Physical health has always been emphasized and encouraged. Habits like maintaining a healthy diet, going to the gym, brushing your teeth, are just a few familiar examples. But how about maintaining your mental health?
While physical wellness is definitely important, one’s emotional and mental state also need attention on a regular basis. Unfortunately, many people don’t prioritize mental wellness. Physical and mental health go hand-in-hand. Many mental health conditions come with physical symptoms such as appetite disturbance, difficulty concentrating, and trouble sleeping (to name a few) as criteria for a diagnosis.
A great way to boost mental wellness is committing to practicing self–care daily in five different categories. You might be on top of your game for one, but completely neglecting another. It’s good to be aware of what is working, and what needs improvement. So, let’s break this down:
Physical self-care includes keeping a healthy diet, sustaining personal hygiene, exercising, getting enough sleep, taking necessary breaks, and attending medical appointments (annual physical, checkups, dental cleanings, etc.). If you already prioritize physical health, congratulations! You can check off this section in your self-care commitment. Being mindful of what your body is telling you and responding appropriately can make a difference. If these activities feel like too much change all at once, then consider choosing just one healthy habit to start with.
Emotional self-care can include distancing oneself from distractions and stressors, engaging in enjoyable or comforting activities, seeking new experiences, expressing thoughts and feelings, and self-validation.
- Creating distance could mean “unplugging” from cellphones, tablets, and social media, or even constructing boundaries with others who cause negative reactions.
- Enjoyable or comforting activities can be anything that brings happiness (Are you an artist, Yogi, avid reader? Do you have a favorite destination or movie?).
- Trying new things can be anything as simple as going outside for leisure or as auspicious as taking a new class or tackling a challenge.
- Expressing yourself can mean talking to someone you feel safe with, journaling, or even in an art form. Self-validation means acknowledging your strengths and accomplishments.
- Emotional self-care requires a devotion of time. This can be the most challenging area for many people. Especially when life’s obligations pile up. It’s easy to put yourself on the back burner sometimes, but in the long run it can only harm you.
Spirituality can have different meanings for different people. Examples of spiritual self-care include spending time in nature, practicing meditation and mindfulness, reflecting inward, acknowledging personal values, and acting in a way that aligns with those values. If you affiliate with a particular religion, participating within that specific framework also counts as self-care.
Professional or Educational Self-Care
Whether you’re a student, working, or currently seeking employment, academic and professional careers can be time consuming and draining. Lack of self-care in these environments can easily lead to burn out. Practicing self-care while at work or school includes saying “no” to obligations that compromise mental wellness and impair the quality of work, saying “yes” to projects that carry personal interest or emotional reward, taking needed mental breaks, taking classes that will develop skillsets, and keeping a healthy work-life balance.
Being in society necessitates being social. Social self-care does not necessarily mean that attending every party or event is necessary, but rather that the experiences you do have are quality and provide a sense of joy. Spending time with people that you like, limiting (if not eliminating) time spent with people that drain you to an unhealthy extent, asking for help when you need it, and engaging in meaningful conversations are just a few options.
These categories encompass the aspects of daily life, but the most important aspect of self-care is its routine. Life gets busy, and crazy at times. If you don’t feel like you’re acing every category, don’t be too hard on yourself because that is normal. It’s all about knowing where you are in this moment, decreasing the self-judgment, and taking small steps towards where, and who, you want to be.
You can choose just one or two healthy habits that you would like to work towards from any of these categories and focus on incorporating them into your life. That is the first step to improving your state of being. Testwell’s Holistic Lifestyle Questionnaire Free Assessments is an easy survey that can assess your current level of self-care and help you figure out the next steps!
*Lillyana is a millennial psychotherapist and equestrian based in New York City. She primarily works with anxiety, depression, trauma, and women’s issues. Her treatment style emphasizes self-care and self-expression through creative outlets.