Self-care for mental health is an underrated practice these days.
The way you think and the emotions you feel play a critical role in your wellbeing, ability to work, and be productive and maintain healthy relationships.
But optimal mental health takes work. It’s something we have to put some effort into each day.
What is Mental Self-Care?
Mental health is a broad term — referring to our emotional, and psychological well being. Practising self-care for our mental health involves taking steps to stimulate the mind, exploring interesting hobbies or activities, expressing our creativity, learning to voice concerns and acknowledge our emotions, and much more.
Poor mental health can leave us feeling unmotivated, depressed, irritable, or unfulfilled. It can lead to problems forming or maintaining relationships, staying productive at work, and simply enjoying life to the fullest.
You’ve already taken the first step to improving your mental wellbeing by reading this article. From here, you can start taking simple, actionable steps to improve your mental health and wellbeing for years to come.
1. Make Time For Yourself
This simple technique is one of the most overlooked aspects of mental self-care.
In the world we live in today, we’re constantly bombarded by requests from friends and family, colleagues, bosses, children, wives, husbands, etc. We rarely spend time alone to do the things we want to do.
This is especially common in parents and those described as ‘workaholics’.
One of the most straightforward and impactful steps you can take to improving your mental health is to schedule time for yourself. This could be as simple as taking an hour or two at lunch to go for a walk or visit the gym alone, taking dedicated ‘personal day’ each week, or a weekend getaway every month or so.
During this time, it’s important to do something you want to do — do things that make you happy or inspire you. Read a book, play a round of golf, strum your guitar, or simply lay back on the beach and watch the waves roll in.
2. Prioritise Sleep
If you only integrate one of these tips into your self-care routine — it should be this one.
Talking about the importance of sleep feels a bit cliché — everybody is pointing this out as being one of the most important parts of mental health. But there’s a reason this recommendation is talked about so much — it’s true!
Sleep deprivation causes stress hormones like cortisol, norepinephrine, and epinephrine to increase. Even small stresses can have a big impact on the mind.
Our better judgment becomes blunted, we lose some of our mental acuity, and it becomes harder to focus.
Not only that, but sleep deprivation can also lead to physical changes in hormone levels which affect mood, libido, motivation, and much more.
Practicing sleep hygiene will go a long way in protecting your mental health and wellbeing.
This involves taking the following measures on a daily basis:
- Avoid looking at computer or phone screens for the last hour of the day before bed
- Go to sleep and wake up at the same times every day
- Stop eating and snacking at least an hour before bedtime
- Take measures to wind-down in the evenings
- Get a sleep tracker to quantify the amount of sleep you’re getting each night
3. Use Nutritional Supplements
Here are some of the best health supplements to incorporate in a rock-solid mental self-care routine:
5-HTP is a nutritional precursor for two very important neurotransmitters in the brain — serotonin and melatonin.
Serotonin is involved with the regulation of over a dozen key processes in the brain — including mood, sexual arousal, creativity, concentration, and more.
Low serotonin has been linked to problems with depression, low motivation, poor libido, and insomnia.
The body uses serotonin to construct melatonin — which is the core regulator for the sleeping portion of the sleep-wake cycle. We need melatonin to fall asleep and stay that way all night.
Supplemental 5-HTP is used to support the production of serotonin and melatonin by providing all the raw materials needed to construct these important neurotransmitters when the body needs them.
Magnesium is one of the most versatile trace minerals in our diet. It’s used as a cofactor for hundreds of different enzymatic reactions all around the body. Many of these enzymes are responsible for supporting our mental health — such as manufacturing neurotransmitters, relaying electrical signals from one nerve cell to another, and building and repairing brain cells.
Magnesium supplements are very affordable, safe, and protect our mental health from the side effects of magnesium deficiency.
A magnesium deficiency is very common due to overfarming and depletion of trace minerals in the soil. Deficiencies can lead to hormone dysfunctions, poor focus and concentration, mood disorders, insomnia, muscle tension, headaches, and much more.
