The Art of Self Care

We should all be aware of the stigma surrounding mental health and how it affects both ourselves and the people around us. Mental health includes our emotional, psychological and social well-being. It affects how we feel, think, act and live. Depending on an individual’s mental health, it may determine how you handle stress, relate to others, and make daily choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, “problems can arise from biological factors, such as genes and brain chemistry, life experiences, such as trauma or abuse, or family history of mental health problems.” For more information please visit mentalhealth.gov

At some point or another, we all suffer and feel the weight of certain experiences. Mental health issues are equally or sometimes more important than physical ones. However, it is essential that we properly educate ourselves at recognizing when someone is suffering from mental health because it is harder to detect. Understanding and accepting why it is that someone is suffering an internal battle allows you to become a more open-minded, kind-hearted and receptive human being.

For those of you who know individuals suffering from anxiety, depression, or any type of mental health disorder, I deeply encourage you to listen. Many times, the people who are suffering keep these issues to themselves or feel misunderstood, as if their problems are a burden and everyone will misconstrue their words or view them as crazy. I cannot stress enough how important it is to be inclusive, non-judgemental, and open to hearing what they have to say. You might not even have to give advice, but simply being there for someone, letting them speak and vent, allows them to feel heard, seen, acknowledged and appreciated. It is important that we let those people know that you are not alone, you are not crazy, what you are feeling is normal, it is not your fault, and you are loved. I encourage you to be aware, to be open, to be patient, to be kind. Kindness is a simple way to tell another struggling soul that there is love to be found in this world. Next time you are quick to judge or feel like one small act of kindness won’t make a difference, rethink your choices, show your love, lend a helping hand to a stranger. You never know how that one seemingly small act can make an immense difference. 

For those of you who do suffer from mental health issues or simply want to make the active choice to participate in small acts of self care, these are for you: 

 

  1. 1. Spending Time With Loved Ones

    A form of self care I always choose is spending time with my loved ones. Connecting with others when you are not feeling well can make a huge difference. Human interaction is necessary for survival and we should never deny ourselves the simple pleasure the presence our friends and family members may bring. Many times, friends and family are the people who know you the best, and they might know what you need more than yourself. If I ever feel down I know that the sound of my mother’s voice or embrace immediately makes me feel like nothing in this world can be that bad and everything is always going to be okay.

  2. 2. Recognizing Everything is Temporary

    You have probably heard a countless number of people say “Just be positive.” Mental health goes beyond just being positive, and sometimes it isn’t always that easy. What I mean by staying positive is recognizing everything in this life is temporary. Both good and bad times will not last forever- nothing does. If you are feeling down about a current situation or time period within your life, I encourage you to remember that pain and suffering is only temporary. Acknowledging and embracing that you do feel this way, but remembering good things are just around the corner, is the greatest form of strength and resilience one can have. No one can predict the future or know what it holds, but the suffering one endures now creates the strength a person will forever hold once it passes.

  3. 3. Staying Physically Active

    Getting daily exercise may definitely be a challenge, however exercising three times a week has been scientifically proven to boost one’s mood, decreasing symptoms of depression and anxiety. Physical activity increases endorphin levels, a chemical in the brain and spinal cord that produces feelings of happiness and euphoria. Exercise also increases your heart rate which can, “reverse stress-induced brain damage by stimulating the production of neurohormones” (waldenu.edu). Neurohormones improve cognition and improve thinking clouded by stressful situations. Regular exercise helps to increase muscle tone and improve endurance, which increases levels of self-esteem and self-confidence. Additional benefits mentioned include how exercise increases your body’s temperature, which has calming effects on the body, leading to nights of better and more uninterrupted sleep. Lastly, exercise strengthens the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for memory and learning. For more information please visit waldenu.edu.

  4. 4. Getting Enough Sleep

    Sleep deprivation can negatively affect one’s mental health. “Neuroimaging and neurochemistry studies suggest that a good night's sleep helps foster both mental and emotional resilience” (health.harvard.edu). Receiving more than 8 hours of sleep a night is an essential form of self care because it keeps your heart healthy, reduces stress, makes you more alert, improves memory and helps the body repair itself (verywellhealth.com). Sleep also impacts many chemicals in the body according to the article, including serotonin. Getting the right amount of sleep is a way to take care of your body, let it rest, boost your immune system, and keep you alert for the day.

  5. 5. Eating Well

    Eating well is a way to nourish your body and give your brain the proper nutrition it needs to function. “Eating high-quality foods that contain lots of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants nourishes the brain and protects it from oxidative stress produced when the body uses oxygen, which can damage cells” (health.harvard.edu). Eating a healthy diet may help you feel better both physically and emotionally.

  6. 6. Helping Others

    Ghandi once said, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” While it may not seem so, helping others and participating in volunteer work is an excellent form of self care. As human beings, we are biologically created to protect and watch over the ones we care for. A way to further our own interests and create our own happiness is not to pursue these goals directly, but to look after other people’s interests and help others be freer from pain and suffering. Making someone else’s day better essentially makes your own day better as well. Every week I try to visit a young girl at the Robert Wood Johnson Cancer Center at Rutgers. A group of us spend time and accompany her as she undergoes chemotherapy treatment. Her mother mentions how much our visits impact her mood on treatment days, but I could not be more thankful for what she has done for me. Visiting her has taught me about the resilience girls and women have and how to appreciate the joy of kindness and human interaction. She has impacted my life more than she will ever know. Never take for granted what service and volunteer work can do for your mind and well-being.

  7. 7. Reading

    Reading is a beautiful form of self care. For the introverts who find themselves feeling overwhelmed in public spaces, the library can become a safe haven for the peaceful mind. For as long as I can remember, the library has always been the place where I have felt safe and was able to let my mind roam and get lost through the aisles. The smell of old books immediately alleviates my stress. When I set my things down, choose a book to read and find a comfortable chair I find myself getting lost in the story, feeling this overwhelmingly strong sense of peace come over me. I don’t touch or think about my phone, I am not worried about the day and what has happened. I give myself a break, a moment of relaxation, and a chance to escape life, even just for a little while.

  8. 8. Mindful Meditation

    Mindful meditation is an art of self care I would encourage everyone to try. Simply taking 5-10 minutes out of your day for deep relaxation can be the perfect remedy for those with anxiety disorders. Mindful meditation is the mind-calming practice of “sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing, and bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future” (health.harvard.edu). Meditation allows oneself to be present and focus on life in the present, forgetting about the troubles of the past or the stress of the future. A form of meditation I like to practice is yoga. During yoga, you allow your body to relax and your mind to clear. Thich Nhat Hahn, the author of Being Peace says, “Breathing in, I calm my body. Breathing out, I smile. Dwelling in the present moment, I know this is a wonderful moment.”

  9. 9. Developing Healthy Coping Skills

    Develop coping skills that work specifically for you. Everyone’s situation is extremely different and what might work for one person may not work for the next. Find things that bring you joy and make your soul lit. Whether it be going for walks, reading, meditating, or spending time with loved ones, you can always find a healthy coping skill to help you throughout the day.

I encourage everyone to be educated on mental health awareness and go the extra step in order to make someone else feel good. I hope you all participate in the art of self care and choose to be kind to yourselves. You are all worthy, you are not alone, and you are loved.

Sincerely, 

J