Author Note: This article is part of a collection from the previously lost Bordering Bears website, and has thus been re-uploaded and archived.
We think about our bodies, but are we doing enough for our mental and emotional self-care?
Self-care is often thought of as a form of selfish behaviour, when actually it is about maintaining or improving your health. We aren’t saying you need to stop thinking about your other responsibilities, however you should consider putting time aside each day for self-care.
Many people spend time each day undertaking exercise or making healthy food choices because they know that is the best way to ensure their body is at it’s best. Likewise, people spend time using specialised skincare ranges, shampoos and conditioners to keep their skin and hair in good condition.
With our hectic lives, trying to balance jobs, families, relationships and overall health, it can be easy for one aspect of our care to be forgotten: emotional self-care.
Emotional self-care doesn’t necessarily mean speaking to professionals or therapists, although if that is what helps you, then go for it.
Emotional and mental self-care can also be about doing things that will help you maintain your mental health or help you improve it.
We have compiled our top 8 methods of self-care for your mental health that you might like to include in your daily routine.
1. Unwind in the bath
Rather than having a quick shower for hygiene’s sake at the end of your day, or even week, it might be worth having a relaxing bath instead with your favourite scented bubble bath. You might choose to read, listen to music, or simply lie back with your eyes closed in complete silence. This not only helps your body relax, but also can allow your mind to stop thinking about all the tasks you have yet to do, and can allow for emotional regulation. Some people find that having a relaxing bath can help them problem-solve or dissolve arguments too, as the time spent relaxing can also be used to reflect and make better choices.
This one will work particularly well if you have always enjoyed reading. Put down your stresses and worries for the day and devote some time to reading. This doesn’t have to be a giant novel or piece of educational text. If you want to read about your football team in the newspaper, or some articles in your favourite gossip magazine, then go for it! This reading time is about you and your enjoyment. While education is great, and important, maintaining your mental and emotional well-being is far more important. Reading can also help you close off, as you’ll be thinking about the content rather than any worries, and can help you feel renewed when it comes to returning to the real world.
3. Air out your concerns
Sometimes the best way to deal with any arising problems is to air them out. It could be worth speaking to a parent, partner or friend about issues you are having, whether these are regarding your home, work, personal concerns, relationship etc. Sounding out your problems with another person can be useful as you have someone to bounce ideas off of and come up with the best ways to combat these issues. It can also aid in emotional regulation in a healthy manner, for example it’s far better to discuss a management issue at work with your partner and come up with an effective response, than to simply tell your manager what you think of them! Just remember to ask your chosen person if it’s okay for you to discuss the problems with them, and remember that you may end up returning the favour at a later date!
4. Spend time with your pet
Animals are great at picking up on emotions, so use that to your advantage. Spending time with you pet can be a really good way of making you feel better, and they’ll enjoy it too. Whether it involves curling up with your cat or taking your dog on a 2 hour hike, spending time with them always seems to have a way of making us feel better. Worst case scenario, you’ve spent some time with a creature who thinks you’re absolutely amazing, and you’ve made their day better!
5. Have a chill-out day with your friends or partner
Sometimes, doing absolutely nothing can be a brilliant reward. For some people, this may feel like time wasted, but it can be very beneficial to your mental health. Curl up with your partner, or invite the girls round and watch movies, wearing all your comfiest clothes, snacking on your favourite treats. Just being around people you love can boost your mood, and having no, or minimal, responsibilities can help you to de-stress.
At the end of each day it could be worth writing a journal entry. You might even want to break it up into segments such as “Things that worked”, “Things that didn’t”, “Tasks for tomorrow”, “Feelings I had” etc for easier reflection. Journaling doesn’t have to just be about that reflection though. It can also be great to look back upon the day or week so you can see proof of how much you have accomplished, which can be particularly helpful if you need a self esteem and confidence boost.
7. Use positive affirmations
We aren’t saying you have to stand in front of the mirror reciting mantras, although it can be helpful, but positive affirmations can become addictive. If you tell a person they are bad or stupid enough times, they will most likely start to believe it, so why can’t this be used for good things? Spend some time each morning saying positive things about yourself such as “I am smart”, “I am creative”, “I am confident” or even “I am successful”. Before long, you might just start to believe them, and this will also have an effect upon how others view you too.
8. Validate your own emotions
Bottling things up isn’t healthy. We discussed earlier about airing concerns with others to help resolve problems, and the same can be applied to your emotions. If, at the end of the day, you feel like you want to cry while in the shower, do it. If you feel so angry at something that happened throughout your day that you want to scream expletives into a pillow, do it. Heck, if you spend most days wanting to punch your colleague in the face, enrol in a local boxing class to let your anger out in a very healthy (it’s a great exercise!) way.
Practising self-care can make all the difference and help you to avoid a mental burnout. Self-care is particularly important in people with pre-existing mental health conditions and those with stressful lifestyles, however it can benefit all types of people.
By allowing yourself this time you may find yourself more resilient to problems than before, as well as able to handle your emotions better because you aren’t bottling up days or weeks worth of feelings.