First Steps Toward Self-Care


One of the most important and most underutilized ways to improve your mental health is to engage in regular self-care.  Whether you are stressed from being constantly on the go or from hectic family life, self-care is a way to take time for your own needs.  It can also have some powerful effects on your mental health.  Here’s an overview.


Give yourself control and freedom


The first thing to understand is that there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to self-care.  Not everything that works for one person will suit another, and nothing is required.  Self-care is a set of recommendations, not instructions - you can even do nothing and call it self-care if that’s what you need!  It’s partially this sense of freedom that gives self-care its mental health power.  If you try to force yourself to go swimming if you dislike water, you will be adding to your stress, not reducing it. 

A set of studies found that a major factor in mental health is whether or not people felt they had a degree of control over their own behavior and fate.  (A declining sense of control is statistically significantly linked to increased rates of depression and anxiety.)  Self-care, then, is a way for you to not only take time for yourself but for you to spend that time in whatever way you like. 


Support your mental health

Self-care, in general, is good for both the body and the mind.  Taking time to think and meditate helps to free your mind from each day’s stressors, reducing adrenaline and cortisol, two chemicals that regulate stress, and increasing positive chemicals, like endorphins. 

A clearer mind helps you think more creatively, which can, in turn, help you increase your productivity.  Part of self-care is learning to know and trust yourself.  Making simple decisions, like where to go on a hike, can actually help to boost your self-confidence. 


Take time to get enough sleep


While the specific details of self-care are up to you, there are a few major facets that can prove widely beneficial to all types of people.  One part of self-care that is frequently neglected in today’s society is the art of getting enough sleep.  Sleep promotes memory, good decision making, and alertness throughout the day. 

Make your bed into a sanctuary, and your mind will thank you. Similarly, general relaxation is also beneficial for your overall mental health.  Constant high levels of stress hormones can put you at greater risk for many conditions, including heart disease, not to mention the wear on your mental health. 

Relaxation is a great way to manage stress - you can also consider exercising throughout the day to get your blood pumping.  You may think that you don’t have enough time to sleep, relax throughout the day, and exercise.  However, one key facet of self-care is being able to say ‘no’

Too often, we accept every project and invitation that comes down the pipeline.  While some activity is good, it should never get in the way of your personal health.

Benefits for addiction recovery

Finally, no matter your circumstances, even if you are in addiction recovery, you can practice self-care.  All of the above is true - sleep, relaxation, and exercise are great ways to assist in the recovery process. 

Many psychologists have started advocating for person-driven, supportive recovery as a more effective process than traditional methods.  You can start taking time for yourself by getting a hobby. 

Becoming skilled at something you love is a great way to boost your self-esteem.  Two more great tools for recovery are meditation and yoga, which help tie self-care and exercise together while looking inward.


The key to taking care of yourself is to be deliberate in it.  When you decide to set time aside to relax, go all the way.  Don’t bring a folder from work to a beach trip thinking you’ll glance through it while you relax.  Instead, fully commit to self-care.  Your mind and body will thank you.


Article by: Brad Krause

Photo Credit: