When we talk about self-care, we aren’t talking about doing face-masks and taking bubble baths (although you should definitely do those things too if they bring you joy), we’re talking about providing for your own mental wellbeing. It is going to look different for everyone so there isn’t one easy definition.
Things like taking a mental health day at work, being careful not to overwhelm yourself with tasks, or just doing whatever you enjoy and making that a part of your routine are all ways to practise self-care. Here are some of the reasons self-care is a prevention superpower:
It gives you the time and space for reflection
Life is extremely full-on, and it can be so easy to go an entire week without even taking a really deep, intentional breath. Making time for self-care consistently throughout your life gives you space to reflect and be attentive to your own needs. In the moment, this can bring a great deal of peace and increased wellbeing, and is particularly important to those with mental health conditions. If you are having a bad day or you’ve noticed increased symptoms, make the time and space to care for yourself and reflect.
It can lead to more self-awareness
Over time, regular self-care can help you recognise emotional patterns, signs of being overwhelmed, or self-destructive behaviour before those things take over. This means that instead of letting things build up and ignoring symptoms, you develop the tools not only to identify when you need to practise self-care but how to do that best. It isn’t a cure for mental illness, but a more healthy way of coping.
It takes real work
This probably feels like a downside instead of an upside, and it sort of is, but it’s important to talk about. Practising self-care consistently, even when things are getting worse and when it is most needed, can be hard work! If you are already feeling hopeless, or guilty for indulging, then treating yourself to something pleasurable is the very last thing that feels natural to do. But this is precisely the reason it can be a prevention superpower. Allowing yourself pleasure and relaxation is important, and if you can recognise that the hard work is worth it, you will start to reap the rewards.
You don’t need a diagnosed mental illness to feel the need to take a mental health day, it can simply stem from stress, relationship problems, burn out, bullying and numerous other factors that impact our ability to function optimally.