Coping with Life Your Way: The Mental Health Benefits of Self-Care
In a society where productivity is highly prized (and admired), taking time out from a busy schedule to relax and meet one’s own emotional and psychological needs can seem like a self-indulgent or irresponsible act. However, years of living under the pressure of meeting others’ expectations and ignoring your needs isn’t a sustainable life path. Many hardworking and conscientious individuals have learned the hard way that spending years chasing career advancement while sacrificing personal happiness leads to physical and mental health problems, a compromised sense of well-being, and failed relationships. It’s important to remember that a happy life is one that’s well-balanced and allows for some “self-indulgence” now and then.
Taking part in activities that re-energize your batteries is extremely important for maintaining drive and motivation. Never devalue anything that gives you joy, even if it seems trivial or out of character. If it makes you happy, it’s good for you and shouldn’t be dismissed. Meditation, yoga, reading and other contemplative activities do wonders for your brain and help to recalibrate your sense of perspective. If binge-watching romantic comedies or escapist fantasies leaves you feeling refreshed and reinvigorated, make time for it. Or, consider taking up a new hobby, something you’ve always wanted to try. Aside from being good fun, these are coping mechanisms that keep negative thoughts away and allow your brain time to take it easy and stop working through problems for a while. Meanwhile, your stress and anxiety melts away.
Self-care bolsters your ability to cope with and adapt to problems as they arise. Everyone can relate when a friend or colleague declares, “I just can’t deal with this today.” If you’re physically or mentally fatigued, the ability to roll with the punches mentally and emotionally is undermined, and you may respond in an angry and negative manner. Self-care is about taking care of yourself, which helps keep both mind and body prepared to cope with difficult situations that require resilience. A healthy diet, regular exercise, and restful sleep are all important components of a well-adjusted individual who’s prepared to deal with difficult circumstances.
Try simplifying your routine as much as possible. Sometimes, the less we have to worry about, the easier it becomes to cope with life. Avoid over-committing to personal obligations, eliminate steps from your morning regimen so you’re not stressed getting to work on time, and engage other family members in chores and household responsibilities that take up a lot of your time.
People often feel overwhelmed by external stimuli, especially after a long day of staring at a computer and responding to email after email. Try limiting social media time at night and switch gears by reading or doing something relaxing outside, like going for a walk or gardening. Slowing your pace and winding down later in the day will help manage stress, lower blood pressure, and make it easier to get to sleep at night.
It’s easy to overlook the mental health benefits of exercise. The fact is that exercise releases endorphins, which trigger a “feel-good” reaction in the brain and support a healthy response in which both brain and body begin to crave exercise. When coupled with a healthful diet, exercise is effective at keeping chronic conditions like hypertension and diabetes under control.
Think of self-care as a personalized strategy for managing a stressful and busy life. Paying close attention to activities that help you cope with the rough spots in life make it easier to avoid letting them get the better of you.
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