September is Self Care Awareness Month and a perfect time to start implementing self care ideas and strategies for better physical and mental health.
All too often, people make the mistake of thinking self-care is selfish. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Taking better care of ourselves energizes us, which allows us to be an even greater help to others.
What is Self Care?
In short, self care is the practice of developing and maintaining wellbeing for the body and mind, along with our emotional response to life’s inevitable stressors.
Staying healthy in these areas requires a conscious effort, at least in the beginning.
Over time, self care ideas and strategies can become habits that are prioritized and lead to better overall health and wellness.
This, however, doesn’t mean that life will not have challenging moments, but with a good self-care plan in place, our response to these struggles will be more effective, productive, and lasting.
Developing effective tips for self-care strategies is easier than many people realize. Perhaps the hardest part of adopting these practices is letting go of the idea that self care is some sort of extravagance rather than an outright necessity for good health.
3 Types of Self Care Ideas
On its face, self care ideas may conjure up images of lavish spa days or tropical vacations, but the practice is much more than simply finding ways to relax or unplug.
Self Care is a proactive approach to health in three of life’s most important areas:
1. Physical Self Care
Taking care of our physical health is number one on the list because it affects every area of our lives.
Not only can poor physical health lead to illness and disease, it can also cause depression, anxiety, and chronic stress that interrupts our personal and professional lives, damages our relationships, and keeps us in a cycle of unhealthiness.
While exercise, diet, and sleep are certainly priorities for good health, physical self care also includes:
- Seeing a health care provider regularly
- Taking prescribed medications if necessary
- Managing any risk factors that may lead to poor health
2. Mental and Emotional Self Care
Actively taking care of our mental and emotional health is something many of us never consider. However, it’s important to remember that how we think and view the world, as well as our psychological wellbeing, is influenced by the things we focus on.
It’s normal to find ourselves in negative patterns of thought, or focusing on and rehashing recent mistakes and past regrets.
Dwelling on negative thoughts increases stress levels that change the brain chemistry and can cause many types of anxiety disorders.
Learning to forgive ourselves, just as we forgive others we love, is a key element to mental and emotional self care.
It’s not always easy, but having compassion for ourselves is vitally important. We are only human after all, and letting go of our mistakes and regrets can help reduce much of the fear and worry we find ourselves living with on a daily basis.
3. Social and Spiritual Self Care
While this area of self care can seem somewhat “out there” to some people, social and spiritual self care doesn’t necessarily have to include religion.
Our spiritual sides can be fed with activities that we’re passion about, like feeling connected to nature and having a sense that there is something larger than ourselves.
This kind of self care also occurs during time spent with friends and family members. Having a close personal connection to others is important for overall mental wellbeing.
It can be challenging to make time for others and feed our passions, but even a small amount of time spent in pursuit of social and spiritual self care is incredibly fulfilling.
5 Self Care Ideas to Improve Wellbeing
During Self Care Awareness Month, take the opportunity to implement small changes in your daily life with the goal of practicing better self care ideas. We don’t have to entirely overhaul our schedules in order to do this.
Simply including some of the following self care ideas into our daily regimens can improve our lives:
1. Restful and Regular Sleep
It’s easy to skip out on sleep, but most adults need 6 to 9 hours of healthy, restful sleep a night.
Going to sleep and waking up at the same time every day, even on the weekend, can help establish this routine.
It can be challenging at first, but the body will adapt and over time most people will find his or her mood and energy levels greatly improve.
Moderate amounts of exercise, as little as 30 minutes a day, works wonders for reducing stress, managing weight, and improving sleep and mood. Regular exercise is also recommended as a way to reduce many types of depression symptoms.
For some people, this may mean a nightly walk. For others, this might include cycling, swimming, hiking, or even playing a sport.
The key is to find an activity that is both enjoyable and gets the body moving. If it isn’t enjoyable, most people will stop doing it and lose the benefits.
3. Well-balanced and Healthy Diet
Maintaining a well-balanced and healthy diet rich in fresh fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins goes a long way to helping people get both good sleep and having enough of the right kind of energy to exercise.
A healthy diet can play a major role in improving mood and mental health because there are fewer spikes in a person’s blood sugar levels.
It may be difficult at first, but avoiding things like alcohol, unhealthy snacks, and processed foods will lead to better overall health and wellness.
4. Social Support
Find ways to engage with family and friends with whom you share a common interest to build a strong social support system.
Staying in touch with people through social media is not enough. Everyone has different social needs, but finding face-to-face time with others helps keep us connected to ourselves and grounded.
Outside of friends and family, volunteering to help others in whatever way can be incredibly rewarding and lead to lasting friendships.
5. Meditation and Mindfulness
Practicing meditation and mindfulness is an excellent way to quiet the mind and relieve stress and anxiety.
Mindfulness is simply the practice of being aware of things in the moment. While on a walk, pay attention to how the air on our skin feels, or the way the ground feels beneath our feet.
During a short meditation, staying mindful involves focusing on our breath, the rise and fall of our chest, and just letting thoughts pass through the mind without focusing on them.
Practicing just 5 to 15 minutes of meditation can reduce stress and is an excellent self care technique.
10 More Self Care Ideas to Clear Your Mind
There’s no shortage of ways to practice self care to recharge the mind and relieve stress and anxiety. Here are some easy ones that anyone can do.
- Do Yoga at Home
- Avoid watching the news for a week
- Take a relaxing bath
- Plant a garden
- Listen to music
- Take a vacation day from work
- Get a massage
- Start a new hobby
- Go to a movie by yourself
- Spend time alone with a pet
Most of these can be done alone and don’t require a lot of time.
To be most effective, focus all attention on these self care ideas when doing them and don’t let your mind wander to other things in your life that may be causing anxiety or stress.