29 Tips to Supercharge Your Mental Health Awareness & Self-Care
How Self-Care is Easier Than You Think!
by Ethan Klee, Unspoken Voices Board Member
Unspoken Voices' very first listicle! The month of May is this year’s Mental Health Awareness Month, and after this record setting Minnesota winter, boy have we earned a month. Though not a substitute for a care plan by a mental-health professional, here are 29 self-care tips to help you be aware of your own mental health.
They will also supercharge your awareness of the importance of this issue in our society.
1- Keep a gratitude or accomplishment journal
Write 3 things a day or week that you are thankful for, or personal accomplishments from going to buy shampoo to getting that promotion at work. There are even apps out there like “attitude of gratitude” to help.
2 - Find a new playlist
It’s easy to get stuck in the same state of mind if you are listening to the same music. Try picking a song you like and making a random playlist around it (or grab a pandora or spotify radio station based off it!). Our summer jam is Salute by Little Mix.
3 - Go off the grid
But come back for the rest of these tips! A day or even a few hours detached from your phone and the internet can do wonders for the mind. Letting yourself experience only what is directly around you can shorten the scope of your worries and help you focus on yourself.
4 - Take a weekly bath
Our organization members can admittedly get pretty hippie, we love our natural products like organic bath-bombs, but regardless of the product, a dip in a warm bath or even just a long shower opens up not only your pores, but has a physically calming effect on mammals!
5 - Visit some animals
Humane societies are a great place for this if you don’t have a pet of your own. Spending time with animals helps lower cortisol (a stress hormone) and boosts oxytocin (a happiness stimulating chemical in your brain).
6 - Meal prep
Not only is this an excuse to cook a bunch of food all at once, it can help you feel like there is a sense of structure to your week, and you’ll have more time in the week to yourself and to do the other activities on this list.
7 - Natural Nurture
Humans came from nature, so return to your roots! Put your phone on silent and go for a nature hike or walk and appreciate the new emerging greenery.
8 - Take a cat nap
Spend some time in the sun and boost your vitamin D (remember the sunscreen)
9 - Exercise your awesome
Do something you know you are great at! Repetition breeds success and self confidence. Once you remind yourself you’ve got the things you are amazing at, you’ll be ready to tackle your challenges
10 - Sleep cold
Science tells us the optimal sleeping temperatures are between 60 and 67 degrees fahrenheit, and not only can this be good psychologically, but it gives you an excuse to bundle up in your favorite blankets.
11 - Don’t keep it to yourself
The Mental Health America organization started the hashtag #mentalillnessfeelslike for those afflicted to share their illness and their stories. There can be therapeutic effects in making a public statement, but if this is too large of a step for you right now, their website also has a place where you can completely anonymously share your story.
12 - Active Listen to yourself
State aloud the situation in a way that “states the difficulty of the moment (Toni Bernhard, J.D. from PsychologyToday.com) like “it’s hard feel lonely on the weekend”. This connects you to your situation and can help you realize solutions
13 - Engage your brain
This can take the form of anything from coloring a page in an adult coloring book, to a sudoku puzzle, to crafting paper airplanes. Putting your brain to use in a positive way can help you “become absorbed in solving an entertaining puzzle (Meg Selig, Ph. D.”
14 - Meditate
Don’t think. Wait . . . you just did. It can be a relaxing thing to sit down and just let your brain power down for a while. If this actually triggers your mind to race or over think, try lighting a candle and focusing on the flame, or playing some new music you found from tip #2 to keep your mind relaxed but slightly focused.
15 - Sleep
Do a self sleep study! Try sleeping 3 nights at different sleep intervals to see what your optimal sleep amount is. Most people never find this out for themselves, but knowing the amount of sleep your own brain is optimized at is a powerful tool
16 - Exercise
We put this off on the list as long as possible… because that’s what we do with exercising too. But think of it less as a workout and more as a balancer. Mental Health problems and illnesses are a massive workout for your brain, so you may as well choose a healthy balance for your body to keep up!
17 - Laugh. Often!
In the day and age of the internet, indulge in your favorite comedy or laugh-source. Go pick up a cheesy joke book and call your friends, family, or friendly strangers to bother them with an onslaught of punny jokes!
18 - Human Contact
Not for everyone, but a hug that lasts longer than 14 seconds has been shown to help trigger a dopamine release in the brain. (source: Alice Boyes, Ph.D.)
19 - Nurture yourself
Take a few hours to trim your toenails, brush your teeth, really wash your face, maybe do a face mask. Pamper yourself, you are worth it.
20 - Make an affirmation
Take a minute to affirm something you know as fact, or something you want to manifest as truth. This can become a healthy ritual. One of our board members has the affirmation “I will not stress about the things I can’t control” that they says when they brushes his teeth in the morning!
21 - Try a new activity
Always wanted to do that thing? Take your mind somewhere else by trying something new. You may not find a new hobby, but you’ve teleported your mind to a new state of being just by switching up it’s routine.
22 - Learn to cook something new
Whether this means finding a new recipe to try at home, experimenting with the things you already have at home, or going to the store and making a new recipe with the first 5 things you grab at the store, this is a great distraction, and will net you some yummy (hopefully) treats
23 - Stretch before bed
Try doing some simple stretches before bed. Not only is this a physical activity but it also gives you a time for reflection while your body is busy doing other things. GIving yourself a balance of physical activity and mental activity like introspection can be a very healthy tool
24 - Talk about the past in past tense
Too often we ruminate on the past, echoing the same moments or situations in our heads to the point of exhaustion. Speaking of the past in exclusively past tense can help your brain trick itself into knowing the events were in the past, even if you aren't necessarily past it.
25 - Acknowledge your downfalls
Knowing yourself means knowing the negatives, which can be abysmally hard to do. Writing down or saying aloud a weakness you know you have like being late all the time, then quantifying that statement with 2 reasons on how you can improve that quality will help you act, and turn the weakness into strength
26 - Negative buts
But, but, but . . . turn those negative thoughts positive! The brain is a powerful computive force; however it doesn’t like making solutions as much as it likes diagnosing itself. Help your brain troubleshoot by turning negative things like “I am so busy this week” with but statements like “but at least I am not bored”. Sometimes being more silly helps too, throw in a “but now I don’t have to read listicles online!” Wait, where are you going? Come back!
27 - Set a ritual
Whether this is a home-from-work, before-bed, pre or post-shower ritual, if you have one regular part of your day it will feel more structures and more likely for the rest of the day to go your way
28 - Write a list
Write out a list of ways that you personally find proof of self-care positivity. This way you have put on paper and in your brain ways that you KNOW work to help yourself. If you have a therapist or mental health professional, show them this list and let them help you find more that work for you and your mental health plan
29 - Realize the jobs you've done well—you are worth it!
Take a second, minute, hour, to celebrate your victories. Some days this can be getting out of bed, other days this will be doing your laundry, it doesn’t matter as long as you sit yourself down and thank yourself for a job well done.
And remember: a positive attitude always breeds an improved outlook on life!