It’s no secret that the fast-paced, technology-centric society we live in takes a brutal toll on our mental health. As we increase our ability to multi-task and learn more about the world through our phones and computer screens, it seems as if we are losing our ability to switch off and live happy, satisfying lives at the same time.
So if you’re feeling the grind and need a positive way to reconnect with yourself and the people around you, here’s a mental health self-care checklist you can use to keep your head above water and focus on the thing that really matters: you.
Maintaining a healthy mind and body is a balancing act. It's also an essential ingredient for living a happy, fulfilling life. For anyone making a serious effort to take care of themselves physically and emotionally, the following areas must be acknowledged and achieved before any self-care routine can be effective or useful in any way.
Sleep is one of the most obvious, yet one of the hardest things to get right in our lives. Not getting enough sleep can significantly affect our ability to think, feel, and act clearly--an exhausting cycle which can last for days, if not weeks. Unfortunately for many, getting a good night's sleep is not necessarily within our control, as insomnia, children, loud environments, and/or other external factors can cause a person to lose out on restful sleep.
It’s best to get to bed early and aim for at least eight hours of sleep. Doing so will help you feel more rested, energetic, and will grant you the ability to focus better throughout the day.
Diet & Hydration
The busier we get, the easier it is to skip a meal, succumb to a fast-food lunch, or drink an extra coffee (or two--or three) to tie us over for the day. It rarely--if ever--feels satisfying. The more we do this, the more it can weaken our bodies, our energy levels, our moods, and so on.
Make sure to eat a healthy, balanced diet for every meal. No skipping and no shortcuts. Once you get used to maintaining a healthy and regular diet, you’ll have more energy throughout the day. You will also completely minimize headaches, growling stomachs, and other uncomfortable distractions that might otherwise weigh you down.
It goes without saying that regular exercise is an essential part of living a healthy life. Yet, so many people struggle to find the time and energy to do so, despite their best judgment. Even for the most motivated people, fitting in an exercise routine into an already busy schedule can be a huge challenge.
To make a healthy change without completely turning your schedule upside down, try exercising right at the beginning of the day. Even if you exercise for just 15-minutes each morning, you’ll begin to notice a boost in energy (and mood!) that will have lasting effects throughout the day.
Stability in one's life needs to be realized in order to make a sustainable impact on improving one's mental health. If there's any lack of safety in our daily lives, either mentally, physically, or emotionally--it will destroy our ability to transcend to a more healthy, positive place.
As soon as possible, make the effort to completely remove yourself from those unhealthy situations. If you have any concerns or anxieties about the transition, you can always consult with a therapist who will provide emotional support and guidance.
Once you’ve dedicated yourself to working on the above and improving your mind/body connection, you can now start to work on taking care of your emotional needs and form sustainable and healthy coping habits.
1. Turn Off
It’s true that notifications and text messages can hijack our attention and inject anxiety into our day in an instant. As a society, we’re so easily distracted--and those distractions are often fruitless, providing little to no positive substance to our day.
By unplugging yourself from social media, email, your phone, and other personal technology when you can, you will naturally begin to feel more connected to the physical world around you--a world of deeper senses, genuine human interactions, and nature.
Find a calm, positive place to relax or meditate. Without distractions, allow yourself to think inwardly and focus on you, your emotional needs, and your goals. If any negative thoughts or emotions float into your mind, calmly acknowledge those feelings and do your best to consider what you may be able to do to positively influence and overcome them in a healthy way next time you encounter them.
3. Do You
Treat yourself to something that makes you happy while also staying true to the health necessities listed in phase I of this article. Whether it’s for a whole weekend or only a few minutes, invest your time and energy into something that makes you feel more connected to yourself and your goals. As long as you are making healthy choices, you have complete permission to explore yourself and the things that sustain you.
4. Be Open
Be honest with yourself. Too often we tell ourselves lies, make untested assumptions about things, or communicate in ways that are different than what we really feel. Make an effort to speak truthfully about how you are feeling and be as transparent with yourself as possible. Before you know it, you’ll start to notice how some of the baggage you carry around has more to do with how you feel about yourself and view the world than it does with anything else.
5. Reach Out
Talk to a good friend or someone in your life who brings you genuine happiness. You could even begin (or continue) attending regular counseling sessions for added stability, support, and encouragement. Know that at any point on your life’s journey, you will always have access to expert resources and people you can call on who will advocate for you.
Pathways Counseling Services is a mental health services and counseling center based in Scottsdale, Arizona. If you are local to the area and are in need of counseling services, you can schedule an appointment here to give us a call at (480) 235-1682