Mental health is something that we should all be focused on. However, we often feel we don’t have time to in our busy and hectic daily lives. Yet, one of the best ways to improve our mental health is to focus on and improve our self-care routines.
How you may ask? By making it a point to put your self first in various aspects of your life. As a society, we are becoming more aware of self-care needs and realizing it is not selfish at all to take care of our selves.
The first step to truly improving your overall mental health is identifying the seven main areas of self-care and how there fit into your life. In this simple guide, I’ll cover the key areas of self-care and provides tips for implementing each into your life and routines.
The key areas of self-care that you will want to focus on, and we will further discuss are:
- Social / Relational
- Safety / Security
Taking time to focus on these key areas of self-care can improve your life and it only requires making small changes to your routines over time. When you find yourself burning out from the stress of your daily life, assessing these various areas can help you rebalance and live more fully.
“One of the best ways to improve our mental health is to focus on and improve our self-care routines.” ~ Simple Minded
1 – Physical Self-Care
Physical self-care is one of the broadest areas and can range in simply taking a break and visiting the spa, to improving your health. Many may find physical self-care as being selfish or superficial but improving your appearance or spending special time taking care of yourself can truly improve your physical well-being. This area of self-care should focus on improving your physical health and making you feel more secure with your health.
While physical self-care has a lot to do with improving your health, it does not mean that you have to dislike yourself or that you are not confident to begin with. In fact, it simply means that you are providing your body with the fuel, rest, and additional care needed to feel your best. When your body feels good, your mind will feel good.
Overall, when your body is functioning properly and you are getting quality rest, your mental health can improve naturally. At the end of the day, life can be stressful on your body, so splurge for the new face cream, eat your dessert and maybe a salad too, go for a walk, and put your body’s needs first.
Assessing Your Physical Self-Care
If you are unsure about your physical self-care or you are starting to feel run down physically or mentally, you should assess your current schedule. You will want to see where you are currently at and make improvements to your schedule. Some questions you can ask yourself are:
- Are you eating a healthy, balanced diet?
- Are you getting enough sleep each night?
- Are you exercising regularly?
- How is your overall health?
Improving Your Physical Self-Care
If you answered no to any of the above questions, you should make a note to work on these areas and improve your health. There are a few steps you can take to improve your physical health and feel better, these are:
- Take a break
- Go for a walk
- Get exercise before or after work, school, or other routines
- Work on your sleep schedules
- Add healthy options to your diet
- Actually take your lunch break, a vacation day, or a mental health day
2 – Emotional Self-Care
Too often, we do not allow ourselves to truly feel our emotions and bottle them up when they should be felt. It is hard to feel completely secure with your emotional self and express these feelings without being judged. While you clearly want to control your emotions when needed, it is important to give yourself time to feel.
If you are struggling with your emotional health, it can help to find someone close to you to talk to or even seek professional help. However, emotional health is not only for negative things, but you also want to feel all emotions, including happiness. Look for items that make you happy, content, even scared, embracing your feelings is key.
On the other hand, if you find yourself overly expressing your emotions or using unhealthy coping mechanisms to deal with emotions, this is something else you need to work on. If you lash out in anger or overeat through sadness, you may need to find other coping mechanisms that are more productive and, in some instances, safer. Learning to deal with uncomfortable emotions in a healthy way is key.
Assessing Your Emotional Self-Care
To ensure that you are handling your emotions properly, you do want to ask yourself a few questions and assess your emotional health. Some questions to consider are:
- When is the last time you did an activity that made you feel happy?
- What do you do to feel recharged? Content? Confident?
- Do you process your varying emotions in a healthy way?
Improving Your Emotional Self-Care
If you find yourself struggling with your emotional health, you will want to do your best to improve this area of your life. Just some of the activities that you can do to improve this area of self-care are:
- Allow yourself to feel your emotions, whether this be with another individual or on your own
- Join a club, group or sport that lets you spend time with likeminded individuals
- Develop friendships with supportive individuals who are there to listen
- Keep a journal, write down positive things along with negative, document your feelings
- Do something you truly enjoy
- Seek a therapist if needed
“Assess your self-care regularly to see where you need improvements.” ~ Simple Minded
3 – Social or Relational Self-Care
These two areas of self-care could be divided but are extremely close and go hand in hand. They both involve improving your socialization and overall social health through self-care. Your social self-care involves friends and acquaintances, while relational self-care is closer relatives and family.
