Mental health is an often-overlooked aspect of one’s overall well-being. In the United States, nearly 20 percent of Americans suffer from a mental condition, according to a Mental Health America study. Fewer than half of these individuals receive the care they need due to a shortage of providers. Given these statistics, it is interesting how proper self-care can have a positive and long-lasting impact on a person’s mental and physical health.
Self-care is a simple thing — it’s what you do to tend to emotional and psychological needs as well as your physical health. Sometimes, just smiling and looking for the joy in life can give you a boost. Elevated self-esteem, greater productivity at work, and a heightened resistance to illness are often the outcome of a mindful and detailed attention to self-care.
There’s a tendency among many people to feel unproductive, even guilty, when not engaged in an activity aimed at accomplishing some measurable objective. It’s been proven that people who do not take advantage of downtime are more likely to suffer some physical or mental health consequence.
Relaxing — especially when done in a clear, clutter-free environment that’s conducive to allowing your mind to rest — functions much as sleep does, healing us in ways that help refocus energy and renew the ability to concentrate. You feel re-energized and better able to cope with problems, which are important points to consider for people who have high-stress jobs that require the ability to focus on demand. Taking time away from work can also help you resolve looming problems, because the brain keeps functioning even when not actively engaged in problem resolution.
Don’t Skimp on Sleep
Sleep, like relaxation, is important for good mental and physical health. Among its many benefits, sleep restores the body’s ability to heal itself, fend off illness, and renew the mind’s ability to problem-solve.
Getting enough sleep also helps you cope with situations that might otherwise cause frustration and leave you less likely to persist. It helps keep the blood pressure under control and it’s good for the metabolism, which helps maintain a healthy weight level. People who get between seven and nine hours of sleep a night think more clearly and have fewer memory problems than those who don’t get enough sleep.
Contemplate or Meditate
Everybody needs some time to themselves, even in the midst of a hectic day. It’s important to take time for just sitting still and letting your mind wander, to get away from a stressful situation for an hour or so and try to focus on pleasant feelings or memories. You don’t need an isolation chamber — just sitting in a quiet corner in your favorite room, resting on a park bench under a shady tree, or sitting in your car for a half-hour listening to the radio can shore up your ability to cope with difficult situations.
Meditation is another restorative practice that uses mental discipline to focus and relax the mind. It’s a highly effective stress reliever that improves concentration, increases self-awareness, and benefits cardiovascular health, and it can be done just about anywhere — simply sit in a comfortable position, breathe deeply through your nose, and think of something that brings you calm and/or joy.
The Value of ‘No’
Are you one of those people who tends to pile up obligations? Consider that being overwhelmed with responsibility is bad for your health, not to mention your sense of well-being. In fact, overdoing it is a major cause of stress overload, with all its negative symptoms. Do your mind and body a favor — learn to say “no” once in a while.
It’s essential to slow down and take the stress out of your day periodically. Make a habit of taking time just to contemplate every day and allow your mind to reset and refresh. You’ll reap the benefits of self-care and feel better.
Brad Krause submitted this guest post. It doesn’t constitute our views or opinions.