- Prioritizing our mental health doesn’t have to be a huge, challenging task; all it takes is a little self-care.
- A few self-care techniques are especially effective, according to a therapist of 20 years: meditation, sleep hygiene, and saying no.
- Meditating can greatly improve your mental wellbeing after just a few minutes of practice.
- Getting enough sleep each night (7-8 hours) equals less anxiety, stress, and depressive feelings.
- Learning to say no creates more time for yourself, a less hectic schedule, and in turn, less stress and better wellbeing.
We take care of our physical health without thinking twice about it: we eat and we exercise; we stretch and we relax; we moisturize dry skin and we put on sunscreen; and of course, we go see our doctor when something feels even a tad bit off. But when it comes to our mental and emotional health, we often drag our feet in the mud. While there’s no good reason for this, it boils down to a couple factors: sometimes, it’s the failure to understand how important our mental health is—at others, it’s simply not understanding how to take care of it.
You don’t have to take extreme measures; you just have to incorporate self-care into your daily routine. Self-care is any activity you engage in to take care of your overall health and wellbeing. And lucky for you, Licensed Clinical Social Worker of 20 years Ginger Poag is here to tell you about a few that are really worth performing on a consistent basis, as they succeed to combat daily stress and anxiety:
“Meditation can seem intimidating to many because the only frame of reference many people have is what they have seen in the movies,” Poag says, “but it is amazing in decreasing stress and anxiety.” You don’t have to sit on a mat, surrounded by candles, with your eyes closed for hours, as you may have seen on TV. (Unless you want to, of course.) Instead, you can set aside a few minutes out of your day to re-center your mind. If you need a little extra guidance, a YouTube video or even an app can help. Poag instructs her clients to use an app that picks the perfect guided meditation for how they’re feeling:
“I have my clients use an app on their phone that is made for meditation. This app will ask the client to enter in how they are feeling and then suggest a guided meditation for them. The guided meditations vary in length, some are 4 minutes and some are 15 minutes. What I like about this approach to meditation is that it can be done anywhere, and it does not require hours of work. Meditating just 4 minutes a day can greatly improve your mental wellbeing,” she explains.
2) Sleep hygiene
“Sleep hygiene is another vital form of self-care that I recommend to my clients,” says Poag. “The body needs sleep to process the day’s events, heal our bodies, and replenish us.” While recommendations vary with age, most of us need at least 7-8 hours of sleep each night to function properly. Unfortunately, however, more than a third of American adults aren’t getting enough sleep, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
“Oftentimes, my clients report only getting 4-5 hours of sleep,” Poag says. This isn’t nearly enough, and so she advises her clients to begin fixing this problem by putting a simple measure in place: “Going to bed 1 hour earlier than before is a great way to start to improve your sleep hygiene. My clients see the benefits immediately after working on their sleep hygiene and report a decrease in anxiety, depression, and stress.”
3) Saying no
“Learning to say no is another great self-care technique. This technique can be hard for many because they are used to putting others first and making sacrifices,” Poag explains. Still, it’s important to take the necessary steps to feel more comfortable and confident saying no, so as to create healthy boundaries and that necessary time with oneself—despite how difficult that might be.
“Oftentimes, individuals who have a hard time saying no struggle with anxiety, stress, and depression,” she says. “The individual is suppressing their own needs to make someone else feel happy. This can be a very toxic pattern for some. By learning to say no, the individual is creating more time for themselves and a less hectic schedule. I often encourage my clients to practice saying no with me in the office, and then encourage them to say no at least one time before the next session. Eventually, the individual’s self-confidence will increase and they will be able to say no more often.”