Unlocking the Power of Self-Care: A Path to Mental Health and Wellness

A large element of taking care of one’s mental health includes practicing self-care.

Self-care can include a variety of habits, routines, and behaviors, but it essentially involves actively prioritizing one’s physical, emotional, and mental health while balancing their personal and professional lives.

This may sound like a difficult balance, but by reflecting upon one’s needs and wants, anyone can define and practice self-care on their terms.

Some general examples of self-care include the following:

  • Staying physically active and getting quality sleep
  • Eating healthy and drinking enough water
  • Avoiding unhealthy lifestyle choices such as smoking and excessive drinking
  • Assessing one’s own vulnerabilities and being aware of when one is unwell, whether that be physically, emotionally, mentally, or spiritually
  • Managing symptoms of disease or illness along with the guidance of a healthcare professional

Self-care is unique to the individual, and one person’s version of self-care may look wildly different compared to another, and that’s okay.

For one person, self-care may mean focusing on their emotional or spiritual needs, while another person may take time to engage in their personal relationships. Nevertheless, self-care can be empowering as it allows individuals to be active decision-makers in their health and take control of their well-being.

It’s important to understand self-care as a preventative measure not just for one’s physical health, but mental health particularly as well.

Being mentally healthy means living without significant distress on a daily basis. When an individual routinely practices self-care, over time they learn to identify and adequately cope with symptoms of distress when they occur.

Sometimes, when circumstantial or situational factors begin to regularly cause distress for the individual, one may struggle to function or adequately care for themselves. Prolonged or chronic stress can lead to mental health concerns, however.

Signs that may indicate a larger mental health concern include (but may not be limited to) the following:

  • Changes in appetite
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Fatigue and low energy levels
  • Struggling to get out of bed in the morning, lack of motivation
  • Excessive substance use or alcohol consumption
  • Feelings of isolation or loneliness
  • Feelings of guilt or hopelessness
  • Thoughts of suicide or self-harm

In these situations, self-care strategies alone may not be enough for the individual, and a visit to one’s primary healthcare provider or mental health treatment may be necessary. However, part of practicing self-care is being aware of when to seek support and professional help when the individual is struggling to cope on their own.

When it comes to mental health, self-care can help individuals manage everyday stress, but it can also play a significant role in recovery from mental illness and even substance abuse.

Practicing self-care during one’s recovery encourages the individual to focus on proactively caring for their mental and physical health to avoid relapsing. Beyond that, having a self-care routine to follow may also serve as a source of motivation for those in recovery.

Individuals can implement self-care into their recovery in a variety of ways.

Many people going through recovery also find that staying busy is an effective self-care strategy.

Some may choose to keep their minds occupied through volunteering or picking up a new hobby, for example. An individual may also seek out social support as a form of self-care by spending time with family, friends, or others in recovery.

Moreover, a key step to recovery is learning to cope with emotional distress and potential triggers; actively facing one’s emotions head-on, perhaps with the help of a therapist, is also a form of self-care that can help one understand possible root causes for substance use.

Additionally, a person recovering from mental illness or substance abuse may need to work on setting boundaries and learning to say “no” in certain situations.

Self-care is an integral component of maintaining and enhancing one’s mental health. It functions as both a preventive measure against mental health issues and a valuable tool in everyday stress management.

Self-care takes on even greater significance in recovery from mental illness and substance abuse.

Recognizing when to seek professional help is a facet of self-care too, demonstrating that true self-care involves both self-empowerment and self-awareness, ultimately leading to a healthier, more resilient life.