Mental Health is far more than taking a medication, attending therapy and Netflix binging( Hello OITNB, goodbye sleep!). I would love to take this opportunity to discuss something that is within our control, something everyone who I know ( including myself) can all improve upon on every day that has a significant impact on mental health: self-care.
When most of us hear self-care, we think of the special things we can treat ourselves to: a massage, a delectable cup of latte art, a new gadget on Amazon, etc. While all of these things make us feel good, it is important to not neglect the less attractive parts of self-care that are the essential day to day. What do these look like? These are tasks that contribute to the ongoing maintenance of a healthy mind, body and soul. These tasks aren’t always glamorous, sometimes boring, and may require some assembly of a routine. These tasks are an everyday choice we must make the choice and commitment to do or not to do; no one else can rest for us, drink the water for us, or nourish the soul and mind as well as the self.
Awhile ago, I had an experience speaking with my acupuncturist which resulted on profound awareness: upon noticing for the umpteenth week that I had been discussing the same symptomology, he had honed in on the most prevalent symptom- my excuse for not attending to my own personal self-care needs. “But I just need to wait until next month when things get less hectic!” I said with conviction. “ I understand you are stressed” he said. “ There isn’t enough time!” I said, to which he calmly replied with understanding “There is always time. We may find excuses, but there is always time to take care of yourself.” As we spoke, I realized I had been focused in on the big picture of self-care, and not the daily necessities. I may not be able to control every stressor in my life, however I could claim responsibility for my day to day habits.
So what can we do to benefit our mental health that is within our daily routine that we can claim responsibility for ? It is important to note everyone is different. While meditation has a lot of research backing its mental health benefits, that does not mean you are bound by mental health law to meditate if it’s really not your jam. Perhaps being in nature or therapeutic gardening may bring you that inner meditative joy (plus, plants also have many mental health benefits!) or maybe you are mesmerized by your dog as you watch them race around the dog park, or find the soft purr of your cat soothing before they walk over to knock off your glass of water from the table.
Self-care doesn’t have to be consistently exciting, or even a preferred activity. It often centers around remembering to consistently take your medication or supplements, eating well, saying “no” to a night out before work or overextending yourself.
Instead of waking up and immediately checking social media or turning on the news- what is a 10-15 minuet activity you can do that will be nurturing for you? Before engaging in an impulse, ask yourself, how will this make me feel an hour or two from now? Is my energy and time better spent on me?
Perhaps some of the best self-care out there is the acceptance that you do not have to be perfect. We wouldn’t shame loved ones, our neighbors, our friends and acquaintances on a daily bases, so we must work to apply these same principles to ourselves. Just remember YOU are the most important investment you have in this world.
So go play with your dog, get a plant, put goggly eyes on the Roomba to make it a robot pet, drink a glass of water, make that doctors appointment , reach out to your friends, stand in that long CVS line and update your virtual cat cafe - there is always time for self-care and self-love.
Alexis has been a part time contributor to the online website Patientworthy which is dedicated to education and awareness of rare and serious diseases. Links to articles written by Alexis: