Self-care Tips from a Mental Health Counselor
The further we get into 2021 and the Covid-19 pandemic, the more common talking about mental health and self-care becomes. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the word ‘self-care’ simply as “care for oneself”. This definition is simple in the fact that it maxes out at three words, and yet is complex in its vagueness to offer direction as to what individuals should consider care to be. The truth of the matter is some forms of care are subjective. Meaning what one individual might consider “care” in respect to their body may not prove beneficial for another.
Clearly there are some exceptions to this, such as seeing a doctor for preventative, acute, and emergency care, brushing your teeth twice a day, or getting the proper amount of sleep. These are examples of care that apply to everyone. There is a never-ending supply of self-care tips floating around the internet and social media these days, and with all this information at our fingertips (literally, thank you smartphones!), it leaves a lot of people asking, “What will actually work for me?”
Crystal Johnson is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and the Behavioral Health Supervisor here at Eagle View Community Health System. She has over ten years of experience in the behavioral health field working with individuals and groups of all ages. Here are the four tips that Crystal recommends as the foundation for effective self-care.
Set goals that are achievable.
The word “achievable” is very important here. Sometimes it can be extremely difficult to restrain yourself from setting lofty goals, such as a director of a department or being debt free. Not that you shouldn’t ever set lofty goals; sometimes they can be a great motivator. But often, because of life or other unplanned events/situations, those goals start to seem impossible, and once the goal seems impossible, it becomes extremely easy to give up on it. That’s why Crystal, among other counseling professionals, recommends setting smaller goals that are attainable and motivate you to keep going. Most of the time, these small goals form the stairway to that “lofty goal” you dream of.
Utilize positive affirmations.
Positive affirmations are a great way to build up your confidence and self-esteem, which in turn, helps you feel good about yourself. Crystal recommends beginning and ending your day with your favorite positive affirmations to start. “The best thing is to repeat them over and over to yourself, several times a day, every day. When you say those positive affirmations, such as ‘I deserve the best things in life.’ or ‘I am loved.’, repeatedly to yourself, then you eventually start to believe them.” If you need help coming up with positive affirmations, Crystal suggests trying “I Am – Daily Affirmations” a smartphone app that will send a notification to your phone that contains a positive affirmation for the day.
Relaxation and meditation.
No self-care tip list would be complete without mentioning relaxing and the art of meditation. However, this type of relaxing doesn’t involve taking a nap or lounging in front of the television. The relaxation and meditation that Crystal refers to is a moment of intentionality, which means removing yourself from distractions and taking the time to be truly in the present. It can be very tempting to let your thoughts wander to what is coming up next in your day or to what has already happened but being intentional to focus only on the here and now of your relaxation time is crucial. “When we take the time to just be and focus on the present, it helps us become more aware of our moods and emotions. It gives us a chance to use our senses, not to recognize disturbances, but to tune in to our bodies and minds with the intent to learn and understand,” Crystal explains. If you find that you are having a hard time remembering or scheduling these moments, most smartwatches and smartphones have a default app that will remind you to take a moment to breathe – which can be your reminder to take a moment to relax and meditate.
Take the time to do something you enjoy.
"I just don’t have the time to do that anymore”, “I have too much going on”, or “I’ll get to it eventually” - any of these phrases sound familiar? Unfortunately, many individuals have a misconception that if they can’t spend at least an hour on the activity, hobby, or project that they enjoy, then it is not worth doing. Luckily, there is absolutely no truth to that! There isn’t a minimum amount of time required of you to spend on whatever it is that you enjoy for it to be beneficial. Crystal suggests spending just five minutes doing something you love can have an impact. “A lot of individuals would be surprised at how much joy they get from doing something they love for just five or ten minutes and even more surprised at how far that joy goes.”