In the previous parts to this series, I spoke on physical things you could do as a form of self-care when you don’t really have the energy for proper self-care. In this part, we’re going to talk about the emotional/mental things you can do as an act of self-care. These are all tips and tricks I’ve learned over my years in therapy, and I want to share with as many people as possible, especially those who may not have the resources to seek proper treatment. This is not a complete list, and not all of these things will work for everyone. If you don’t resonate with a skill, try to tweak it in a way that feels comfortable to you.
1. Recognize your thoughts as just thoughts. I wrote a detailed blog about this mindfulness skill, so if you’re interested in learning more, check out my blog on my website sadgirlselfcare.com/blog. Recognizing your thoughts can be intimidating. Negative thoughts cause feelings of distress and discomfort, making them something that humans typically avoid. Avoiding these thoughts, however, can lead to extended distress and even isolation. If you have a negative thought, instead of spending mental energy trying to push it away (and in turn thinking about it even more), try recognizing it as what it is. A thought. Its not fact, its not reality. Its simply a thought. As we begin to be able to rationalize that our thoughts are not truth, we begin to have an easier time brushing them off.
2. Set healthy boundaries with the people in your life. If you find it hard to put your foot down and stick up for yourself, this one’s for you. Setting healthy boundaries is important for ANY relationship, intimate, platonic, or even family and coworkers. It can be something as simple as “Do not yell at me, or I will leave the conversation” or something as complicated as telling your mother that you only have the energy to talk on the phone twice per week. Boundaries do not have to be scary, and if the person you’re setting them with is decent, they will respect your boundaries, and conflict should not arise. If conflict DOES arise from setting boundaries, that is a huge red flag, and you should try to get away from that relationship if you can. People who do not respect your boundaries do not deserve to be a part of your life.
3. If you want to say no, then say no. This one goes along with setting healthy boundaries, but I’m not just talking saying no to someone who asks you to do something you don’t want to do. This isn’t just saying no to a date you’re not interested in. This involves letting down your loved ones, this involves staying in when your mental health is not doing well, even if your friends are begging you to come out. Saying no means, if your friend wants to vent to you, and you don’t have the mental energy for it, you tell them no. It doesn’t have to be rude, it could be something like “I’m really sorry you’re going through a tough time but right now I am not in the head space to offer support”. Saying no looks like your sister asking you to babysit, and you politely declining because you need to focus on yourself that day, and being responsible for another human during that time would prove difficult. Saying no is self-care, and its a form of self-care that we need to start respecting more.
4. Take mental health days. This one is SUPER important. Even the most mentally sound person will crash if they do not take time to unwind, relax, and reflect. Burn out can happen to anyone, especially if you’re doing so much that you don’t have a minute to yourself. Take a day off if you need it, your work will still be there when you get back. If you happen to work a job where mental health days are hard to get, or god forbid, not allowed, then this can be trickier, but if you can rearrange your personal schedule to make time for yourself, please do.
5. Meditation. I’ll be honest, when my therapist first recommended meditation to me, I was extremely skeptical. In my head, I was picturing Buddhist monks, hovering above the ground with their legs crossed in front of them. What I found, when I looked into proper meditation, is that it is nothing like the media portrays it. I always thought I could never meditate because my head never shuts up. I was under the impression that in order to meditate, you had to “clear your mind”. I had no idea what “clearing your mind” was like because I have a constant narrative in my head, looping over and over. With proper meditation, it’s not about clearing your head and thinking nothing. Its about letting the thoughts come, and just as easily, letting them pass. it’s about being aware of what you’re thinking, and feeling. Meditation can be done anywhere, for any length of time. Sit or stand, close your eyes, and sit with your mind and body. Recognize your physical feelings, recognize what you’re thinking, hearing, tasting, etc. Let it come, and then let it pass.
Our mental health is arguably the MOST important thing to focus on and take care of, because what are we without our minds? Choosing to do one or two of these things per day, can really make a difference on how you see yourself, and how you cope with your mental health.