Self-care is more than just a buzzword. You need to prioritize your mental health if you are going to give your best to your career and your family. Yet, too many of us spend more time working than relaxing and enjoying friends and family. Fortunately, there are some things you can work into your daily routine that will shift your focus to self-care.
1. Get More Sleep
Sleep should be something you prioritize because of its vital role in your overall health and well-being. Getting plenty of quality sleep each night improves your mental and physical health and quality of life. It also supports healthy brain function. On the other hand, sleep deprivation increases your risk for chronic health problems and negatively affects how you think, react, work, and learn. A lack of sleep also impacts your relationships with friends, family members, and colleagues.
According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), studies show that quality sleep improves learning and helps your brain work properly and prepare for the next day. You learn, remember, and solve problems more efficiently when you get enough sleep. Proper rest also boosts your ability to pay attention, make decisions, and be creative.
So, how can you get enough sleep? The National Sleep Foundation recommends sticking to a sleep schedule with a consistent bedtime and wake time every day. Help yourself relax at night by dimming lights, avoiding screens, and reading or listening to music. Avoid napping if you have difficulty falling asleep. Ensure you have a comfortable mattress and pillows and declutter your room. Keep your bedroom between 60-67 degrees Fahrenheit because you will sleep better in cool conditions. It’s also helpful to exercise daily, but doing so before bed makes it more difficult to fall asleep.
2. Take Time to Relax
When prioritizing self-care, take the time to relax each day. Far too many people have chronic stress issues that impact their physical and mental health. Fortunately, you can benefit from short periods of relaxation each day, even when you’re at the office. For example, you can meditate in a quiet place for five minutes. Focus on your breathing and remain silent. Push your worries and schedule out of your mind.
Some people find it easier to meditate by repeating a mantra or listening to soft music or white noise. You also can lay your head on a pillow for five minutes and visualize it as a sponge pulling all of your concerns out of your head. If meditating and visualizing are difficult for you, you can try counting backward, taking slow, deep breaths, or tensing your muscles in one body part at a time and then releasing and repeating until you feel the tension leave.
At home, you can relax by spending time with your dog. While many people know that running and playing with their dogs boost their physical health, you may not realize that your mental health benefits from petting your dog. In fact, studies show that spending time with your dog decreases depression, anxiety, and stress; specifically, petting a dog releases the feel-good chemical oxytocin and reduces your stress hormone cortisol. Best of all, dogs listen without judging and are always happy to see you, no matter what transpired during the day.
3. Learn How to Say “No”
Sadly, many of us actually contribute to our stress by saying “yes” far too often. People who can’t—or won’t—say no burn out, become overwhelmed, and risk damaging their overall well-being. When you do say no, you give yourself more time to relax and focus on self-care. You will be more patient and boost your emotional health because you won’t feel as much pressure.
You’ll also have an easier time getting enough sleep when you say no. Eliminate one or two things from your to-do list and see whether you feel better mentally and physically. If you’re honest with yourself, you’ll realize it’s one of the best things you’ve ever done for yourself.
Prioritizing self-care is critical to your mental health. Begin by getting more sleep. Then, make time to relax each day. Finally, learn how to say no.
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