Written by: Cynthia Mwaura

Self-care is the practice of taking action to promote and ensure one is physically, mentally, and emotionally healthy. We all have our own struggles that we go through. Yet, even with the struggles that come with living, we must slow down, acknowledge what is causing us pain, discomfort, and/or stress, and decide to take better care of ourselves and cope with what is causing us distress. 

When I am not in the best state of mind, there are some signs that show up. These include mind fog, low concentration, wanting to isolate myself from others, getting emotional, etc. Where I find myself not doing tasks that I know I need to do and that would benefit me in all aspects of my life. As these signs show up, it’s important for me to sit with them, ask myself what I need, and create a plan that gets me back to a better state of mind. Because if not, it will pile up and come back to bite me. Some of the self-care practices that I do include journaling, listening to music, going for a walk, writing blog posts, volunteering, reading a book, talking with a friend and/or family member, going to an art gallery/museum, and watching a TV show, movie, or a YouTube video. I find self-care practices to be subjective. There are times when I am drawn to one practice more than the other. For instance, there are times when I tell myself “I really want to write today”. I find journaling helps with letting out my thoughts and feelings and creates space for other mental tasks. 

Some self-care practices will work better depending on the situation. But there are self-care practices that benefit everyone. Which are consistently, getting exercise, going outside, connecting with nature, eating healthy meals, connecting with others socially, and keeping up with a hygienic routine. Research has shown, that getting exercise can improve mood by increasing dopamine, serotonin, and noradrenaline. In addition to shifting focus and attention for at least two hours, improving reaction time, and protecting against neurodegenerative diseases (TED, 2018). 

A few tips to incorporate these evidence-based practices include, doing an exercise 3-4 times a week for a minimum of 30 mins. Optimally, choosing exercises that increase heart and respiration rate (TED, 2018). However, any type of exercise such as yoga, going for a brisk walk, tai chi, taking an exercise class, or finding an exercise routine on YouTube, Nike Training, or any other web-based platform is better than nothing. To assist with eating healthier, meal prepping for the week can be a great strategy. This includes creating a grocery list for the week and finding recipes to make that incorporate breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. A few foods that are not costly but are healthy are sardines, anchovies, beans, lentils, and frozen vegetables (Eating Healthy for Brain Health and Staying on Budget, 2019). Socially, this can include reaching out to those whom you trust and can talk to and/or being around others such as going to a café or attending a social event. 

There are many other self-care practices available. As with everything, it’s all about finding what works best for you. Find practices that are enjoyable and proactive, work with your schedule, and make you feel happy. If you’re not sure where to start a Google search of “self-care practice” can help provide direction. 

 

References

Eating healthy for brain health and staying on budget. (2019). American Psychiatric Association. https://www.psychiatry.org/news-room/apa-blogs/eating-healthy-for-brain-health-staying-on-budget

TED. (2018). Wendy Suzuki: The brain-changing benefits of exercise | TED [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BHY0FxzoKZE