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Self-Care Strategies for Better Mental Health

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Published: 13/11/2023

A list of practical self-care activities that can contribute to improved mental and emotional well-being.

Mental health includes emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, act, make choices, and relate to others. Mental health is more than the absence of a mental illness—it’s essential to your overall health and quality of life. Self-care can play a role in maintaining your mental health and help support your treatment and recovery if you have a mental illness.

Self-care means taking the time to do things that help you live well and improve both your physical health and mental health. When it comes to your mental health, self-care can help you manage stress, lower your risk of illness, and increase your energy. Even small acts of self-care in your daily life can have a big impact.

Here are some tips to help you get started with self-care:

  • Look after your physical health: Taking steps to look after your physical health can help you manage your mental health too.
  • Get enough sleep: Rest when you can. This can help you have the energy to cope with difficult feelings and experiences.
  • Keep physically active: Regular exercise doesn’t have to be very strenuous or sporty to be effective – to start with you could try a gentle exercise like going for a short walk, yoga or swimming. The important thing is to pick something you enjoy doing, so you’re more likely to stick with it. If you’re physically disabled, Disability Rights UK provides information about exercises you might be able to do. Alternatively, ask your doctor for advice.
  • Avoid drugs and alcohol: While you might want to use drugs or alcohol to cope with difficult feelings, in the long run they can make you feel a lot worse.
  • Make time for personal care: When you’re experiencing a mental health problem, it’s easy for personal care to not feel like a priority. But small everyday things, such as taking a shower and getting fully dressed, can make a big difference to how you feel.
  • Eat healthily: What you eat, and when you eat, can make a big difference to how well you feel.

Stay aware of your mental health

  • Tell people what helps. If certain treatments have helped in the past, tell your doctor. Let your friends and family know how they can support you, whether it’s listening to you when you’re having a bad day, helping you keep on top of your commitments, or being aware of your triggers (things that set off your difficult feelings or behaviours, or make them worse).
  • Spot your early warning signs. If you can, try to be aware of how you’re feeling, and watch out for any signs you might be becoming unwell. These will be individual to you, but it can be useful to reflect on what these may be so you can get support as soon as possible.
  • Keep a mood diary. Tracking your moods can help you to work out what makes you feel better or worse. You can then take steps to avoid, change or prepare for difficult situations. You can create your own mood diary or find one online – there are many freely available on the internet and as apps for your phone.
  • Build your self-esteem. Taking steps to increase your self-esteem can help you to feel more confident and able to cope.

Nourish your social life

  • Feeling connected to other people is important. It can help you to feel valued and confident about yourself and can give you a different perspective on things. If you can, try to spend some time connecting with friends and family – even a text or phone call can make a difference. If you don’t have supportive friends and family around you and are feeling isolated, there are other ways you can make connections. For example, you could try going to community events where you might have some interests or experiences in common with other people there or joining a group like a local book club or sports team.

Try peer support

  • When you experience a mental health problem it can feel like no one understands. Peer support brings together people who’ve had similar experiences to support each other.

This can offer many benefits, such as:

  • feeling accepted for who you are
  • increased self-confidence
  • meeting new people and using your experiences to help others
  • finding out new information and places for support
  • challenging stigma and discrimination.

Make time for therapeutic activities

There are various techniques and therapies you can safely practise on your own. For example:

  • Relaxation – you may already know what helps you relax, like having a bath, listening to music, or taking your dog for a walk. If you know that a certain activity helps you feel more relaxed, make sure you set aside time to do it.
  • Mindfulness – mindfulness is a therapeutic technique that involves being more aware of the present moment. This can mean both outside, in the world around you, and inside, in your feelings and thoughts. Practising mindfulness can help you become more aware of your own moods and reactions, but not everyone finds mindfulness helpful.
  • Getting into nature – getting out into a green environment, such as a park or the countryside, is especially good for you. Even if you don’t have a garden or aren’t very mobile, caring for plants or animals indoors can still help you get some benefits from nature.

These activities can be particularly valuable if you don’t want to try medication or talking treatments, or you’re having to wait a while for treatment on the NHS.

In conclusion, Self-care looks different for everyone, and it is important to find what you need and enjoy. It may take trial and error to discover what works best for you. In addition, although self-care is not a cure for mental illnesses, understanding what causes or triggers your mild symptoms and what coping techniques.

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