mental toughness spotlight

Self-Care: 5 Tips for Mental and Emotional Wellbeing

Dana Bender
Dana Bender
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Self-care is a word that keeps emerging in news articles and company-wide employee emails during the coronavirus pandemic.

Due to the unprecedented stress many individuals face, some companies are re-establishing their Employee Assistance Program (EAP) and insurance plan's mental health benefits for all individuals who might be experiencing increased emotional stress, anxiety, difficulty sleeping, or need objective support of a counselor.

These resources, and others like it, have been vital for many individuals having a difficult time.

The Importance of Self Care

Self-care has always been important, but it is even more essential in today’s environment where many individuals navigate uncharacteristic work, family, and personal decisions. Self-care is an integral part of thriving emotionally, mentally, and physically.

Self-care strategies help reduce stress, enhance resiliency, increase feel-good brain chemicals like serotonin, rejuvenate the mind to better focus on tasks at hand, and improve emotional wellbeing.

Additionally, having established self-care practices can help improve the ability to manage and process our emotions, pay attention to mental or physical fatigue, and thwart stress when faced with new challenges like navigating a pandemic.

Listed below are tips on how to improve emotional and mental wellbeing using self-care strategies. These tips are to accentuate efforts related to exercise and nutrition.

(1) Schedule time away from technology

With so much going on, it can be easy to lose time reading the plethora of articles, watching live stream videos, or spending time on social media. Furthermore, technology use and working remotely have increased exponentially, which increases the need to take a break from technology.

Taking time to decompress away from technology is essential for self-care. Not only does it give our mind a break from the stimulus, but it also helps us sleep. Proper sleep hygiene (another form of self-care) requires stopping any technology use about an hour before bed to help get the body and mind ready to rest.

(2) Get an adequate amount of sleep

As the last tip suggests, getting a good night's rest is a crucial self-care strategy that we can do regardless of the situation. Not getting proper rest (7-9 hours of sleep per night) can hinder our body's ability to recharge and repair. When an individual faces higher levels of stress, it is even more important to get proper rest.

This is because sleep impacts many of the body's chemicals, including serotonin, which helps make us feel good. Additionally, sleep improves memory, mood, and cognitive functions like reactions, thought processes, and decisions. Lastly, getting proper rest keeps our immune system working well.

(3) Start or invest in a joyful activity

One benefit of this virtual time is that many hobby-based studios such as dance, fitness, or martial arts offer virtual and private/ small group options to still invest in hobbies safely during the pandemic.

Additionally, there are lots of activities that one could incorporate safely at home, such as writing, painting, knitting, learning a new language or instrument.

Consider trying something new that increases feelings of joy and allows you to step away mentally from what else might be going on around you.

(4) Build Social Connections

Physically distancing from others does not mean social connections have to suffer. Use this time to reach out to individuals over the phone that you have not connected with recently. Consider using Facetime or Zoom to connect visually with loved ones that you cannot meet with in person and consider virtual connections/ networking opportunities. Though this might not be the same, it can still help satisfy social and emotional wellness needs.

(5) Think Outside the Box

Need more ideas? As mentioned earlier, the best thing about self-care is that it can be customized to meet each person's needs and every situation. Think outside the box of what might work best for you.

Ask yourself the following questions each day, “What might bring me peace of mind today?", "What can I do for just 5 minutes today for my emotional wellbeing?" and “What is one thing I can do today for my mental health?” Self-care does not need to be complicated or expensive.

It can be the outside-the-box activity or a small amount of time you take daily for yourself.

Cultivating a self-care practice to maintain healthy emotional well-being is one thing that each of us can do and focus on during the pandemic, especially when many factors are out of our control. If you need more than just individual self-care, do not be afraid to reach out to others, utilize Employee Assistance Program support, or look into mental health insurance benefits for additional resources.

Conclusion

It is vital to be acquainted with a variety of self-care strategies just in case the strategies that usually work well do not reduce stress during these atypical times.   For example, someone who tends to exercise for self-care might need to incorporate a different solution if they find that exercise is not having the same self-soothing and rejuvenating effect that it might usually.

Having a variety of self-care options is recommended. Similarly, the self-care activities or behaviors that we might usually incorporate into our daily lives might have to evolve due to limits in what is available or safe during these times.

The excellent news about self-care is that a multitude of options exist. Self-care does not just mean going to get a massage or exercising. It can mean a lot of different things to different people, consisting of physical and mental behaviors, and customized to meet individual needs.

One can also pick and choose which self-care strategy best meets the need of the situation. Lastly, there is no minimum amount of time or large investment to practice self-care strategies successfully. Self-care can be five minutes of meditation, or calling a dear friend or loved one to catch up.

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The Author

Dana Bender

Dana Bender

Dana Bender, MS, ACSM, CWWS, E-RYT. Dana Bender works as a fitness and wellness Program Manager for Health Fitness Corporation in downtown Chicago. Dana is also a National Board Certified Health and Wellness Coach, an adjunct professor with Rowan University, and an E-RYT 200 hour Registered Yoga Alliance Teacher.