What is Self-Care, and Why is it Essential to Mental Health?
Over the last few years, self-care has become a household name.
Thanks to social media trends, we tend to associate it with face masks and bubble baths. And while we love nothing more than a relaxing soak in the tub here at The Sun & My Soul, we also know that there is more to self-care than meets the eye.
Taking time to tend to your physical, emotional and spiritual needs is the key to a healthy, happy life.
But when your mental health takes a downward turn, showing up for yourself becomes more challenging — and often falls to the wayside. Those are the days when self-care is most needed. By cultivating a self-care routine that looks after your needs and refills your emotional cup, you will be better equipped to face both the highs and the lows life has to offer.
This is the reason why mental health professionals have stressed the importance of self-care for decades.
Understanding the connection between self-care and mental health can help you to take better care of your mind and show up for yourself — even on the darkest of days.
Disclaimer: Here at The Sun & My Soul, we love all things self-care, but we are not medical professionals. If you think you might be struggling with a mental health problem such as depression, anxiety or SAD, please get in touch with your GP or a counsellor, who will be able to support you with a personal solution.
What exactly is self-care?
Simply put, self-care is the ongoing practice of looking after your physical and mental wellbeing.
Since self-care rituals are as diverse as the people who practice them, they look different for everyone. But at the end of the day, the most important thing to remember about self-care is that it’s meant to serve you — not anybody else.
Cultivating the right self-care practice for you starts out with self-awareness. Something as small as a daily check in with yourself brings you one step closer to understanding yourself and your needs.
Beyond simply addressing your physical needs, self-care also strengthens your mental health.
Showing up for yourself means taking responsibility for your own wellbeing. It sends a message that you matter, and you are worthy of physical and emotional nurturing — even if you have not experienced nurturing in the past.
Is self-care selfish?
There is a common misconception that self-care is selfish, but this couldn’t be further from the truth.
Self-care teaches us emotional awareness, patience and resilience, which helps us to bounce back from negative situations, avoid jumping to conclusions, and cope with the stresses of everyday life.
We bring this resilience with us to every relationship we have — at home, in work, and among our friends.
Pausing to pay attention to our own needs is essential to showing up as a better friend, partner and family member. It teaches us to pay attention to ourselves as well as to our loved ones — and to participate in life more fully.
Michelle Obama says it best:
"Over the years I’ve recognized something important: Whether it was going to the gym at the crack of dawn or finding an extra moment to unwind in my favorite chair, in order for me to be at my best for others around me, I needed to find some time for myself.”
The relationship between self-care and mental health
The term ‘self-care’ existed in the mental health profession long before it became a social media trend.
For example, in occupational therapy, self-care is one of the key components that contribute to a healthy and balanced lifestyle — alongside work, leisure and rest. Since mental health problems make performing daily activities a lot more difficult, daily self-care is also bound to take a hit.
Mental health problems, such as depression or anxiety, often have a negative effect on a person’s ability or willingness to treat themselves with care. This includes even the most fundamental daily needs, such as nourishing the body with food, showering or getting a good night’s rest.
While self-care is not a cure for mental health issues, it can be a way to relieve symptoms, manage stress levels and encourage feelings of self-worth on the road to recovery. It is an investment in your future self, and a way to show her that you’ve got her back.
By becoming aware of your needs and tending to them, you can begin to spot patterns in your emotions, triggers and symptoms, and work to overcome them.
You can also make more room in your life for the things that make a positive contribution to your wellbeing and lift you up whenever you’re feeling down.
The benefits of self-care on your mental health
Self-care is essential to a healthy mind, body and soul.
Practising self-care rituals on a daily basis is especially valuable to mental health. Here are just a handful of reasons why:
- Self-care reduces stress and increases your capacity to handle pressure.
- It regulates the production of various hormones within your body, such as serotonin and melatonin.
- It increases your resilience, giving you greater strength to face the challenges that life holds in store for you.
- It significantly reduces the negative impact of mental health problems on day-to-day life.
- It connects us with ourselves and the people around us on a more meaningful level. This makes it easier to open up, share your struggles, or ask for help.
How can you put self-care into practice?
Having reliable self-care rituals to fall back on during stressful times is essential. But these rituals should not be reserved for crisis mode. Instead, they should slot right into your daily life.
After all, your wellbeing matters every day.
But how can you actually put self-care into practice?
When planning out your self-care rituals, it can be helpful to break things down into separate categories. That way, you can make a mental note to check off one item from each category every day that nourishes your mind and body.
We like to split our self-care into three categories: mind, body, and soul.
Being kind to your mind on a daily basis might include:
- Learning a new skill or reading a good book
- Chatting with a friend
- Reducing your screen time
- Journalling to check in with yourself
- Attending counselling or therapy
- Taking a mental health day
Apart from looking after your mental health, self-care is about nurturing your body, too. That might look like:
- Moving your body
- Drinking plenty of water
- Nourishing your body with nutritious meals
- Working toward a more positive body image
- Going on walks to clear your head
- Running a hot bath
Spiritual self-care is all about connecting with your sense of purpose in life
- Setting boundaries that protect your time and energy
- Mindfulness or meditation practice
- Connecting with nature
- Reach out to an old friend or family member you haven’t seen yet
- Expressing your creativity through art or writing
Self-care all about taking care of yourself the way you would take care of a loved one. This doesn’t come naturally to everyone — so some of us may need a little practice in putting ourselves first.
Whether your idea of self-care includes vinyasa yoga or winding down in the evening with a cup of herbal tea, the aim is always the same: to make more space in your life for activities that light you up.
Self-care is what you make it
At The Sun & My Soul, our mission is to clear your path to the compassionate, fulfilling and intentional life you were born to live, one self-care ritual at a time.
We believe that by tending to your mind, body and soul every day, you send yourself a powerful message: that you are worthy of love, care and attention.
Our sustainably-sourced self-care essentials make self-care an effortless part of your daily schedule. Why not reflect on your week in one of our wellness journals or set the mood for a relaxing evening with a soothing soy candle? We know you’ll love them just as much as we do.