I have struggled for years with anxiety and depression, and one of the things I’ve learned along the journey is just how important self-care truly is. When you hear “self-care” you may have a negative view or you may not. This has become a hot topic phrase and over time has led to some negative stigmas about what it actually means.
Self-care is defined as “the practice of taking action to preserve or improve one’s own health; the practice of taking an active role in protecting one’s own well-being and happiness, in particular during periods of stress”. It does not just mean pedicures and spa days, although these are great forms of self-care for some people. When you have any sort of mental illness, day to day self-care is important in both maintaining and improving your overall well-being. For me, this means less anxiety (or responding to it more proactively) and decreased risk of a depressive episode.
The three forms of self-care I have found to be most important are nutrition, rest, and filling my mind with positive truths. When these particular areas are lacking in some way or are being neglected, my mental health takes a hit and it becomes obvious.
Good nutrition is always important but especially when you have a mental health disorder. What you eat affects your brain and body function, including your concentration, memory, and energy levels. It is important to get the proper vitamins and minerals you need by having a balanced diet, including several servings of fruits and veggies. This can be more of a challenge for some people than others, such as those with a busy life or a major sweet tooth (okay, that’s me!). That is why I chose to take a multivitamin to provide supplementation of the important nutrients, while still trying to actually eat plenty of fruits and veggies. (Note: I am not a doctor, so please discuss this with a medical professional first!) Probiotics are also very important, as poor gut health has been shown to affect your mental health, as well.
TIP: Smoothies are a great way to get fruits, veggies, and probiotics all in one! To include probiotics in your smoothie, use yogurt or kombucha!
Rest is another very important factor in mental illness. This includes both sleep and taking time to relax and recharge. Adults need between 6-8 hours of sleep each night. We also need time every week to take a break and recharge our metaphorical batteries. I have found that when I consistently take a day to rest each week, I am usually less stressed and able to function better the rest of the week. I actually get more done on the other days of the week, because I have a greater mental capacity.
As humans, we are like rechargeable batteries; we only have so much juice within us, and it always runs out eventually. When it does run out, we can’t thrive. Trying to run on empty leads to burnout, greater anxiety, higher chance of depression, etc. In order to keep moving forward healthily, we have to take time to recharge. This time looks different for everyone, so I encourage you to try a variety of activities and take note of how you feel afterwards. Do you feel drained? Or do you feel more relaxed and energized?
TIP: Make a list of things you do that make you feel rested. This way, when it’s your weekly rest day, you won’t be scrambling to think of something to do, and you will be less likely to turn to work because you have a plan in place.
The final form of self-care, and possibly the most important, is filling your mind with positive truths. As a Christian, I often do this through reading the Bible or a Biblical study. I also use self-affirmations and encouraging quotes. Again, this is unique for each person. Sometimes I read the truth and find that is enough for the moment, but there are also times when I need to speak the truth out loud multiple times in order for it to stick. Each day, we are bombarded with a million and one messages from the world, people we know, and even our own selves. Some of these are true, but many of them are not. As you see or hear a message, ask yourself if it is accurate. If it’s not, replace it with a truth right away. If you’re not sure, ask a trusted individual. Fill your mind with truths and not lies.
TIP: Create a Truth Board on Pinterest or dedicate an album on your phone to motivation and encouragement. When you are faced with a lie or are just having a bad day, you can go to this board and read positive truths right then. For an example, check out my Pinterest Quotes Board.
I can’t say it enough: if you have a mental health disorder, taking care of yourself is SO important! In fact, it’s necessary! I have found good nutrition, taking a rest day each week, and speaking truth to myself to be both incredibly practical and valuable ways to care for myself as a human, but specifically a human with mental health disorders.
Do you have any tips for self-care? What has worked well for you, whether you struggle with a mental illness or not? Let us know in the comments!
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My name is Chelsea Bouknight, but you can call me Chelsea Bee. I am a Georgian who loves coffee, nature, and things that smell good! I have been blogging for years, but I recently launched a new website for my blogs. I write about life lessons I am learning, mental health, hobbies, food and coffee. Be sure to visit my blog, and subscribe while you’re there!
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