There are many different kinds of magnesium, but the best option in terms of mental health is magnesium-threonate. This form of magnesium is easily absorbed through the blood-brain barrier to provide elemental magnesium directly to the brain cells.
L-theanine is an amino acid isomer from green tea leaves. Its structure is almost identical to a neurotransmitter called glutamate — which is the primary stimulating compound in the brain.
While glutamate is important for things like focus and concentration, too much glutamate can make us feel anxious and stressed out.
L-theanine works by binding to the same receptors as glutamate, blocking this neurotransmitter from binding to the receptors instead. This gives L-theanine a powerful relaxing effect — without being directly sedative.
People use L-theanine to promote a state of relaxed, clear-headed focus. It’s used to promote sleep by easing anxiety levels in the evening, but also as a study aid for its ability to promote a clear mind and stable focus.
D) Lion’s Mane
Lion’s mane is a species of fungi native to temperate forests around the world. It’s a source of food, but also offers powerful mental health benefits. It works by supporting the health of the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord.
This mushroom stimulates the production of nerve growth factor (NGF) which is used to drive the repair and regeneration of brain cells and plays a big role in neuroplasticity — the ability to change and modify nerve function.
Lion’s mane is a popular mental health supplement because it offers non-specific benefits to the nervous system as a whole — helping to keep nerve cells functioning at their prime. This has a trickle-down effect on everything from mood, focus, sleep, and mental clarity.
E) CBD Oil
CBD oil is one of the most popular health supplements of 2020 — and for good reason.
The last point here is especially important when talking about mental health.
Research evidence has found that many people suffering from chronic depression show signs of neuroinflammation — inflammation in the brain. Researchers have postulated that inflammation of the blood-brain barrier is one of the main causes of chronic depression in the world.
The blood-brain barrier is designed to allow only very specific compounds to enter the sensitive tissues inside the brain. If this membrane becomes inflamed — due to exposure to toxic compounds in the air or food we eat, autoimmune disease, or chronic stress — it no longer works to keep harmful molecules out of the brain.
CBD oil is arguably the most powerful herbal anti-inflammatory we have at our disposal. It’s used to reduce neuroinflammation and allow the blood-brain barrier to regain control of what’s entering our nerve cells — thus improving nearly all aspects of mental health and wellbeing.
4. Learn How to Communicate Your Concerns
Bottling up your emotions isn’t going to make your situation any better.
Some common sources of mental health problems could involve a job you don’t like, a partner that isn’t taking your feelings into account, or a daily routine that isn’t allowing you to get what you want out of life.
While it’s easy to shrug off many of these problems in the short-term, it can build up and eat away at your mental health over time.
This step is the hardest on our list, and it can take some time to learn. It requires you to take a look at your life and acknowledge things that may be bothering you, quantifying them, and deciding what should be done to eliminate the problem. A professional counsellor or psychiatrist is helpful for this step.
5. Get Outside & Exercise Everyday
This is another example of a cliché argument posted on nearly every health blog on the internet. But it works!
Getting outside in the sunshine is one of the simplest ways to improve your mood and overall quality of life.
Additionally, daily exercise has been shown to dramatically improve several aspects of our health, including sleep quality, mood, concentration, motivation, and neuroinflammation.
6. Limit Refined Sugar Intake
Refined sugar is present in so many foods these days it’s hard to avoid it. Added sugar in our food is one of the main contributing factors driving the epidemic of metabolic disorders going on in the developed world.
High sugar in our diets causes insulin levels to rise out of control, makes it difficult to maintain consistent energy levels throughout the day, and can even affect the quality of our sleep at night.
Cutting refined sugar out of the diet, in exchange for more natural whole foods can help keep blood sugar and insulin levels in check — providing improvements on our mood, energy levels, sleep, and much more.
Final Thoughts: Taking Care of Your Mental Health
Simple mental self-care steps can be used to help you live a happier, more fulfilled, and more productive life.
Just a few examples you can employ today include scheduling time for yourself, prioritising sleep, reducing sugar intake, identifying and communicating pain points, and using health supplementing with products like 5-HTP, magnesium, L-theanine, CBD, and lion’s mane.