On June 1st, 2021, Naomi Osaka announced she was pulling out of the French Open for tennis. She cited mental health and social anxiety as the reason for this withdrawal. Some people didn’t understand, but others took it as a wake-up call to take care of themselves. Osaka later disclosed that she had been dealing with “long bouts of depression since the US Open back in 2018.” After three years of facing this, she finally took her mental health into her own hands.
What is Self-Care?
Unfortunately, many people are still unsure about self-care. Some doubt they need it, some doubt it is necessary– both are wrong. Self-care exists, and it is vital for our health and wellness, both physically and mentally. Everyone needs self-care, and everyone deserves it. If someone doesn’t think they need to take care of themself, then that is exactly why they need a self-care routine in their life.
The Awareness of Self-Care Among Athletes
In today’s social climate, self-care is one of the most important activities a person can do. As the Olympics have come to an end, we’ve seen an unprecedented amount of support for athletes stepping down for their mental health. At the small cost of potential medals and temporary glory, these athletes sent a message that rocked the world; a message that the world needed to hear. Mental health is crucial. Self-care is necessary.
Professional athletes aren’t the only ones under massive amounts of stress and in need of self-care. As school is about to resume for millions of students worldwide, there is a lot of pressure on these students’ shoulders. One of the most important things to remember is to take care of yourself. Many times, self-care becomes overlooked – especially in periods of high stress. It becomes neglected when people become more stressed – such as during a mass quarantine, sports, or school time. There is no one way to take care of yourself and it isn’t just taking care of your physical health – it’s taking care of your mental health as well. When you take care of yourself, you will gradually see the benefits.
How Stress Affects Our Health
School, relationships, and work can be very stressful, which is no secret. Adding a mass quarantine and a social-political climate as fierce and divided as the one seen today only makes the stress worse – in some cases even fatal. That stress can also cause burnout, frustration, and a critical lack of self-care. It becomes a domino effect as rates of depression, self-doubt, anxiety, and general sadness all increase exponentially. Sometimes, we don’t even realize that our mental health is suffering until it has already been declining for weeks, months, or even years– making it harder to reverse the damages. Knowing that self-care is crucial to our health and wellbeing, the next thing we should consider is how to make sure we are taking care of ourselves.
Before getting too deep into the topic of self-care, it needs to be disclosed that there is no right or wrong way to practice self-care. This includes how you do it, when you do it, how often you do it, who you do it with, etc. This article will discuss some suggestions for personal care that may be helpful, but by no means is it every way to do it. Everyone is different so everyone may have slightly altering methods of self-care that work best for them. Hopefully, this article will help you find a way that suits you best or lead you to an even better way of taking care of yourself.
Seeking out professional help.
Professional help can be one of the smartest choices a person can make when considering their mental and physical health. Some schools offer free emotional counselors – which can be a good place to start if you have a tight budget or can’t otherwise talk to a therapist. Therapists are leagues better than consulting friends when it comes to personal care and mental health. Your friends love you and care about you, but they may not always suggest the right way to address a problem. Meanwhile, therapists and other professionals can better assess and help fix whatever may be going on. If you have a tight and stressful schedule, seeing a professional once a month can still show significant improvements in personal well-being, stress, mental health, and other important aspects of one’s health.
Setting strict personal days.
Strict personal days are days that you set aside in advance to focus on your health and wellness. Set them a few weeks in advance or have them on a regular schedule (ie: every other Monday) so that you know exactly when they are and so you have time to plan what you will do with these personal days. You don’t have to spend the full 24 hours focusing on yourself – some find that overwhelming – but at least take a few hours out of the day that you choose to do something for your own mental or physical health. Read a book, take a spa day, go to the craft store, the possibilities are endless. The most important part of this point would be that it is a YOU day. No friends, siblings, phone, etc. not only can those things distract you from what is meant to be personal time, oftentimes they can add stress when the intent is to release it. It is also important that these days are set ahead of time and followed through with. Making a day for yourself then neglecting it with work or school won’t be helpful and will override the whole purpose of the personal day. It would only be a few hours, it is okay to take that time for yourself.
