At this point, you’ve likely heard about the importance of self-care. The real question is, how often do you make a conscious effort to incorporate it into your daily routine? Can you even remember the last time you took time for yourself? Carving out the time for self-care is crucial for your mental health, and there are plenty of ways to go about it.
Trust Your Gut
You’re probably wondering how your mind and gut are related. It’s called the gut-brain axis, and U.S. News describes it as the “bidirectional interaction between the nervous system, including the brain, and intestinal function.” Each of the species in your gut has a role to play, and many can predict the likelihood that you will develop depression. Any sort of imbalance can impact the level of important feel-good neurotransmitters, so keeping your gut balanced is just one step in taking care of your mental health.
There are various types of bacteria housed in your gut that serve various purposes, such as akkermansia bacteria, which affects your metabolism. But the two directly related to mental health are Lactobacillus helveticus and Bifidobacterium Longum. Together, these bacteria can reduce stress hormones, improve mood, and give you a sense of relaxation. Get to know your gut to help you determine what changes can be made to improve your digestive health, such as supplements or dietary changes to detox both your mind and body.
The Power of Touch
If you’ve ever gotten a massage, you probably remember feeling like a relaxed pile of mush afterward. It’s a treat for your body, but getting a massage is good for your mental health, too. A specific type worth looking into is reflexology, which involves applying direct pressure to the hands and feet. This type of massage is based on the idea that the hands and feet have a direct relationship with the rest of the body, resulting in positive effects such as stress relief, toxin elimination, and total relaxation.
A regular massage can work wonders as well, as the pressure applied to the muscular, nervous, and circulatory systems can slow your breathing and heart rate, and help quiet an over-stimulated mind. You may even be able to increase the benefits by pairing it with mindfulness meditation so that you can get that stress relief any time, any place—not to mention enhance your ability to stay present in the moment.
Back to the Basics
Often times, one of the most overlooked forms of self-care is simply taking care of your basic needs. For example, you might be surprised how much better you feel when you get enough sleep each night. You lower your risk for developing mental health issues such as depression and anxiety, improve your cognitive function, and don’t experience that mental fogginess. Unfortunately, lack of self-care could mean you are overwhelmed, which makes it difficult to shut your brain off and fall asleep. Turn your sleep ritual into a self-care routine by setting a bedtime and engaging in de-stressing activities prior to sleep such as taking a warm bath, meditating, or reading.
Sleep seems like a simple enough self-care activity, but there are plenty of other basic self-care strategies, and most won’t require more than 10 minutes of your time. Get outside in nature and go for a walk or do some yoga and meditation. Turn on the music and dance and sing to your favorite song. No matter what it is you do, resist the urge to bring your phone with you. It’s hard to focus on that good feeling when your mind is preoccupied with trying to get the perfect photo of your quiet picnic for social media.
Taking care of your mental health is important, and it can be achieved by practicing various self-care techniques. Whether you use less common methods, such as detoxing to get your gut and brain health back in balance, or something more commonplace, such as massage, meditation, rest, or relaxation, the resulting mental health benefits are worth it. Enjoy the journey as you explore all the ways you can take better care of yourself and improve your mental health and well-being.