Close connection to those around you is extremely important to your well-being but can be hard to work on with so much going on in your life. When things around you get busy or stressful, you want to guarantee that you are taking the time to foster these relationships. While there isn’t a certain amount of time you must dedicate to relationships, it is important that you are taking the time and energy to put towards them.
Parents are a group who tend to struggle in this area, as many have to find a balance between their family relationships and their social relationships, which can be difficult with children.
You want to keep a strong relationship with your significant other, parents, children, etc. while making time to make and visit friends. Having both a strong core family and a friend group can help you get through unexpected hardships and just improves your overall mental health.
Assessing Your Social / Relational Self-Care
While you may spend time with your family daily, you may not be truly working on these relationships. It is important to assess your self-care regularly to see where you need improvements. Some things to ask yourself are:
- How are you nurturing your relationships with family and friends?
- When was the last time you spent time with your friends? Your family?
- Are you getting face to face time with friends?
- Have you spent alone time with your significant other recently?
Improving your Social / Relational Self-Care
To maintain healthy, supportive relationships, you want to put forth an effort to improve these connections. Some self-care things you can do to improve these relationships are:
- Put your partner, significant other, children, parents, family and friends first in life
- Go to that birthday party, wedding, graduation, family reunion, or event that you are invited to
- Stop staying late at work, unless absolutely necessary
- Try to avoid bringing work home
- Call a friend you have not spoken to in a while
- Make plans with your friends and actually keep them
- Join a local group, sporting team, book club or meet up to connect with new friends
4 – Psychological Self-Care
You may also see this referred to as mental self-care, but it essentially involves doing things that keep your mind sharp and help you stay psychologically healthy. This is a combination of both literal mental exercises and keeping your mental health in check. Exercising your brain is critical and can help you as you age.
Of course, another huge factor in keeping yourself mentally healthy is that you do things that make you happy, paying attention to your inner feelings. While this is similar to emotional self-care it more so involves taking the time to reduce your mental stressors.
This may involve lowering your responsibilities, telling people no instead of always taking on extra work, or just taking a mental break when needed.
Overall, you want to improve your psychological self-care by filling your mind with things that influence you positively and improve your well-being. Learn about things that fascinate you and avoid things that add extra, unneeded stress. Most importantly, be compassionate to yourself.
Assessing Your Psychological Self-Care
Of course, you want to ensure that all areas of your self-care routine are being met. This means that you should assess your current psychological state and see if there is anything that you can improve. Some questions you should ask yourself are:
- Are you proactively doing things to stay mentally healthy?
- Are you challenging yourself mentally?
- Are you taking enough time to do stimulating activities?
- Are you taking on too many unnecessary activities that are adding stress or mental fatigue?
Improving Your Mental Self-Care
There are many activities you can do to improve your overall mental health. You should be trying to intellectually engage in activities regularly that stimulate you, including:
- Make time for relaxation
- Engage in hobbies outside of work; paint, visit a museum, read a book, complete a puzzle
- Take a step away from work or unwanted responsibilities
- Engage with friends and family regularly
- Stop feeling bad about saying no to activities that are not necessary
“Most importantly, be compassionate to yourself. ” ~ Simple Minded
5 – Spiritual Self-Care
The area of spiritual self-care varies from person to person, depending on your personal feelings. For many this can mean going to church regularly, studying religious works, praying, etc. However, spiritual health goes far beyond the idea of religion, whether you believe in God, Allah, Buddha, Universe, another higher power, or no higher power at all.
While attending some form of church can be a great way for many to practice spiritual self-care, this is not the only way and for many not a way at all. You may choose instead to get more in touch with your inner human spirit and soul, finding what truly matters to you. This can be through meditating, developing a mindfulness practice or even journaling. For many this can also mean donating to things they are interested in or finding a non-profit that stands for things they stand for.
Overall, your spiritual self-care involves anything that nurtures your spirit and allows you to think of things that are bigger than yourself. It is doing things that help the greater good, taking a step back from being materialistic or self-focused.
Assessing Your Spiritual Self-Care
Everyone can benefit from assessing his or her spiritual health. Just believing in a higher power does not mean that you are fully practicing spiritual self-care. Some things to ask yourself are:
- Are you engaging in spiritual practices?
