Self-care is an integral part of maintaining and promoting your mental wellbeing, preventing burnout, and increasing physical health. While “Self Care Sunday” can be any day of the week, here are 8 self-care ideas to improve your routine so you can be on your way to a healthier self.
8 Ways to Practice Self Care Today
- Get outside in nature
- Put your phone down before bed
- Do breathing exercises
- Keep a journal
- Listen to your favorite music, dance a little
- Reach out to friends, family, or a support
- Clean & declutter
- Make yourself a nice meal
What is self-care?
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, self-care is defined as the following:
“Self-care means taking the time to do things that help you live well and improve both your physical health and mental health. When it comes to your mental health, self-care can help you manage stress, lower your risk of illness, and increase your energy. So even small acts of self-care in your daily life can have a big impact.”
In short, it’s not just bubble baths and a glass of wine- it’s broadly and intentionally taking the time to take care of yourself in all aspects, both physical and mental. By engaging in things that help promote your well-being, you’re better able to cope with stress, sudden change, and day-to-day life.
The long-term effects of self-care are all-encompassing. You will start to see yourself have a more positive outlook on life while taking better care of yourself. This will naturally increase your health, immunity, and can even boost the production of chemicals in the brain without medication.
Taking care of yourself will naturally boost your serotonin, dopamine, oxytocin, and endorphins, all allowing you to feel better, happier, and healthier.
Seek help when you need it
Even though maintaining a good self-care routine and taking time for yourself will naturally boost your mood and help with certain mental ailments such as depression, lack of motivation, and low confidence, there are situations where you may need professional help.
If you find yourself relating to the following situations, it’s important to reach out to a mental health professional. If you’re in Northampton County or looking for a social worker, counselor, or therapist in Bethlehem, PA, contact Dr. John G. Kuna and Associates’s office to schedule an appointment today. With 14 convenient locations across Northeastern and Northcentral, PA, we’re here to help.
- Trouble sleeping or oversleeping
- Loss of appetite or overeating
- Loss of enjoyment in activities that used to make you happy
- Inability to concentrate
- Uncontrollable thoughts
- Anxiety or frequent worrying
- Thoughts of self-harm or suicide
- If you are experiencing this, seek help as soon as possible. Call 911, visit your local hospital or reach out to the nearest service provider to you.
1. Get outside in nature
Just stepping outside into nature, whether it be a forest, a park, a sidewalk, or your backyard, can significantly have an impact on your mood.
- Getting outside for even 30 minutes can provide a day’s worth of vitamin D
- Vitamin D is a key ingredient to preventing sickness and building your immune system.
- Decrease cortisol & increase serotonin
- Phytoncides, chemicals found in the forest air, have been linked with decreased cortisol levels (stress hormone) and increased serotonin levels, providing feelings of calmness, happiness, and focus.
- More energy and focus
- When outside, we naturally take deeper breaths in the fresh air. This increased oxygen boost to our cells gives us more energy and allows us to focus better.
- Physical activity
2. Put your phone down before bed
Many of us cannot put down our phones, laptops, or tablets for large portions of the day. Work, school, and other obligations keep us busy staring at the blue light and can make it harder for us to focus and sleep.
At night, darkness signals our bodies to release melatonin, the chemical responsible for helping us sleep. However, blue light, which is found on cell phones, throws off our circadian rhythm and tells our body to stay away- producing less melatonin.
Short and poor sleep has been linked to depression, diabetes, and cardiovascular problems. This lack of quality sleep can also cause your body to produce less serotonin, affecting your mood.
Try putting your phone out of sight 30 minutes before bed. You’ll find that your body will naturally produce more melatonin, and you’ll sleep more soundly. In addition, creating a relaxing routine before sleep will eliminate anxious or potentially high-stress situations.
Think about it, how often have we checked our phone before bed and read or seen something that put a pit in our stomach?
3. Do breathing exercises
Controlling our breathing can activate our ability to slow down our central nervous system and turn down our stress response. When stressed or anxious, our bodies naturally resort to shallow, upper-chest breathing. Over time, this can lead to hyperventilation, causing more stress.
According to Better Health Channel, controlling your breathing and doing breathwork has the following health benefits:
- Lower blood pressure and heart rate
- Reduced levels of stress hormones
- Less lactic acid build-up in muscle
- Oxygen and carbon dioxide levels are balanced
- Healthier immune system functioning
- More energy
- Increased calmness
- Learn to control your breathing with helpful exercises from Healthline.
4. Keep a journal
In times of stress, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and lose track of priorities or even your thoughts. Using journaling as a tool for managing your mental health can help keep yourself accountable and organize your thoughts. The University of Rochester Medical Center lists the following health benefits of journaling:
- Managing your anxiety and stress
- Coping with depression or feelings of sadness
- Prioritize your problems, fears, and concerns
- Identify negative thought patterns and reinforce positive thinking
- Track what triggers you so you can learn ways to control your responses
5. Listen to your favorite music, dance a little
Listening to your favorite, feel-good music has been clinically shown to reduce anxiety, improve mood & memory, and increase cognitive performance. Likewise, dancing can release endorphins, improve cardiovascular health, improve flexibility, balance, and strength.
So next time you’re looking for a creative outlet to benefit both your mental and physical health, consider putting on some music and having a dance party.
6. Reach out to friends, family, or a support
Maintaining and nourishing your interpersonal relationships is a great way to promote socialization and invoke a sense of community. Whether it be a friendly conversation catching up over coffee, a quick phone call, or a text when you need support the most, reaching out and being social is an excellent form of self-care.
7. Clean & declutter
Think about how you feel when you have a messy home/room versus how you feel in a freshly decluttered, clean living space. In many ways, it might feel as though you can even breathe better.
The act of cleaning is often repetitive and can provide many people with a meditative environment. On the other hand, messy things naturally make us stressed, disordered, and even chaotic. Cleaning up a little bit, even if it’s just the corner of a room, can help reduce stress and provide you with ease.
8. Make yourself a nice meal
Cooking for many people serves as a therapeutic process. It forces us to focus on mindfulness, engages us in our senses, and gives us a creative outlet. Since you often have to be focused when cooking, you’re stimulating the brain all while creating new dishes that fuel your body.
Try cooking a healthy meal that you’ve never made before. Nutrition keeps our body working correctly and directly impacts mental health and mental illness.
If you can’t make yourself a meal, try treating yourself to takeout food at a favorite restaurant or try out a new local small business. After all, this is all about self-care- it’s okay to treat yourself.
There are many ways to practice self-care and treat yourself on Self Care Sunday. While the list is endless and differs from person to person, it’s essential to make sure your self-care is holistic, nourishing each aspect of your well-being. Practicing variations of these 8 steps will promote your mental, physical, emotional, and social health.