Doing spontaneous personal activities.
Opposed to the previous idea is spontaneous personal activities. Personal activities are like unplanned shopping trips, taking time to reflect, going to get ice cream, reading a book, doing a few grounding exercises, etc. that you originally didn’t plan to do. If you’re thinking “I can’t focus on this!” “I’m so stressed about this class!” or something to that effect, then it is probably time to do a personal activity. They should still be frequent, however, just like strict personal days. Whenever you begin to feel stressed or overwhelmed, take a step back, take a breath, drop whatever you’re stressing about for a little bit of time to do something that will give you a bit of a break. When you get stressed out or overwhelmed, your work ethic is likely to take a toll as well, so you might as well take some time to stabilize your mind before continuing to work on a project, chances are it will be higher quality in the end if you destress for a while than if you didn’t take that break in the first place. Similar to strict personal days, these activities should be for YOU. That includes no phones, friends, or siblings so that you can focus on yourself and truly help yourself in the end.
Write a planner and/or Journal.
Journaling about your personal experiences and thoughts throughout your day can help with stress tremendously. Sometimes you just need to vent, but you don’t know who to talk to, or have doubts that anyone will listen to you or validate your thoughts. This is why journaling can be especially helpful to your mental health. Getting your thoughts off your chest and onto a page may not seem like a big deal, but it still helps you verbalize your feelings in a way, which in itself can be helpful in more than a few ways. If you have an emotional counselor, you can share these journal entries with them and they can help you get deeper into it and expand on it. Also, you can reflect and note the progress you’ve made, socially, emotionally, etc.; when feeling down, you can go back to entries that have happier tones as a reminder of good things that have happened in life.
As for keeping a planner, the organization also has a huge positive impact on your mental health. Planners can help keep you organized, on track, and help remind you of important upcoming events in your life like tests or interviews. With your days roughly planned out, you can manage your free time and plan when you can take time for yourself. You will also know when things are due so you don’t have the anxiety of wondering when it’s due or having to quickly finish an assignment. Not only can you include mandatory things in a planner, but you can set achievable goals for yourself, plan out how you can achieve them, and when you want to achieve them by (ie wanting to get all As and Bs in your studies 1st semester, drink 3.2 liters of water in a day, compliment someone, etc.). Together, journaling and keeping a planner can help reduce anxiety and stress, which can help your mental health– making it a good self-care option.
Pick up a hobby or work on a current one.
Hobbies are one of the best things that can help someone destress and unwind for a little bit because it is something that they want to do and something they enjoy doing. Not only can it be fun and productive, but it can also help people’s mental health in the process. A hobby doesn’t have to be anything intricate or complicated; it can be something as simple as creative writing, reading, or some sort of craft. It should be something that makes you happy, something that you’re passionate about, and something that doesn’t stress you out – it would defeat the whole purpose if you chose something stressful. You can take time to do hobbies you already have or spend some time finding new ones if you don’t have any. Hobbies take a while to figure out, so don’t get too frustrated if you can’t find one you like. Enjoy the time you spend experimenting with things you’re interested in, like learning an instrument or writing poetry. Everyone is different and there are millions of hobbies out there for you to try, so you’ll likely find one that doesn’t stress you out and makes you happy.
The Benefits of Self-Care
There are many other ways you can practice self-care that are not listed here. Finding the right method is all about personal preference, so no one way is going to work for everyone, and that’s okay. The most important part is that, whatever you do, you should make sure that it is helpful to you– mentally, emotionally, and physically. Just stepping back from stressful situations or taking 5 minutes to breathe is a great start and good progress. Getting into a routine of practicing self-care and self-love can take time, but it is well worth it for improved mental health, less stress, and better overall feeling towards yourself that you will have gained.
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