positive results over time.
Start by establishing a routine — go to bed at the same time each night and try to wake up at the same time each morning. SleepScore Labs points out that exercising during the day can help you fall asleep faster, lengthen deep sleep, and even treat sleep disorders. Be mindful that you don’t exercise too close to bedtime because stimulating activities can keep you awake. Try to include some peaceful time to wind down before bed, such as reading in bed or taking a hot bath.
Here’s a very important thing to remember: the less you use your phone before bed, the better. The blue light these devices emit can negatively affect the quality of your sleep. Although using glasses that reduce the effects of blue light, or switching your phone to night mode, can help if you absolutely need to use your device at night, make it a habit to put the smartphone down at least an hour before bed. If reading on your phone helps you relax, opt for a physical book and a soft night light instead.
Learning to meet your self-care needs is a big step toward restoring your mental well-being. By keeping your smile healthy, finding ways to reduce stress, and practicing good sleep habits, you’ll be on a path toward greater happiness. Just be sure to reach out to a friend, family member, or doctor for support if you need it.
Thank you to our guest contributer, Camille Johnson, from Bereaver.com for this article!