How to Prioritize Self Care and Your Mental Health - woman-sitting-on-ground-cross-legged-meditating

How to Prioritize Self-Care and Your Mental Health

Haeli Harris
February 16, 2023
October 23, 2022

Self-care isn’t just face masks, pedicures, and Netflix binges. Learning how to prioritize self-care is all about being in tune with yourself and your own needs.

Self-care isn’t a luxury. You have to do it, and it should be a regular part of your life.

Why You Should Prioritize Self-Care

Wondering why is it important to prioritize self-care? This metaphor can help put it into perspective.

Your energy is like water in a bucket. If you are constantly pouring things out without refilling your bucket, you’ll run out of water.

Any kind of responsibility or stressor can drain your bucket.

Prioritizing self-care helps keep your bucket full so you have the energy to do what you need to do. If the bar for productivity and performance is high, it can seem counterintuitive to prioritize your mental health. The fact of the matter is that those who take breaks perform better.

Taking care of yourself will help you perform better at work and be more present (and pleasant) at home.

The key is to figure out what fills your bucket back up—and then do those things!

How to Prioritize Your Mental Heath and Self-Care

To start, block self-care time on your calendar. Even if it is only for 15 minutes. Making self-care a part of your routine is key!

Starting small is smart. Make small promises to yourself like: I will take 5 minutes every morning to meditate, and I’ll take a 15-minute walk during my lunch break every day.

For some, the morning may be best, before the kids wake up. It also sets a good tone for the rest of your day. For others, it may be in the middle of the day or in the evening.

It boils down to what is best for you and what you can realistically stick to.

How to Balance Work and Self-Care

Yes, it is possible!

You can balance work and self-care more easily by doing some of these things:

1. Say "no" when you need to

You aren’t expected to do everything. It is good to say no—especially if your heart isn’t in whatever is asked of you.

2. Focus on what you can control

Don’t let yourself worry too much about things outside your control. Focus on what you can control—and do your best in those areas.

Write down what you can and can’t control and choose to let go of what you can’t control.

3. Create systems

Automate things to make life easier on yourself. Have a set shopping list you use every week. Have the same meals on certain days. Use IFTTT to automate your digital world. Have a routine and stick to it—for work and personal life.

The more systems you have in place, the less decision-making you need to do. This reduces stress and saves time.

4. Have boundaries

Have clear work-life boundaries. Turn off your notifications when you’re off the clock. Turn off your computer at the end of the workday. Don’t look at your phone until your workday starts.

Have boundaries in your personal relationships, too. Work issues out with your loved ones. Express your feelings and what is bothering you. And you don’t need to let other people’s opinions and attitudes rule your life.

5. Don't hold onto perfectionism

It is impossible to be perfect. But you can shoot for accuracy. Determine what is good enough.

Try out the 80-20 rule. When you think a project is 80% good enough—for us high achievers—that may mean it is good enough to deem completed.

For very important tasks, this may not apply. But for smaller things—cleaning, for instance—this is a good rule of thumb.

Regardless, don’t kick yourself for falling short sometimes or getting some constructive criticism. We are all growing and learning.

Related: Confronting Imposter Syndrome in Different Areas of Life

6. Don't overcommit

When you layout the tasks you need to do, prioritize the top three things you need to get done that day. Focus on those three things. And do the hardest thing first.

Overcommitting adds to stress unnecessarily.

7. Be mindful of how you talk to yourself

We all have negative thoughts. The good news is you have the ability to control what you think.

If you find yourself thinking “I can’t do this”, “I’m not good enough”, or an equivalent, stop the thought and replace it with a fact you know is true. For instance, if you are about to tackle a big project, instead of thinking “This is too much for me to handle… I won’t get it done on time”, remind yourself of all the times you did complete projects on time. And tell yourself: “I have proven my ability to meet deadlines. So, I will this time as well!”

Therapy and meditation can help you train your brain to think in this way and have more positive self-talk.

Self-Care Ideas You Can Start Using Today

You can start your self-care journey by taking some time by yourself to think through what gives you energy. Delve into your personality type characteristics, if you’re into that kind of thing! Look back on your life and when you felt the calmest and/or most energized.

Ask yourself what you really need right now, and allow yourself to practice self-love.

For some, self-care may be an outlet for expressing feelings or emotions. It may be social time or time completely alone.

Self-care can include directing your focus inward (reflecting on your feelings) or outward (admiring nature, for instance).

Here are some self-care ideas that may resonate with you!

  • Take a walk
  • Call a friend
  • Get creative
  • Listen to music
  • Be outside
  • Take a nap or go to bed early
  • Make yourself a cup of tea or coffee
  • Journal
  • Meditate
  • Do yoga
  • Read a book
  • Meet up with friends
  • Set an appointment with your counselor
  • Spend time with your pet
  • Do something nice for yourself and someone else
  • Clean up your space
  • Eat a healthy snack
  • Avoid social media—it can damage your mental health
  • Sit somewhere and do nothing for a while
  • Connect with your religious group or have quiet time alone
  • Stretch
  • Do a few things you’ve really needed to do but keep procrastinating on
  • Diffuse some essential oils or light a candle
  • Take a mental health day
  • Exercise

As you continue on your journey to prioritize self-care, remember to keep track of what works best for you.

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