As Mental Health month officially comes to a close next week, remembering to keep our mental, physical and emotional health in check shouldn’t stop in May. Feeling like you have been hearing a lot about self-care lately? You have. According to Google Trends, the number of searches for “self-care” has more than doubled since 2015. But what does realistically honoring our own mental health and that of others’ look like day to day?
It starts with you. As the famous line goes, before you help someone else, you must first help yourself. Just like flying on an airplane, you put on your own oxygen mask before assisting others in the case of an emergency. Prioritizing your own needs with self-care is an essential step in actively attending to your overall wellness. If you’re struggling to find time for self-care, block time on your calendar.
Self-care can look different for everyone – as long as it helps you reenergize, brings you joy, and allows you to listen to what your entire body needs. Need some ideas? Check out these self-care practices:
Treat yourself Do something just because it makes you feel good! Ignoring our wants tells our minds and bodies that they are not a priority. We tend to think our own desires are negligible. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Go out for a sweet treat, buy yourself a gift or spend an afternoon doing something you love like getting lost in a good book, going on a bike ride or watching a new Netflix show. Treating yourself to something you wouldn’t normally enjoy is a major aspect of practicing self-care.
Learn to say “no” If we are unable or uncomfortable saying no, it often leaves us spread too thin. Juggling too many things doesn’t allow you to give your best, and while it feels good to help others by saying yes, overcommitting isn’t always in our best interest. It’s okay to say no. With work or other projects, delegating or asking for help is a great quality to leverage when you’re feeling overwhelmed. Asking for help never makes you weak. It’s always beneficial to call in backup until you’re able to get the job done. Saying no can be the best form of self-care.
Enjoy fresh air and sunlight every day When we get in a groove of busy schedules, sometimes we find ourselves spending the majority of the day indoors. Stepping outside and getting a breath of fresh air can reduce stress, lower your blood pressure and help you live in the moment. Studies have even shown that getting outside can help reduce fatigue and sleep better, making it a great way to overcome symptoms of depression or burnout. What a simple way to boost your well-being. Take a short walk, eat lunch outside, plant flowers, or even just mindfully enjoy the stroll to grab your mail. Take time for yourself by soaking in some vitamin D and filling up those lungs with fresh air.
Prioritize sleep I often find myself saying there aren’t enough hours in the day. And sometimes, there just isn’t enough time for everything on your to-do list. However, that does not mean you should interrupt your sleep schedule to cross one more item off. A good night’s sleep is incredibly important for both our physical and mental health. Sleeping at least eight hours a night allows our bodies to reset and recharge for the next day while helping to keep our minds sharp and focused. Get those eight hours – you’ll be happy you did come morning.
Most importantly, if you are experiencing any mental health, substance use or other behavioral health challenges, know that you are not alone and help is always available at the National Help Line. Equally important, save the Suicide Hotline 800-273-8255 as a contact in your phone.
In addition to self-care, education is an important part of not only better understanding our own mental health needs, but also the needs of others, including how to properly respond and help if necessary. Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) certification teaches individuals how to offer support to someone who may be experiencing a mental health or substance use related crisis. Similar to First Aid and CPR trainings, MHFA focuses on increasing emergency preparedness for individuals and organizations alike.
Julie Hiett and I serve as the MFHA trainers for Netsmart. We both have a strong passion for mental health, and we love certifying Netsmart associates, partners and individuals in the community. Since implementing MHFA, we have certified more than 800 individuals. And there are more than 2.5 million individuals certified nationwide. Are you certified? If not, visit MHFA to find an on-site or virtual class.
In addition to training and education, talking about anxiety, depression or addiction helps eliminate the stigma and encourages others to be more open to discussing their own challenges. Check in on each other, listen intently and show compassion to friends, family and peers consistently.
Although we are well into the new year, it’s never too late to make a new resolution. We should all work to prioritize the mental health of our peers and our own in 2021. Whether that be through having honest conversations, becoming MFHA certified, or taking some time to practice self-care routinely, acknowledging and embracing mental health is a great first step we can all take together. Don’t forget, how you think can impact how you feel. Brené Brown said it best, “Talk to yourself like you would to someone you love.”
Always remember help is available, open and honest communication is key, and self-care is never selfish. It is self-preservation.
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