Self-care is the act of taking care of yourself to preserve or improve one’s own health. It can help reduce or eliminate stress, anxiety and depression, improve productivity, and increase happiness. As the new year begins, focusing on your self-care is an excellent resolution to consider taking on.
There are many misconceptions about self-care. One being that self-care is only for people with poor mental health. The fact of the matter is that we all need to take time to care for ourselves, to focus on our physical, mental, emotional, relational, practical and spiritual well-being.
According to a 2019 report developed by Samueli Integrative Health Programs and The Harris Poll, 44 per cent of consumers believe self-care is only possible for those with enough time, and 35 per cent believe self-care is only doable for those with enough money. Fortunately, implementing self-care routines does not have to break the bank or take large amounts of time out of your day. It just requires you to make small changes to your daily routine that can be done from home, free of charge.
Here are some self-care strategies you can implement in 2022.
Read a Book or Listen to a Podcast
In 2009, a group or researchers measured the effects of yoga, humour and reading on the stress of students in demanding health science programs. They found that 30 minutes of reading lowered blood pressure, heart rate and feelings of psychological distress just as effectively as yoga and humor did.
Becoming entangled in an intriguing and engaging book can help with loneliness and anxiety by allowing us to slow down and be present with the stories we are indulging in. It allows us to entertain, calm and strengthen our minds while taking a break from reality.
If reading a book doesn’t interest you, try listening to a podcast that explores something new or one that digs deep into subjects that you’re interested in. There’s also thousands of podcasts that focus on the subject of mental health and ways one can improve their own well-being. Exploring these types of media may lead you to new ways of self-care that you may have not considered before.
Improve Your Sleep
According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, 12.3% of adults who get insufficient sleep report having poor mental health compared to 5.8% of adults who get adequate sleep, while 36.3% of adults who get insufficient sleep report having chronic stress compared to 23.2% of adults who get adequate sleep.
Sleep plays an important role in mental health and well-being. Research shows that sleep can contribute to both the development and maintenance of mental health problems. It also shows mental health conditions can attribute to poor sleeping patterns. Sleepless nights can cause us to experience negative changes in our mood and emotions, and negatively impacts the way we go about our day. So, how can we help ourselves when it comes to getting a good night’s rest?
Develop healthy sleep habits that work for you. Unwinding before bed, creating a sleep routine, limiting late night technology usage and exercising on a daily basis can all help improve your sleep. Figure out how many hours of sleep you need at night and then create a schedule that will allow you to maintain that amount of sleep. Find what works for you and stick with it.
Do Something Creative
This might seem daunting at first, or you might have the impression that the only people who can do any form of art are children and those with talent, but anyone can be creative. Mental health professionals agree that art therapy can boost your self-esteem, provide you with a safe outlet to relieve your emotions and can give you a sense of control over your life. It might even help you to get to know and understand yourself better.
Drawing, painting, writing and pottery are all examples of different types of creative outlets that can help people deal with trauma and express their experiences that may be too painful to put into words. It also can improve our mood and make us feel more accomplished and at peace.
Music is another creative outlet that can positively affect our well-being. Neurological studies have found that listening to music triggers the release of several neurochemicals that have a function in maintaining mental health such as dopamine, a chemical associated with pleasure, and oxytocin, a chemical that fosters the ability to connect to others. Even dancing, singing or moving to the music can relieve stress and build social connections.
Even the simple, yet healing, act of journaling can help improve your mental health. Writing down your thoughts and feelings is a great way to reduce stress, manage anxiety and cope with mental health challenges such as depression. It can help you prioritize your problems and fears, as well as track your symptoms and identify any triggers you may have to help you find ways to control them. Journaling also provides an opportunity to identify any negative thoughts or behaviors and creates a space for positive self-talk. Also, taking the time to write down what you’re grateful for can help change your perspective on life.
Treat Your Body Right
Exercise and healthy eating habits are usually near the top of most new year resolution lists. Not only is moving your body and eating well-balanced meals physically healthy for you, but they also help improve your mental well-being.
A U.S. study of 1.2 million people found that people who exercise report having 1.5 fewer days of poor mental health in a month, compared to people who do not exercise. When it comes to taking that first step, start slow. No one is expecting you to take on a strict exercise routine immediately. Even going on a morning walk could help improve your overall mood.
Including a healthier selection of food in your day-to-day routine will help you strengthen your physical and mental health. Of course, treating yourself to some sweet and salty treats won’t ruin anything. But the key is to try to balance it out by adding some vegetables or fruits into your meals.
Find Out What Works Best for You
Self-care can look different to everyone. Sometimes it takes a few trials and errors to find strategies and routines that fit your life and needs perfectly. Whether it’s something on this list or not, when you find what works for you make sure to prioritize those actions within your life. new year resolutions don’t have to be “all-or-nothing,” you can take small steps when it comes to making improvements. And if you can’t engage in self-care everyday – that’s ok. There’s no need to feel shame or blame if you can’t make time for it. Focusing on our overall well-being is a great way to improve ourselves going into the new year and is a great reminder that nothing is more important than our health.
If you or someone you know needs mental health support, please call 211 (in Alberta) or your local distress line.