It’s Mental Health Awareness Month, and engaging in self-care is an important part of maintaining mental health. Being able to perform self-care requires self-awareness which can greatly benefit those with a mental illness – especially because we often default to providing inadequate self-care when we find ourselves struggling through flare-ups of symptoms or particularly difficult episodes. Check out some of my favorite unexpected self-care strategies below that can help keep your self-care routine fresh.
1. Stretch it out.
Don’t feel like moving your body and definitely not into a full workout? Just move your body a little. Set a timer (or don’t, whatever you feel like you need), and just move your body. Do that one stretch you love that always feels so good, then do a couple more. Even if you don’t know what formal stretches to do, just lay on the floor or on your bed and stretch your body out in whatever ways feel comfortable.
2. Keep a feel-good book on hand.
A great screen-free way to decompress and turn off the stresses of the world is to pick up a light, easy-to-read book. This can be a favorite you’ve read before or a new one you keep around just for when you need a mood boost or a pick-me-up.
3. Pay complete attention to something you usually do on autopilot, or mix it up and do it a different way.
Being mindful is a great way to help center yourself and keep your feet on the ground. This can be something as simple as being extra attentive while brushing your teeth or changing the route you drive to one of your regular destinations. Engaging your mind completely in something can help you get the mental break you need from everything else going on in your world.
4. Take a quick nap.
A 15-20 minute power nap can help reduce your sleep debt and help you feel rejuvenated on a busy day.
5. Write it down.
Spend a couple minutes writing down how you’re feeling, what you’re feeling these things about, and why you are feeling that way. This can be in a traditional journal, but you can also write it on scrap paper or on the back of your water bill that you’ll toss out as soon as your done writing. Some people find regular journaling to be a great part of their self-care regimen, but others find that keeping a journal can feel like just another thing on your to-do list, so just do what feels right for you and don’t pressure yourself.
6. Take yourself on a date.
On your own, go do something you enjoy. Get dinner out then go see a movie, visit a museum or art gallery, take a hike, whatever! Spend the time with yourself doing something you love.
7. Write a thank you note.
Putting your gratitude into words can help you not only enumerate all the things in your life you have to be grateful for, but it can also help you shift your mindset and develop an attitude of gratitude. Write a note to someone in your life who means something to you or to someone who has impacted your life in some positive way – big or small.
8. Take care of your spirit.
Spiritual self-care is an important part of feeling fulfilled and in touch with your world, and it isn’t only about religion. Yes, some might find that spiritual self-care for them is prayer or going to in-person worship, but, for others, it can be meditation, setting aside time to contemplate your place in the world and the meaning of your work, or volunteering. Unsure what will work for you? Start by connecting with the world around you. One day, look at 5 things that you find truly beautiful – whatever your definition of that might be.
9. Get help when you need help.
None of these self-care tips are a replacement for traditional therapy or other types of professional help. Visit https://findtreatment.samhsa.gov/locator to find a mental health professional near you, or find a Mental Health America Local Affiliate that can help you find the right professional for your needs https://arc.mhanational.org/find-an-affiliate. Are you experiencing symptoms of mental illness and have no idea where to start? Try out the Mental Health America screening tool to see if you are at risk for certain mental health conditions https://screening.mhanational.org/.