Making Time for Yourself: The Mental Health Benefits of Self-Care
People often adopt an “I’ll-get-around-to-it” attitude toward self-care, not realizing that by the time they do get around to it, they may already be suffering from the damaging effects of stress. When you’re super busy with work, family, and personal obligations, taking time to soak in a hot bath, go to the movies, or take a walk in the woods seems like a waste of time you can’t afford. In truth, what you can’t afford is to ignore your emotional needs and treat self-care as an irresponsible indulgence. Ignoring mental health is a risky prospect, particularly when you’re busy. Everyone needs downtime and a break from the unrelenting demands of a hectic life.
Mental burnout is an unfortunate effect of the expectations we place on ourselves and the day-to-day responsibilities we face at work and home. Self-care is the antidote for burnout. Doing what you enjoy and finding ways to take your mind off things is the brain’s way of shielding itself from being overwhelmed by external stimuli. Too often, extreme and unrelieved mental fatigue is the outcome of a stubborn refusal to take self-care seriously and pushing yourself beyond the ability to cope with stress. Working toward career and personal success is a worthy endeavor, but it’s important to maintain a healthy perspective on it all. Observing self-care habits is how we achieve balance and preserve mental health.
Impact of Stress
Stress can be a lethal threat to both body and mind if left uncontrolled. Unfortunately, many people don’t realize it when their stress level reaches the danger zone. It’s damaging to your mental outlook and leads to elevated blood pressure and cardiovascular problems, as well as a compromised immune system and weight gain. When stress takes over, you’ll find it difficult to concentrate and function at a high level, which can cause problems in your professional and personal life. Relationships often suffer when one partner is unable to cope with stress, relieving the pressure by lashing out at others. Self-care acts as a mental safety valve, diverting your attention from problems and protecting you from the dangers of chronic, unrelieved stress and symptoms that can easily undermine your mental well-being and physical health.
The ability to concentrate, to bring all your mental faculties to bear on a task or problem, is absolutely essential to achieving success at work. Supervisors, colleagues, and co-workers will notice very quickly if you’ve lost focus. Mistakes become commonplace, your behavior may become erratic, and your devotion to doing quality work will wane. Before you know it, stress has turned you into a beleaguered shadow of your former self. An employer may jump to mistaken conclusions, believing your distracted behavior is symptomatic of a substance abuse problem, mental health problems, and a lackadaisical attitude at work. Self-care helps recharge your mental batteries and keeps you motivated to work toward personal and professional goals without sacrificing your mental health.
Don’t overlook basic self-care tactics, things many of us take for granted like making sure you get enough sleep each night, turning down excessive requests for help, and just setting aside time for simple relaxation. Low-impact exercise is an excellent easy-to-do activity that helps put you in a relaxed mood and leaves you feeling good about yourself. If you’re in addiction recovery, it’s important to find things that divert you from stressors that lead to relapse behavior, such as taking up a new hobby or learning yoga and meditation.
Think of self-care as a personalized strategy for alleviating the effects of stress. Good mental health is essential if you’re intent on succeeding at work and home. Self-care can keep your stress under control and help you maintain a healthy perspective on life.
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