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Simple Self-Care Strategies for Better Mental Health

By Constance Ray

You're overwhelmed at work, dishes are piled in the sink, your family is pulling you in a million different directions, and you can't even remember the last time you took a moment to yourself.

Sound familiar?

It's all too easy to neglect self care when you're stressed, but self care should be at the top of your priority list when times get rough. When you don't take time to take care of yourself, you're more likely to burn out and fail to see your commitments through.

If you're thinking that "self care" sounds like a bunch of hippie nonsense, stop. Self care doesn't have to mean yoga, meditating, or crystal healing — although it certainly can if that's what makes you feel your best. Self care simply means doing the things that meet your basic needs, make you feel good about life, and give you the energy to tackle what lies ahead. Self care can be as simple as cooking yourself a healthy dinner, cleaning up a cluttered space in your home, or taking a hot shower at the end of a long day, or as complex as a weekend in the woods away from it all.

Whatever self care looks like for you, it's important to make it a part of your daily routine. If adding anything to your day sounds overwhelming, consider these small things you can do for self care:

  1. Step Away From Your Desk

    When you're at the office and struggling to stay focused, take five minutes to step away from your desk. Take a short walk outside, brew a cup of tea, or pull up pictures of your loved ones to look at. Anything that separates you from the task at hand will help you to relax and give you a renewed sense of focus when you return to your work. Taking a couple of short breaks throughout each work day can boost your productivity, reduce your stress, and help the day go by a little quicker.

  2. Stretch

    Stretching is more than good for your muscles — it can offer valuable mental health benefits as well. Spending a few minutes stretching each day can reduce anxiety and exhaustion, as well as help get rid of that lower back ache from sitting at a desk all day. Whether you stretch when you wake up in the morning, in micro-sessions throughout your workday, or at home after a long day, committing even just 10 minutes a day can benefit your mental health.

  3. Eat a Healthy Snack

    Stress tends to make people reach for potato chips instead of carrot sticks, but taking time out of your day to enjoy a healthy snack can be an effective strategy for self care. The trick to turning snacking into self care is to make it a mindfulness ritual. When you're feeling overwhelmed, find a distraction-free environment away from your work and spend time slowly eating your snack, focusing on the textures and flavors of the food instead of on everything that's making you anxious. Simple mindfulness exercises like this one can help reduce your stress and improve your concentration.

    Self care doesn't have to take a lot of planning, time, or energy. When you carve out small moments throughout the day to practice self care, you can decrease your anxiety, improve your focus, and stay motivated to tackle everything that life throws at you. Plus, self-care micro-sessions like these constantly reinforce the importance of your personal well-being in a way that a self-care binge can't accomplish. Before long, you may find that self care has become second nature.