The Mental Health Benefits of Self-Care

We’re all busy. As a recent article bluntly put it: “Americans work more than anyone.” Most Americans work over 40 hours a week, more than our counterparts in other industrialized nations like England, Norway, and Japan. We also retire later, work longer days, and are permitted less time off for vacation. As a country, we rally around the ideals of determination and hard work. But experts suggest that overwork is linked to alcoholism, weight gain, sleep deprivation, and, in low-income workers, type 2 diabetes. So if you feel weighed down with anxiety – whether because of work or any other reason – be sure to care for yourself. That means taking time to relax, reducing stress, getting enough sleep, and saying no.

Reducing Stress

The sources of stress in our daily routine are almost too many to count. But there’s also a plethora of strategies to counter those stressors. These might include doing yoga, drinking tea, listening to music, journaling your thoughts, or just walking in the woods with your dog. Another great way to de-stress is to create a meditation space. You could put this space in the attic nook, a guest room no one uses, or, if you live in a place like Florida or southern California, an enclosed patio. Wherever it goes, be sure that it’s quiet, private, and decluttered. The point is to create a sanctuary where you can think clearly, gain peace of mind, and put your worries and anxieties in perspective.


Taking Time to Relax

While overwork is connected to chronic health conditions, relaxing offers up a ton of health perks. That list is extensive, but some of the highlights include less fatigue, better digestion, lowered blood pressure, and sharper concentration.

Looking to treat yourself? Here are some suggestions:

  • Drink a cup of tea.
  • Meditate for five minutes a day.
  • Garden, then hang a hammock amid the flowering blooms.
  • Do something that’s fun but doesn’t have a material reward.


Getting Enough Sleep

In a work-obsessed society like ours, we often regard sleep as a blank space where we’re not getting anything done. Counterintuitive as it seems, if you want to be highly efficient, sleep more. Research has shown that when you’re conked out, your body is basically rebooting your energy, alertness, and intellectual sharpness. People who power through on eight pots of coffee and one hour of sleep suffer from lower reasoning and problem-solving skills than someone who slept straight through the night.


Saying No

One of the habits of highly successful people is saying no, which makes sense. How many times does a bad proposal come your way from a get-rich-quick teleprompter call to a job offer way under your market price? We’re offered dead-ends all the time, and one of the best habits you can develop is to turn them down. Another skill to pair with that, however, is accompanying a rejection with an alternative. (You can’t make the Monday meeting, but you are free on Tuesday.) Or explain you’re not interested in this specific pitch, but offer a suggestion as to what you would be interested in. That said, if you ever feel like you’re being backed into a corner, feel free to say no flat-out. It’s really okay.


Chilling out, sleeping enough, setting boundaries, lowering your anxiety – these are all prime examples of self-care. That’s a newish buzzword, but it comes down to applying the Golden Rule to yourself: What do you need to do so that you stay active and positive? Figure that out, and then prioritize your health and well-being. It’s all you’ve got.


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