Over the past year, it’s been more important than ever to take care of our mental health. This May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and in its’ honor, we’re sharing tips for practicing self-care that can improve your mental health.  

What is mental health?  

First, it’s important to understand what mental health is. According to MentalHealth.gov, it “includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood.” With this in mind we can understand that our mental health, whether positive or negative, can influence just about every aspect of our lives. (Learn more about mental health here.) 

What is self-care 

Self-care is the practice of caring for your own mental, physical, and emotional health. It can come in dozens of forms, whether it’s by scheduling regular check-ups at the doctor, making time for hobbies, or writing in a journal. Practicing self-care can make you feel more self-aware, which helps you understand when and why you feel a certain way and how to cope with it. Possessing this awareness can have a positive impact on mental health.  

How can I practice self-care? 

Practicing self-care will look different for everyone depending on what your desired goal is. Below we provide a few ways to care for yourself that can improve anxiety and depression, two of the most common mental illnesses.  

  • Get enough sleepOften easier said than donehaving a consistent schedule where you get enough sleep can be key in cultivating positive mental health.  
  • Try to eat a balanced diet. Like the above, eating a balanced diet might not be possible for each person, but can reduce mood fluctuations and improve your focus.  
  • Drink your water. Studies show that dehydration and anxiety are linked.  
  • Take breaks from your phone or computer. Staring at a screen all day can affect our mood and vision – consider creating a schedule for when it’s time to power down for the night.  
  • Know when to say no. By overcommitting or taking on more than you can handle, you’ll be prone to burnout – AKA emotional or physical exhaustion. Practice saying “no” (or “no, thank you”, “no, I can’t”, etc.) to plans or other engagements when you’re not available or interested.  
  • Make time for hobbies. It’s important to prioritize the activities that bring you joy, whether big or small. Making time for hobbies you care about can improve your mood and help you relax.  
  • Move your body. Exercise is known to reduce anxiety and depression amongst other things. Don’t feel pressured to do anything extreme, especially if you don’t have a regular exercise routine; start by taking walks around the block or stretching.  
  • Treat yourself. Sometimes, self-care calls for a little special treatment. It’s okay to indulge sometimes.  
  • Reach out if you need help. One of the main ways to prioritize practicing self-care is to reach out to someone if you need help, even if it’s just because you want to chat. Asking for help can be hard but remember that you’re not alone.  

Sometimes it’s difficult to take the time to practice self-care. Other activities can feel more important, but nothing is more important than your health. Spend some time today creating and implementing a self-care plan that works for you.  

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If you or someone you know is suffering from a mental illness or a mental health crisis, contact someone to help. Click to learn about the National Helpline and other resources