The Essentials of Self-care for Mental Well-being
Find out the importance of implementing self-care to improve your mental well-being.
We often hear about self-care, but how much do you know about the importance of implementing it? Do you feel guilty for having some time to yourself, or do you think you will 'get around to doing it one day'? But don't have the time? Or put everyone else first. Have you used these excuses not to put yourself first? It is easy to neglect yourself. Here is why it is so important to put yourself first.
Read on to learn the facts and methods you can use to put yourself first to enhance your well-being.
What is Self-Care?
Self-care is taking time for yourself. First off, I want to affirm that it is not being selfish. In fact, if you honour yourself this time, you will actually show up better for others. You may have heard the quote about filling up your cup first before you can help others. When you look after yourself, your body and mind function at their best. Self-care can be as simple as daily hygiene, such as having a shower or eating well. The more self-care you incorporate, the better you will feel.
We are our best selves when we are in the optimal window of tolerance. Try to think back to a time when you were motivated to get things done and relaxed enough that the 'little things' washed over you like water off a duck's back. This is your optimal arousal zone. You feel at your best in this space, and life seems to flow easily. Has there been a time when you have been able to prioritise yourself? And if you did, did you notice how you felt afterwards?
Why is Self-care so important?
When stressed, we can go into hypo or hyper arousal. Read on to find out how this can affect your well-being.
Hyperarousal - In this zone, you can feel anxious, stressed, angry, unable to focus, irritable, unable to sleep, and the list goes on. You may even have physical symptoms such as rapid heart rate or shallow breathing. We can't think clearly to get things done. This is often known as anxiety. Your mind may catastrophise about the future, and you may feel fearful of new events.
On the other extreme, we have hypoarousal. This can present as low mood, lack of motivation, disengagement, and feeling sad and helpless. Your mind may replay painful past memories such as trauma or loss. If these symptoms continue, you may be diagnosed with depression.
Hyper and hypo arousal live side by side, and you may rapidly alternate between the two states. You are feeling fearful and low affect simultaneously. Your body and mind are unable to function at their best.
When stressed, your body is getting pumped with stress hormones which can cause physical side effects such as lowered immunity and hypertension. Your mental well-being can also be affected. You may also find that you can not think clearly, have difficulties making decisions, feel unmotivated and start ruminating on unhelpful thoughts. Self-care helps reduce stress so you can be in the Optimal Arousal zone and function at your very best, physically and emotionally.
You feel motivated, optimistic, and engaged when you are in the optimal arousal zone. Your mind remains present, and you can regulate emotions effectively. Your mind will be present and have more clarity as you live in the moment. It is natural to have stress levels in your life, and the window of tolerance becomes smaller when it happens. The smaller your window of tolerance, the less tolerant you are to slight stresses and the more emotional you may feel. Incorporating regular self-care helps to widen the window and improve your resilience.
Benefits of self-care on your mental well-being
Ensuring that you are prioritising yourself can go a long way to helping you achieve your goals and feel at your very best. Research shows having a healthy self-care routine can increase happiness, reduce stress and anxiety and help you bounce back after a stressful event.
What fills you up?
Self-care looks different to everyone. You are unique; think about what nourishes you. Check-in with yourself to know what it is that you need. You might need something relaxing, or it might be energetic to release stress. By tuning in to your body, you can sense what it needs. It may be a run or a leisurely stroll. What is going to make you feel good? Here is a list of some popular self-care activities for inspiration.
Go for a walk
Say No when you have to
Spend time in nature
Talk to a friend
Eat healthy meals
Spend time with pets
Listen to music
Have a bath
Speak to a professional
Know what you need
#1 - Check-in with your body to find out what self-care you need (Do you need time to yourself or to connect with others? Do you need something that will energise or relax you?)
#2 - What self-care activities will fulfil this need (What do you enjoy that will help this need?)
#3 - Plan when you can prioritise the self-care (in the morning, before bed on the weekend?)
#4 - Incorporate Self-care (Show up for yourself.)
#5 - Notice and observe how you feel afterwards (Do you feel more grounded, motivated, less stressed?)
How to implement self-care
My main excuse for not doing self-care was lack of time. I would tell myself, "I don't have time to do that 10-minute meditation", or "I don't have time to read that book". The ironic thing was I had the time, but I would spend it on pointless activities, such as scrolling through social media, leading to further stress and negatively affecting my mental well-being.
I have learnt the importance of implementing self-care, and I feel more energised and ready to take on each day by prioritising it. I feel happier, calmer and more energised when I do. The trick is planning it in advance. Making it a daily ritual can help ensure looking after yourself becomes a habit.
Build a self-care routine. Doing things at the same time every day or week is an excellent way to prioritise it. For example, attending a yoga class once a week and having a nutritional breakfast each morning. If you are new to self-care, start small, try with one thing and gradually build up.
Start small and grow your self-care journey. Notice the difference and how you feel within yourself and your connection with others. You will be amazed at how it can improve your mental and physical well-being.
Related Article: How Counselling Can Improve Emotional Well-being
Related Article: 5 Tools to Help You With Anxiety
Still need support
If you need support with introducing self-care or have other life stressors interfering, speaking with a trained counsellor can help you navigate the situation and move in the right direction of your best self. Please reach out for a Free Consultation to find out more.