- Are you doing your best to contribute to causes you care about?
- Are you taking the time to reflect on what matters to you?
Improving Your Spiritual Self-Care
To increase your spiritual mental health, you should be practicing regular self-care and making it a point to add these practices to your routine. You will want to add some of the following steps to your routine to improve your overall spirituality, such as:
- Visit a local church, mosque, temple or another holy or sacred place
- Engage in reflective practices like yoga, meditation, prayer
- Reflect with likeminded friends or colleagues
- Donate to your favorite charity
- Learn more about a nonprofit or cause that interests you
6 – Professional Self-Care
In today’s world, it is practically a necessity for you to work at least part-time with many working far more than full time. Though many love their job, it can still put a strain on your daily life and can be very stressful. However, for those who do not love or even like their job, it can be one of the hardest parts of your life.
While getting a new job that you love going to and fulfills you is ideal, this is not always instantly possible. However, you can practice self-care even while in the workplace and improve your daily life there. It is important to work on your work-life balance and reduce your overall stress when it comes to your career.
Assessing Your Professional Self-Care
Even those who love their jobs can do a little extra work to improve their professional self-care. Though your career is important, it should be balanced with other areas of your life properly. Some questions you can ask yourself to decide if this is an area you should work on are:
- Are you happy with your career choices?
- Do you dread going to work each day?
- Are you working to better your current career situation?
- Are you taking on more responsibility at work than you need to?
- Are you taking time to spend with family and friends?
“Though your career is important, it should be balanced with other areas of your life.” ~ Simple Minded
How to Improve Your Professional Self-Care
If you have answered no to any of the above questions, it is time to improve your professional self-care. As mentioned, getting a new job cannot happen instantly for everyone and you may be taking courses or working to improve this current situation. However, even those who are unhappy with their career can improve their professional self-care following these steps:
- Attend professional development programs
- Be strict with your boundaries between yourself and other staff members, clients and students
- Put in applications for new jobs, attend university or train to get the career you want
- Take your breaks and actually take a break!
- Use your vacation time
- Spend time with colleagues and get to know your peers
- Work your way up by reading professional journals, consulting with experienced colleagues, furthering your education
7 – Safety and Security Self-Care
Perhaps the most literal of the self-care groups is your safety and security. While this does involve you being as safe as possible, it also involves you working diligently to protect yourself by having health insurance, car insurance, and a reliable vehicle, for instance. Unfortunately, many do not have proper safety and security in their life due to financial strain and difficulties.
Luckily, in recent years, it has become easier for individuals to get quality health insurance for less money. However, it is also important that you are taking steps to live a fulfilling yet safe life. You want to live your life without an excess of fear but do your best to extend this life by avoiding known hazards or negative behaviors.
Going beyond safety, you also want to have security in your life. While many are working to better their financial situation or are currently experiencing hardships, you should understand your finances and have a grasp on them. Many women are struggling in this area, because they do not handle their own finances and are not responsible for them until they separate from their partner.
Assessing Your Safety and Security Self-Care
You can assess your safety and security self-care by asking yourself a few questions, such as:
- Are you taking precautions when it comes to your health?
- Do you have proper insurance, or a plan should something happen to you? To your partner? To your family members?
- Are you financially secure? Are you working to become financially secure?
- Are you having routine wellness checks?
Improving Your Safety and Security Self-Care
You can improve your safety and security self-care or begin working to improve these areas. Improvement in these areas often involves putting your own needs first and taking control of your health. Even those who are not in the best place financially can do their best to improve their health. Some steps you can take are:
- Seek low cost or lower cost healthcare if you do not currently have it
- Work to improve your financial situation, seek new employment, further your education
- Save extra funds and being more responsible for funds, in the case of an emergency
- Schedule a wellness visit to your doctor, an eye exam, a dental checkup
- Stop smoking, lower alcohol intake, seek help with substance abuse
- Make healthier diet choices
- Live as safe as possible, wearing a seatbelt, practicing safe sex, avoiding unneeded risks
I hope you found this self-care guide helpful and learned some useful self-care ideas to improve your quality of life. I hope it has inspired you to explore these ideas in one or more areas of your life.
Often times we take self-care for granted, but as you can see there are many small ways we can be more aware and make changes that have big impact over time.