How Self-Care Can Support Your Mental Health

by Scott Sanders

Life can be stressful. From day-to-day responsibilities to the unexpected, the strain can prove
exhausting and detrimental. While you can’t avoid life's stresses, there is plenty that you can do
to reduce them and practice self-care in the process.


Prioritize Basics
Good mental health relies heavily on self-care. Too often, life diverts our attention away from
properly taking care of ourselves. Acts of self-care can be as simple as a restful night, staying
hydrated, and eating regularly. This can be the foundation for a healthy life in which stress does
not overwhelm, giving you an opportunity to relax. No matter what, try to have at least seven
hours of sleep, which can be one of the most effective methods to reduce stress. Look to
complement a healthy lifestyle with a balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables. Like sleep and
exercise, a healthy diet can have benefits for both body and mind.
Another overlooked basic act of self-care is personal agency. Be prepared to say “no.” It is not
always easy, especially when said to a loved one. However, too often anxiety can be caused by
agreeing to things we are not comfortable with. While life is not always accommodating, try to
invest in the fundamentals of self-care to give yourself the tools to manage stress and protect
mental health.


Get Active Outdoors

There are many reasons to be active, from a desire to develop a workout routine to getting in
touch with nature. Whatever your motivations, if you have the slightest interest in physical
activity, embrace it. Sometimes, getting out of the house and changing your scenery is
necessary to help process stressful thoughts. In fact, just 30 minutes of light to moderate activity
daily can boost mood and help lower stress levels. Even if your motivation to head outside is to
run errands or get a coffee, it can represent a welcome break from sitting at home with stressful
thoughts. Consider researching local activities and see what interests you. You might find
yourself exploring new things while practicing self-care.


Connect
Connections are essential to self-care. They may be emotional connections such as with friends
and family. They might be connections to your inner self, to your thoughts, interests, and
hobbies, or they could be about reconnecting with a peaceful state. Invest in exploring new
things, or rediscovering dormant interests. Go shopping for things that appeal to you. Try to find
the time to connect with loved ones. Have nights out with friends, or dinner with family. Take
trips to the beach, or to a museum. Look, as well, to moments where you can just be
comfortable and relaxed. Have spa nights, binge on Netflix in the bath or read a book you have
not had time to peruse. Allow yourself to be you without negative judgment, to accept feelings
and not worry that you have to be doing “something.” Sometimes, the best way of caring for
yourself is to take a moment to yourself and just be.


A Stress-Free Home
No matter how we practice self-care, the best way to end a long day is coming home to unwind.
Having a home free of stress is important to one's well-being. If your home is cluttered, consider removing non-essentials. The more spacious your environs, the more you might be able to relax. One embellishment that could offer calm is plants or flowers. Not only can they add a sense of serenity, but they can also purify your home's air. You might complement this with art depicting nature scenes. A meditation room or space could also be a good addition. Meditation is a great way to help you process emotions and stress and improve physical health. It could be any room you find peaceful. Use calming colors as decoration, as well as fixtures and
ornaments you find comforting, and avoid technological distractions.


Self-care is paramount. Looking after yourself does not require an elaborate process, nor does it
have to be time-consuming. Even small acts can accumulate to have a truly positive impact on
your mental and physical well-being, and in stress reduction.

Scott Sanders is the creator of CancerWell.org, which provides resources and support for anyone who has been affected by any form of cancer.