About one of every five Americans has a mental illness. Over a lifetime, nearly 50 percent will be diagnosed with one of the types of anxiety disorders. Having a self-help plan can provide access to the benefits of self-care.
Introduction to the Many Benefits of Self-Care
With so many people experiencing mental illness and the pressures of daily society intensifying, learning how to exercise good self-care has never been more critical.
Why Is Self-Care Important?
Why is self-care important? The benefits of self-care can encompass overall physical and mental health and well-being.
This means that you do the work to realize the rewards. No one else can do it for you—although having a friend accompany you while you tackle your self-care to-do list is excellent. Furthermore, you won’t notice the time passing when you actively engage in things that benefit your body, mind, and spirit.
How Self-Care Benefits Mental Health Issues
The benefits of self-care for someone experiencing depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), bipolar disorder, and other mental health conditions cannot be overstated. Physical and psychological distress can worsen depending on the illness’s severity, symptom frequency, and intensity. Here is where the benefits of self-care are so significant in maintaining and improving mental health.
Whether you have depression, anxiety, PTSD, or another mental health issue, you can realize the benefits of self-care.
Creating a Personalized Self-Help Plan
Whether you want to maintain or improve your mental health or are recovering from a mental health disorder, you must recognize that you need a plan. This must be created by you and personalized to meet your needs.
What should a personalized self-help plan include? To achieve maximum self-care benefits, your plan should contain the following:
- Action items you can use to feel better, more rested, relaxed, and confident
- List of triggers that cause distress and lead to unhealthy behavior
- A calendar to mark the successful completion of self-care activities
- Self-help buddies to make self-care more enjoyable
Utilizing Self-Care Benefits and Coping Strategies
How does one exercise good self-care to learn how to cope with daily stress, reduce their chances of becoming ill, and increase their energy levels? The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) offers tips for getting started on health care’s benefits.
Exercising regularly (for about 30 minutes daily) is an effective way to boost mood and realize health improvements. What if you miss a couple of days? Don’t worry. Even small increments of vigorous exercise provide good physical and mental health benefits.
Eat Healthier and Drink More Water
Review your daily food and water intake. Strive to eat healthier and increase water intake. Why? A balanced diet and staying hydrated facilitate focus and increase energy throughout the day. Nutritionists recommend reducing caffeine and beverages with caffeine (like sodas).
Get Sufficient Sleep
Your body rejuvenates with adequate sleep—one of the basic tenets of good self-care. Aim for regular, uninterrupted, refreshing sleep. Since the blue light from electronic devices (such as computers, tablets, and smartphones) interferes with restful sleep, power them down well before bed. This may take some time to get used to since many Americans are so tethered to these devices.
Other Tips to Realize the Benefits of Self-Care
Here are a few more ways to get started with your self-care plan:
- Create goals and prioritize what must be done. Some things take precedence, while others can easily wait.
- When taking on too much, learn to say no. This is a skill you practice. You can do it.
- Schedule relaxation activities, such as progressive muscle relaxation, meditation, yoga, or something you enjoy, like journal writing.
- Be grateful. Think of the things for which you are grateful and be thankful.
- Connect with others for help and emotional support. This can include family, friends, co-workers, or members of a support group you join.
- Be positive. By homing in on what’s more positive, you refine your focus and strengthen your ability to see things in the best light.
- Remember that the benefits of self-care will continue to accrue the longer you stick with your plan. There is no downside to using effective coping strategies when you feel sad or discouraged or when life’s stresses temporarily get you down. If something that worked before isn’t working now, make further modifications. You know yourself best, so you can figure this out.
Monitoring Progress and Adjusting the Plan as Needed
Any self-improvement plan requires adjustments. Your self-help plan for better mental health is similar. Things change in your circumstances, and issues or challenges may cause mental health issues to worsen or new ones to appear. This isn’t something to stress about, though, and it’s easy to create reminders for monitoring how well you’re doing on your mental health goals.
You’re in Charge
While it’s good to ask for suggestions from others, remember that you are in charge of your self-care benefits plan. What this means on a practical level is that you take notice of changes in your everyday routine and what, if any, stressors or triggers new activities, friends, physical health, or other conditions create.
How to Adjust the Plan
It may be as simple as cutting back on one or more daily responsibilities. Review the stressful situation or how you felt immediately before you experienced distress. Then, adjust the plan, being mindful of coping strategies that worked before, and you can use them again.
For example, if you’re frequently delayed on the commute home and become increasingly frustrated because the family is waiting for you to make dinner:
- Ask for their help in meal prep. This eases the pressure to get dinner going. Besides, when everyone’s involved, the home atmosphere is more calming.
- Rearrange your schedule so you can start and leave earlier, thus avoiding potential traffic delays.
- Try alternate routes that may offer a smoother commute.
Search for Alternatives
Suppose your self-care plan involves daily walks, jogging, or other outdoor activities. When the weather turns foul, or you’re just not physically up to it, instead of ditching the exercise:
- Try exercising indoors. Search online for yoga, Pilates, a 30-minute workout, or other vigorous sessions.
- Substitute another form of exercise that provides similar benefits, such as walking in place or stair-climbing
The Role of Self-Help Plans in Preventing Mental Health Issues
A good self-help plan helps someone stay accountable for their mental health goals. Good mental health self-care means you do things that help you ward off stress, ease anxiety, calm fears, allow you to confidently navigate challenging situations, and provide a convenient go-to action list when things go awry.
Everyone wants to believe they know how to take good care of themselves. This includes their familiarity with the benefits of self-care. Yet most people are unaware of some basic self-care facts.
- A study by Birchbox found that a mere 30 percent of Americans carve out time for self-care. More revealing, however, is that 84 percent of those Birchbox surveyed said they’d willingly cancel plans to have time to themselves.
- Women feel more burned out than men (56 percent vs. 51 percent). Yet, 39 percent of men state they do self-care, but it’s 32 percent for women.
- Regarding self-care, 74 percent of those surveyed said it meant bodily self-care, and 57 percent indicated it involves a mental health break.
How Residential Treatment Offers Built-In Benefits of Self-Care
Self-care benefits are often taken for granted among healthy people. However, when someone is undergoing treatment for mental health issues, possibly coinciding with substance use, the benefits of self-care are crucial. Some of the built-in program benefits of attending residential treatment include:
- Professional, supervised care 24/7
- A structured environment that helps you stay on track
- Allows you to focus on yourself while getting the support you need
- Relaxing activities so you can socialize while you work on your self-improvement
If your mental health worsens and you’ve experienced distressing symptoms for over two weeks, or you feel overwhelmed and unable to function adequately, you may need professional help. Contact our mental health experts at Restore-Mental Health for information about how treatment can help you.