Self-care is vitally important for everyone, but especially for people who work in high-stress jobs. According to a study by the American Psychological Association, people who work in high-stress jobs are more likely to experience health problems than those who don’t. The study also found that these health problems can include everything from heart disease and stroke to diabetes and depression.
But it’s not just the physical health effects of stress that are a problem. The APA study also found that people who work in high-stress jobs are more likely to experience financial problems, relationship problems, and substance abuse.
So how can you protect yourself from the negative effects of stress? Even small steps that may not seem like much can be part of a larger process that can improve your mental state and quality of life, as well as lower blood pressure and support a healthy heart rate.
Read on to learn more about how you can start or improve your self-care journey for better mental health. While this isn’t a comprehensive list, it is a great way to get an idea of what healthy lifestyles can look like.
What Is Self-care?
Most of us live a hectic life. Thus, it is often hard to remember to take care of ourselves. We usually focus on getting everything done and don’t take time to ensure we are okay or feeling well.
Essentially, self-care is any effort to meet a person’s physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual needs. In other words, many of the small things you do in your daily life that bring you happiness are a means of self-care. Self-care is like recharging your batteries, and everyone’s self-care practices are different.
Studies have shown that many self-care behaviors are positively correlated with better mental health and emotional health. A cross-sectional study of the hypertension self-care activities of African Americans even found blood pressure control among other physical health benefits of some self-care activities.
What Are The Different Types of Self-care Activities?
Physical self-care consists of doing things to ensure we are in good physical health. This includes common physical activities like a bike ride or running and adopting a nourishing diet.
Following a low-salt diet for a healthier heart or managing blood sugar levels is an example of a physical self-care activity. Also, the products you put on your body, and even taking care of yourself in ways like showering, enjoying a warm bath, taking bubble baths, or having a spa day are part of physical self-care practices.
Our bodies are engines, and we need to keep them in a good condition, but that’s more than just exercise and food. Though it may be scary, take the time to meet with your health providers to determine what you can focus on to feel better physically. Your health care providers are there for you when you just aren’t sure of where to start.
Mental self-care involves learning how to hold and respond to your thoughts. Thoughts play a significant role in your well-being. Negative thoughts can lead to anxiety, depression, and other mental health disorders. Fortunately, we can learn to process and reframe our thoughts through different techniques, such as meditation, cognitive therapy, and trauma therapies like EMDR.
While it is important to be mindful of our thoughts, it is also essential to remember that this can’t be achieved at all times. However, we can learn to control how we react to them. Mental self-care practices can help us focus on positive thoughts, cope with stress, and change the way our brain functions.
There are simple practices to improve your mental self-care, such as completing a crossword puzzle, stepping away from social media, listening to music, or going out and connecting with nature.
Addressing and caring for our daily emotions can be difficult. This is especially true when the news and other media forms are constantly bombarding us with sensationalized emotional content. The most important thing about emotional self-care is to acknowledge that all emotions are valid, even if we usually associate them with “good” or “bad” connotations.
If you want to free up space for your full range of emotions, try keeping a journal and writing down your difficult emotions as well as feelings of gratitude each day. This is best to do in the morning, as you set up a positive mindset. There are also apps you can download that give you daily inspirational quotes for a positive outlook for the day.
An often overlooked form of self-care is spiritual self-care. This means taking a moment to focus on what matters most to you. These short pauses in the hectic life around you help calm the mind and reduce all kinds of stress.
Dedicate at least 15 minutes each day to do something that you enjoy, or that helps you relax. This can be anything from reading a spiritual book, taking a nature walk, or listening to calming music. Keep a spiritual journal. Use your journal as a way to track your spiritual growth and progress. Write down your thoughts and insights after each self-care activity, and refer back to them from time to time.
Dedicate at least 30 minutes each week to reflect on your spiritual journey. This can be done alone or with a trusted friend or family member. You should also try connecting with others who share your beliefs. Spending time with like-minded individuals will help you feel supported and motivated in your spiritual journey. Seek out professional help if needed. If you feel like you are struggling to maintain your spiritual health, seek out the help of a qualified professional such as a counselor, therapist, or clergy member.
Social self-care is the one we often overlook. However, with the recent pandemic, it is probably the type of self-care everyone needs to focus on more. Social self-care is very important to maintain because it supports personal growth and mental health.
Even if you are not a social person, practicing self-care socially might make the difference between a bad day and a good one.
Make sure you aren’t doing things just to please people, or stay in bad relationships because you feel you have to. Focus on connecting to people who make you feel happy and healthy, even if you don’t have the energy to see them in person.
Self-Care Activities to Try
Connect With Your Support Network
You may not realize it, but you probably have a support network already built up around you that can help you with mental health challenges and self-care. These people are typically your friends and family members.
Simply calling someone on the phone and having a chat can be a social and emotional form of self-care that many people overlook. If you can, go a little further and try to meet in person to add a sensory physical self-care act like a hug into the mix.
Introduce Meditation Into Your Routine
Meditation is sometimes associated with religions like Buddhism or Hinduism, but you can meditate no matter what your religious beliefs (or lack of religious beliefs) are. The point is to slow down and be mindful of yourself and present in the moment.
Conscious mindfulness and the deep breathing that often accompanies meditation are powerful physical, mental, and spiritual self-care behaviors. Lowering blood pressure and stress levels are the major benefits cited for meditation.
Try Something New
Keep a bucket list of everything you want to do, including things you are scared to do. This helps you master your fear and improve your emotional self-confidence. Furthermore, lists are known to help people focus better and organize themselves toward a goal, while crossing things off them contributes to the release of dopamine for a boost of satisfaction.
Lose Yourself In Nature
There are documented benefits to being part of nature from time to time. Taking a walk (maybe even barefoot) among the trees of a forest and soaking in the beauty of nature, as well as recognizing that humans are part of nature is an especially powerful option for your self-care plan. Engaging in nature can be a part of a bigger holistic health plan.
Practicing self-care activities of any kind can increase confidence, and help you manage stress. Individuals’ self-care activities are often overlooked but are important for our mental health and well-being. It allows us to live in the present and better manage our daily lives.
Practice your self-care plan, even when it is difficult. This adherence will help you to follow through, even on days when you don’t feel like doing anything. If you aren’t sure of where to start, there are Self-Care Assessment articles and quizzes online that might prove useful.