So this post might sound a bit…ambitious. Know that these things are not all achievable 100% of the time, and that each involves practice, dedication, commitment and time. Also, it is good to note that all of these aspects of self-care and health are interconnected. For example, mindfulness-based practices might benefit your spiritual health most obviously, but are also great for your physical health, as it lowers stress levels in the body. By the same token, exercise is wonderful for the body, but is inarguably beneficial to the spirit and the mind as well.
The question you might be asking is this: Where and how do I start practicing self-care? The absolute first place to begin is in the way you talk to yourself. (We all do this in some form or another.) By noticing your thought patterns and familiarizing yourself with your inner monologue, you can determine whether or not your thoughts move toward self-care or not. If not, consider meditation or therapy, as one eases the force of the inner monologue, and the other brings the negative thoughts to the surface and teaches you how to challenge them.
On that note, let’s start on the first self-care module: Mental Health.
Achieving Optimal Mental Health
In this chaotic, social-media driven world, maintaining a state of solid mental health can be challenging. There’s noise everywhere, coming from Facebook, Instagram, and other social media outlets, prompting a potential onslaught of self-defeating thought processes. (“How many likes do I have? If I don’t get at least X number of likes in 15 minutes, I’m deleting this post.” “Why did this person not get back to me right away or ever? Am I annoying?” And lastly, the big one: “Her life looks so perfect, and mine looks nothing like that – I must be a failure.”) If you have this kind of relationship with social media, try to take breaks from your phone every so often (easier said than done, we know). Go so far as to hide it somewhere and leave the house. Go for a walk, get outside, or spend face-to-face time with a friend (a real live one, not an FB friend).
Therapy used to have a huge stigma attached to it. Only ‘crazy’ people went to therapy. Now, conditions like anxiety are so prevalent that going to therapy has become the norm for many.
Depending on your mental condition and natural thought processes, you might just opt for psychodynamic, or ‘talk therapy’. If your thought patterns are particularly troublesome, you might want to seek out a therapist who specializes in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or Dialectical Behavioral Therapy. These psychological approaches aim to target negative thought patterns and challenge them with logic and ‘reality-based’ thinking. For example, the thought that someone else’s life looks ‘perfect’ on social media might be challenged with: ‘First off, no one’s life is perfect. Second, social media is a platform for curated content that is hand-picked by the individual, and almost no one posts about the inevitably negative aspects of their lives. Therefore, comparing my life to a small part of someone else’s life is a waste of time.’
Achieving Optimal Physical Health
Peloton bikes, Aaptiv, half marathons, Orangetheory, and Barre — these days we have a plethora of options when it comes to getting into prime physical shape. The fitness industry is booming, and people are buying into different crazes like never before. So pick a form of cardio you enjoy, and balance it with some weight bearing exercises like lifting or a bootcamp class at the gym. Exercise not only staves off depression, it helps maintain cardiovascular health, wards off diseases like osteoporosis, and creates endorphins in the body, making you a happier and more fit human.
Diet is another huge component of physical health, and there are plenty of fad diets as well as those backed by scientific research that you can try. Vegan, Paleo, Whole 30 — there are even diets specifically designed to combat depression and other mental health symptoms. Again, like exercise, there’s a diet or food plan out there for everyone.
Achieving Optimal Spiritual Health
Mindfulness-based practices are gaining momentum, and it’s easy to see why: they lower stress levels in the body. Ever heard that stress kills? Well, it might be a slower death, but stress can affect every part of the body in negative ways. To combat stress, try downloading a meditation app and using it consistently for a month. If you have trouble sitting still, try aromatherapy, acupuncture or tai chi to calm the receptors in the brain that cause stress to spike. Doing self-care related activities like regular massages and epsom salt baths before bed can also help to reduce stress.
Achieving Optimal Emotional Health
This can look different for everyone. For some, it’s spending time unwinding with a video game. For others, it’s a long walk in the woods with a friend. For still others, it’s going to the movies (either alone or with someone else). Maintaining one’s emotional health looks different for everyone, but it does involve all of the aspects of healthy living listed above. It involves talking to someone regularly if necessary, about the problems that plague you. It’s about exercising regularly (at least 3-5 times a week) and eating a proper diet with plenty of fresh fruits and veggies. It’s about maintaining a mental equilibrium using self-care tactics like meditation and massage. But it’s also about having a good time, socializing face-to-face, and laughing. Laughter is powerful medicine, and we all need it. Go see some live comedy, or watch a funny movie or an episode of Saturday Night Live. If you’re ballsy enough, take a comedy class — it will take you out of your head, make you laugh, introduce you to new people, and grow your confidence.
All of these things are suggestive only and the list is not exhaustive; however, they are the most common sense antidotes to problems that have become fairly common in our society.
So take care of yourself. You’re worth it.