10 Crucial Ways To Make Your Needs A Priority And Protect Your Mental Health

Aug 06, 2022

10 crucial ways to make your needs a priority and protect your mental health

(Photo by Arthur Brognoli)

Self care has become a bit of a buzzword, especially in 2020. To the point where its actual meaning has been watered down and misunderstood. If the first thing the words "self care" made you think of was bubble baths, frivolous spending, or bailing on work, then this list might surprise you.

We think of self care as the antidote for burnout. Taking some time away from obligations to show yourself some love and appreciation. 

Your life is likely packed with responsibilities, deadlines, and tight schedules. Chances are your free time is at a premium. Pausing and taking a step back every once in a while will recharge your battery, and help it not drain as fast in the future. 

The number one, absolute, most crucially important step

1. Making Time 

The first thing that many of us have to do to even start thinking about self care is to make the time. Don't think about it as "finding time", time is hard to find. You are most likely going to have to "make" or "take" it, so how do you make time?

Set boundaries and say no. What I mean by this is, make yourself a priority in your life. Show others how much you respect yourself and they will respect you more. Say no when you want to and don’t feel bad taking that time for you. Also, walk away when you can. Taking a break from things like work or social activities can help with your stress levels. 

What’s next?

2. Take care of your physical health 

Maintaining a healthy diet and regular exercise is a great place to start. Try to get a minimum of 7 hours of sleep every night. Getting out of bed at the same time everyday is a good way to start working towards a healthy sleep schedule. Staying hydrated is very important as well.[194] As far as your body is concerned, stress is stress. How much of your stress may actually be dehydration? 

Get regular physicals as well as recommended check-ups for your teeth and eyes, if possible. This will keep you informed about the status of your health. Which can reduce unnecessary stress or worry and answer questions you may have. 

3. Use introspection as a tool

Self-reflection is incredibly valuable. It can help you to understand your self-talk and your feelings, about anything from relationships to careers. From family to anything else that you are spending your time and energy on.

What do you want out of life? How do you feel about the path that you are on? Take some time to think or write about these kinds of things. Try to understand your emotions and your needs. 

4. Focus on positives

Keep a record of wins and attempts and use them as proof that you have what it takes to improve. This is very helpful for battling negative self-talk and keeping motivation high.

Give yourself credit for making an effort. Be proud of yourself for trying something new. Be proud of how brave you are when you try something that scared you or stressed you out to think about before. 

5. Live within your financial means

You may find similar lists recommend you to treat yourself with a purchase or a lavish day out. This can be unhelpful for a few reasons. For one, financial hardship can cause a lot of stress. Many people struggle financially and may not have extra money to burn. Also, the thrill of a new purchase only lasts for so long no matter how big it is.

Get a feeling of control over your finances by sticking to a budget, and finding reasonable ways to cut costs or increase your income. Also consider looking into volunteering opportunities in your area. Helping out in your community can give you a similar "charge," as well as lasting and meaningful benefits for yourself and others.[142]

Click here to find volunteer opportunities in your community.

6. Get organized and clean

It can be tempting to ignore personal hygiene or housework in the name of "me time." But you aren't doing yourself any favors in the long run. Have you ever walked into a cluttered room and felt anxious or "stuck"? You can't remember why you came in, you can't relax or get comfortable. 

Bottom line, mess causes stress. Work on getting things clean and organized. Dedicate time throughout the week to keeping them that way. When your surroundings are tidy and sanitary, you can truly relax. You can feel the difference. 

7. Find solitude and hobbies

Spend time pursuing something that is only for you. Whether you love to go for a walk through the woods or you are learning to pilot a helicopter. Indulging yourself in time that is reserved for you and your interests is priceless. 

Finding a new hobby, or bringing back an old one, is a great way to bring some excitement into your life.

8. Foster positive relationships

Humans are social creatures by nature, we have developed to function in groups. Spending time with people who support us is incredibly important to our mental state. It may not be possible to get together with the people that we love often, but that doesn't mean that we can't stay in touch. 

If you have relationships in your life that cause you stress, you may want to get to the root of why that is happening. If you have set up clear boundaries and some people still refuse to respect them, they may not be the kind of people that you want in your life.

It can be difficult to cut people out of your life, especially if they are family or coworkers. But you can try to limit the amount of influence that they can have over you. Of course it is always a more desirable option to repair a relationship, but only if that is possible.

9. Forgive yourself and others

Forgiveness is not often thought of as self care, but carrying grudges through life can cause a lot of stress and anxiety. The negative feelings that we hold onto do not hurt the person that caused us pain, they only hurt us. 

Forgiving someone who has harmed you does not condone their behavior. But it does relieve some of the stress and anxiety that you may feel.[131] It may not be necessary, or even possible, to tell the person who hurt you that you have forgiven them. But you can decide to no longer carry those negative feelings around. 

Or maybe there's something in your past that you regret. When you forgive yourself, you may start to see how you have improved the person that you are because of the past. 

Life is hard and everyone makes mistakes. When you accept this fact, you can more easily forgive and move on. 

10. Set long and short term goals

Taking an active role in planning for your future can help to keep you focused. Knowing what you want can help you to form a comprehensive and adaptable plan. One that will move you towards achieving your life goals.[135]

When you decide on a long term plan, you can work backwards from there. You can set smaller, short term goals that keep you going in the right direction. The more specific you can get, the better. Each time that you reach one of your short term goals, that is a step that you have taken towards your long term goal. 

Take care of the most important person in your life

This may be a list of simple acts of self care, but that doesn't mean that it's easy. Self care takes time, practice and effort. You have to decide that you are going to take these actions, and then start building habits around them. So, be patient and be persistent. Focus on your wins, not your losses. 

Start slowly and deliberately, don't try to change everything in your life at once. Pick one behavioral habit and one personal development habit at a time. For example, working on your sleep habits and becoming more mindful. Or exercising more often and working on being more assertive.

Self care is something that you incorporate into your lifestyle, no matter how busy it is. With a few tools and some determination, you can make your life into one that you are happiest to live.

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