2020 has been a year full of unprecedented challenges. This year has challenged most people to face their vulnerabilities, pushed them to go beyond their comfort zones and strikingly uncertain. Accordingly, taking care of your mental health and wellness is important now more than ever.
Why is it important to take care of your Mental Health?
Analogous to physical health, your mental health plays a pivotal role in your daily functioning. Your mental health includes your psychological, social and emotional wellbeing. It impacts your everyday feelings, thoughts and behaviours. It also contributes to your ability to deal with adversity, build relations, and cope with stress.
Good mental health is not just dearth of mental illness but refers to existence of positive characteristics like
- The ability to cope with setbacks
- Work-life balance
- Learning a new skills and adapt to change
- A sense of gratification
- Self-esteem and self-confidence
“Physical health adds years to your life, whereas mental health adds life to those years”
Developing a self-care routine to maintain/enhance your mental health
In this fast-paced life, it is important for individuals to initiate proactive efforts to slow down and ensure integrated balance between mind, body and spirit and what’s better than developing a self-care routine!
Self-care encompasses EVERYDAY activities that assists an individual to take care of their well-being and health. These activities should also be something that you look forward to, enjoyable and energising for instance, meditating or jogging are good for your health but if you do not enjoy engaging in these activities then they are not regarded as self-care activities for you.
Furthermore, occasional spa sprees or once in blue moon runs is not at the crux of the self-care regime. Self-care should be regular and consistent that makes you feel recharged every day. Mental health is similar to physical health, exercising only once a month is not going to reap you as much fitness benefits as you gain while regularly practising it.
Here are few ideas to include in your self-care routine:
- Connecting to your friends, family or closed-ones
- Practice mindfulness/meditation
- Physical activity/exercise
- Pick up an old hobby or learn a new one
- Listening to music or podcasts
The 5-step approach for creating a self-care routine
Following this approach will help you to build a self-care routine that is consistent and sustainable
- Including an activity that makes you feel centered: ‘One size fits all’ is not a beneficial approach when it comes to self-care. You can try different activities and find which activity suits you best for you. Initially, you can pen down activities that relate to you. It could be anything like your favourite colour, song, having a cup of green tea, any smell or essential oils, etc and then decide which ones you want to include in your routine.
- Find ways to integrate these activities into your everyday schedule: Oftentimes people discontinue with their self-care routine in a few days or weeks and it is mainly because they can’t find the time, they forget or simply are just too lazy to do it. Therefore, this step is important to build a sustainable routine. This step includes manipulating your background to act as a reminder cue or assimilate with on-going tasks. For instance, filling up the space with your favourite colour, having your morning tea with music, journaling before bedtime. Always remember to start small and then gradually build on it.
- Set goals for your activities: Once the activities are determined, set goals for the self-care practices like when and how often you want to engage in that activity. Make sure that your goal is realistic, measurable and specific in nature. For instance, if you want to go for 10km runs in the morning, you can start with running 3-4km in the beginning and then gradually set more challenging goals.
- Evaluate periodically : After a few days or weeks of adhering to your routine you can evaluate your progress, feelings, any positive benefits and use that as a fuel to motivate yourself to continue with the behaviour.
- Adjust and tweak your approach as you go: Reflecting and evaluating your behaviour helps you to understand whether the self-care practice is working for you or not and accordingly setting new goals for yourself.
Make mental health your top most priority this new year and take professional help if need be. Also, keep in mind that your self-care journey is not without challenges. There are going to be bumps, trial and errors, changing needs, good days, bad days but that is absolutely normal and okay.