Why it is becoming increasingly important to look after our mental health
Content Warning: The following article discusses the topic of mental health.
In today’s tumultuous and fast-paced world, it can feel like an almost impossible task to put some time aside to really take care of ourselves mentally. Even finding a spare hour or two can seem like a mountainous feat. Many of us often feel a sense of guilt whenever we take even a second away from our work or studies, acquiescent to the capitalist grind. It can be so difficult to unlearn these behaviours and estrange ourselves away from the idea that self-care is selfish when that couldn't be further from the truth. Self-care is a must.
"Self-care is doing something that nurtures or honours yourself." - Marni Amsellem, Ph.D.
A mental health epidemic
According to Mind, around 1 in 4 of us in England will experience a mental health problem of some kind each year and there has been a 20% increase of common mental health issues between the years 1993 and 2014. Those are very concerning statistics, further highlighting the importance of needing to look after ourselves.
Most often through no fault of our own, we fall into a trap of neglecting our mental wellbeing, only addressing it when we reach a breaking point. A piece of advice that I was given that has constantly stuck with me, is that we should treat ourselves like a garden. If a garden is neglected, the grass will get too long, weeds will sprout everywhere, and the existing plants will struggle to grow properly. However, if that garden is looked after daily, it will thrive and be far easier to maintain in the long run. We can apply this metaphor towards our own mental wellbeing.
The prospect of practicing self-care can seem like a daunting endeavour for some of us. When hearing the term ‘self-care’, images of going to a spa or lounging in a bubble bath with a glass of wine and candles pop into our heads. The vast majority of us don't have the spare money set aside to visit a spa on a regular basis. But an act of kindness towards ourselves can be as mundane as brushing our teeth, ensuring to eat something or having a lie-down on our bed. Just like the garden, dedicating a little time to ourselves everyday to 'clear the weeds' will make it easier to manage our mental health.
Why we need to be kinder to ourselves
When our mental health is at a low, doing an activity or going out somewhere can feel far too much - and that is more than okay. We place an immense pressure on our backs to be making sure we are constantly being productive.
"Although 67% of Americans desperately feel the need for self-care, a whopping 1 in 3 feel guilty about blocking time on their schedules to take care of themselves." - Soocial
Shaking off that guilt can feel impossible. There is a tendency to be frustrated or upset with ourselves when our mental health is declining or becoming stagnant. It is important to remember to be kind to that part of us that is struggling. Before beginning our self-care routines, it is vital to begin with baby steps. Jumping straight into the deep end can be too pressurising and difficult for us to maintain further down the road.
I personally find that practicing my breathing techniques is an incredibly useful way of calming down the mind. When we are stressed and anxious, our bodies go into the fight-or-flight response and our adrenaline rises through the roof. Though this response can prove handy in some situations, in our everyday lives it can be a bit of a nuisance. Slowing our breathing down to a steady rate and finding a quiet place to sit or lie down can 'trick' our minds into feeling safe and relaxed.
The most important thing to remember is that you are worthy of love and care. It is never selfish to take time away for yourself. We tend to forget that we are living beings and we need to make sure we rest and relax regularly to ensure that we can function properly.
"It is so important to take time for yourself and find clarity. The most important relationship is the one you have with yourself." - Diane Von Furstenberg