If you’re like most people, there’s not enough time in the day to do what you need to do. Life seems to be made up of trying to find a balance between family, friends and work, and the balance is rarely accomplished. Amidst a hectic schedule, the last person to get much-needed attention is usually ourselves. But for our mind’s sake, self-care is not optional. Here are four basic but overlooked self-care practices that are essential for your mental health.
Getting Enough Sleep
In a fast-paced world filled with too many tasks, sleep is often the first casualty. The problem is that sleep is not only needed for cognitive performance, but sleep deprivation can also lead to serious mental health issues. In a publication by Harvard Medical School, it’s stated that “sleep problems may raise risk for, and even directly contribute to, the development of some psychiatric disorders … [and] a good night’s sleep helps foster both mental and emotional resilience, while chronic sleep disruptions set the stage for negative thinking and emotional vulnerability.” If you rarely get a good night’s sleep, consult a sleep expert on strategies to try falling asleep. If you have to, get tested for sleep disorders. Do whatever it takes because it’s that important. You can’t go on forever with your mind running on empty.
Taking Time to Relax
It’s also important to consider setting aside time just for relaxation. While relaxation is associated with lower risks of hypertension, heart attacks and other cardiovascular issues, it also helps decrease depression and anxiety, along with many other mental health problems. Much like sleep, many Americans claim that they don’t have the time for relaxing. If that’s true, then make the time for it. Wake up a few minutes earlier so you don’t have to rush out in the morning, and take a few minutes during your workday to get some fresh air outside. It doesn’t have to be a monumental change in your schedule, but designating a half-hour for relaxing can transform your day.
Every person in the world deals with stress. It can steal our energy and bring about fatigue, negative thinking, anxiety, self-pity, depression and many other destructive emotions. Stress is also one of the leading contributors to substance abuse, and for those in recovery it’s one of the most dangerous triggers for relapse. There are many things you can do to reduce your stress, such as getting enough sleep, eating well, regularly exercising and maintaining a social life. While they can help relieve stress for everyone, meditating and yoga are effective activities for those in addiction recovery. Chronic stress can be debilitating and can lead to countless health problems, so it should be taken seriously when making changes to your life.
One other thing that is important to know: It’s OK to say no to people. Saying yes to everything and everyone is a surefire way to invite anxiety, stress and restless nights into your life. It’s important to say no when you’re exhausted, when you need personal time, or when it interferes with something of higher priority in your life. Sometimes this means saying no to your boss when she wants you to work another double, and sometimes it means skipping girls’ night at the bar to watch rom-coms at home with your dog. Our bodies and minds are good indicators of when we need a break, and it’s important to listen.
Self-care is one of the most important things we can do for our mind and taking care of ourselves will ultimately make us more accessible to others. Adequate sleep, relaxation time, stress reduction and saying no are all practical ways to promote mental health. Though it may take some effort to change things in your life, the benefits you’ll enjoy will likely lead to a longer life.
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