Often, the phrase “self-care” conjures images of luxurious massages and spa treatments, but physical self-care is much more mundane and less expensive than that. Physical self-care is one of the more functional areas that are easy to overlook, but these self-care practices are foundational to mental health.
Inadequate sleep can wreak havoc on mental health and recovery. Readjusting your sleep habits can support not only your physical health but your mental health as well. Set a reasonable bedtime that will give you ample time to get at least 8 hours of rest. Commit to no screen time for the hour leading up to your bedtime, and use blue-blocker glasses or electronic settings after the sun sets. Blue-spectrum rays can disrupt your circadian rhythm. If you struggle to fall asleep, try a guided sleep meditation or gentle music geared towards restful sleep.
Poor nutritional habits can cause mineral and vitamin deficiencies that can leave your body and brain starved of the fuel it needs to function correctly. Nutrient-deficient foods are foods that are highly processed and loaded with sugars and empty calories. These foods act as fuel for the wrong kind of bacteria in your gut. Scientists have linked gut health with mental health. Making healthy changes to your diet can starve out that harmful bacteria and fuel the beneficial bacteria. Your nutritional choices can directly impact your mental health and recovery.
Regular exercise can help to regulate brain chemistry. Specifically, physical activity can positively impact serotonin, endorphin, and dopamine levels. These chemicals are responsible for mood regulation, relaxation, and pleasure. If you are attempting to establish a new workout routine, start slow and work your way up. Begin by exercising 2-3 times for one to two weeks, for an hour each session. The following week, increase your sessions to 3-4 times. Within a month, you should be more comfortable with the routine.
Bathing regularly, brushing your teeth and flossing daily, and attending to other personal hygiene matters are essential activities for both physical and mental health. These activities can feel especially difficult to accomplish when a depressive episode takes hold. During these periods, it may be easier to think of these tasks as a game. Each task can earn you points, and once you have reached a particular score, you can reward yourself with something small but meaningful.
Medical and Dental Care
Scheduling and attending your yearly physical or dental exam may be easy to procrastinate, but these tasks impact your health in significant ways. Specific medical issues can affect mental health, so getting your blood levels checked can ensure you receive the proper treatment immediately. Good dental care can help boost self-image and stave off medical illnesses like heart disease.