Chances are when you come down with the ‘flu, you give your body the rest it needs, even if that means time off work. But if you’re struggling with anxiety, depression or another mental health condition and having a rough time, are you caring for yourself in that same way?
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If you’re thinking “No,” you’re not alone. Many people don’t treat their mental health conditions the same way that they do with other illnesses, and that can just make the condition worse. Your spiritual, emotional and physical health are all connected, and that’s why self-care is so important when you’re experiencing any sort of illness or condition. Check out the following 10 self-care aspects you need to address to care for your entire person and not just your body.
1. Sign On For Stress Relief
Stress can affect your life in many ways, causing physical illness, mental illness and dragging down your quality of life. The American Institute of Stress says it’s been linked to conditions such as cancer, degenerative neurological disorders and depression.
Even if you try to ignore it, stress will still catch up with you. It can also contribute to other behaviors that make you unwell, such as eating and sleeping poorly, smoking, drinking and using substances. While there’s no way to remove all the stress in your life, you need to develop healthy ways to handle it. Find what works for you, whether it is gardening, seeing friends, deep breathing, meditation or something else entirely. Also look to see if there are areas in your life where you’ve created unnecessary stress. If you over-commit to friends frequently and find yourself running around to keep all your promises, start cutting back by prioritizing your time and being realistic about what you can handle.
2. Work On Nutrition
What you eat can affect your health and your mood. If you start drinking too much coffee, for example, it can bring on moodiness, anxiety and nervousness. When you’re feeling really stressed or depressed, you may experience carb-heavy food cravings for things like cookies, candy and white bread, says WebMD. This is because these types of foods can temporarily boost your energy levels and your mood, but then they cause you to “crash.” You’re better off eating a balanced and healthy diet and staying hydrated. Stock your home with healthy foods, like fruits and veggies, and avoid having junk foods around when you’re feeling depressed or anxious, so you’re not so tempted by them.
3. Get Proper Sleep
Not getting enough quality sleep can really impact your health, mood and ability to think, per the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School. In short, everything may feel worse if you’re not getting the restful sleep you need, which is seven to nine hours for most adults. Work on getting enough sleep by cutting back on your schedule so you can get to bed earlier, and remove distractions, such as your cellphone, tablet or TV, from your bedroom at night.
4. Foster Strong Connections
When you’re feeling off, it’s easy to stay home and avoid the world outside your doors. But social connection is actually important, and loneliness can make you feel even worse. As difficult as it may seem, try to reach out to your friends and family, or put yourself out there more by joining a book club or taking on a class. Try to find something that interests you, involves other people and is different from your usual activities to help you form social connections and feel less alone. Don’t force yourself to be social, as you’ll just end up being uncomfortable. Look for things that you’re pretty sure you can cope with given your current state of mind.
5. Try Getting Physical
It may seem impossible to even think about working out when you’re anxious or depressed, but physical activity actually helps. According to HelpGuide, studies have shown that exercise helps relieve stress and symptoms of depression. You don’t have to join a gym to reap these benefits, either. Running, dancing, swimming, walking and even some gardening all fit the bill.
6. Be Kind To Yourself
If a loved one came to you and said they were having a hard time, would you brush that person off or say “Suck it up?” Chances are you’d offer support and comfort and be empathetic. But are you extending that same courtesy to yourself?
People tend to hold themselves to higher standards than others because they feel they’re being selfish when they’re kind to themselves, but it’s important to be self-kind. Make some time for yourself and don’t feel bad or guilty about it. Do something that brings joy to your life, allow yourself to feel your emotions, and don’t put yourself down over how you’re feeling.
7. Find Your Spirituality
Discover what spirituality means to you. For some people, that’s studying a religion and attending services, but for others it could be volunteering or meditation. Find something that resonates with you and gives you a sense of true purpose. If you nurture your spirit, you’ll be better able to handle any stress that comes your way.
8. Clear Your Mind
If you’ve got thoughts racing through your mind nearly all the time, work on slowing them down. Thinking takes a lot of energy, but sometimes that energy is better spent elsewhere. Set aside about 15 minutes each day to clear your mind of worries, anxieties and other negative thoughts. This could be an activity as simple as deep breathing or something a little more advanced, like meditation. Experiment with different methods until you find what works best for you.
9. Start A Journal
A journal in which you can write whatever you want can go a long way when it comes to your mental health. You can jot down your feelings and thoughts, how your day was, what you’re grateful for or even your ideas. With journaling, you can take things out of your head and get them onto paper instead of dwelling on them all the time.
10. Seek Support When Necessary
There may come a time when you need support outside of what you can give. Maybe you just need guidance or have anxiety or depression that you just can’t shake. Whether you go to a counselor, speak to your pastor or visit a therapist, you need to be able to recognize when you need outside help and respond accordingly. Find a person you can trust and are comfortable with, someone you feel is in your corner and able to give you good advice and listen to your thoughts.
You won’t experience true wellness until you start taking complete care of yourself, so get started on your self-care journey today. Once you begin to address all aspects of your health, from physical to emotional, you’ll begin to live your life just as you’ve always wanted to.