Mental health is a part of being human. It is in every aspect of our lives and can affect how we feel, think, and act. So, if our mental health affects so much of our daily life, why don’t we take the time to care for ourselves? We all are going through this life together, from all of its highest of highs to its lowest of lows. One of the most important things we can do for ourselves to help manage our stress and anxiety is the act of self-care. May is Mental Health Awareness Month, so I’d like to try to emphasize some important truths that I’ve found in my personal and work life.

In case no one told you, self-care is not selfish. Self-care means taking care of yourself so that you can be healthy, be well, feel more accomplished, be better equipped to take care of others, and work better in your job. Trying to keep up with the daily pace of life is overwhelming and stressful. Simply put, life is hard. But, we can better manage the stressors of everyday life by practicing self-care on a day-to-day basis. Self-care starts by checking in on yourself and asking how you are feeling and paying attention to the needs of your body. 

Six self-care practices I follow:

  1. Get Moving. Whether I go outside for a walk, make a point to go to the gym or take 15 minutes to stretch, moving my body helps clear my mind and relieves stress. 
  2. Eat A Balanced Diet. Now, I don’t follow any strict diet. I try to eat a good amount of nutrient dense foods and drink a lot of water to stay hydrated. I LOVE chocolate and there is not a day that goes by where I don’t have a brownie, ice cream, cookie, or whatever else has chocolate in it. It makes me happy, so I eat it! Overall, eating well can make you feel better. There is no need to make huge changes to your diet, but just make sure your body is getting the nutrients it needs to be fully charged each day. 
  3. Read A Good Book. A new-found hobby of mine is reading. I enjoy reading mysteries, thrillers, or romance (of course) in my free time. It allows my mind to escape reality for a little bit and reduces stress. Also, reading at night instead of staring at my cell phone for hours allows me to sleep better. If reading isn’t your passion, find something you enjoy that also lets your mind rest. 
  4. Get Enough Sleep. As a 23-year-old who recently graduated from college, getting a good night of sleep was not something I was accustomed to. Once I started working and got into a routine, I learned that going to bed early made getting up early so much easier. Sleep and mental health are closely related, and if you’re not getting enough sleep, it can affect your psychological state. 
  5. Baths. Taking baths is my form of meditation. I can easily relax, let go of any tension and escape my stressful thoughts and anxious feelings that are built up from the day. Whatever your form of meditation may be, make sure it is a part of your self-care plan.
  6. Maintain Work-Life Balance. Here at Forum, it is encouraged to maintain a work-life balance. It is understood that life happens and that you also have a life outside of work. This is so important for your mental health and also allows you to be more productive in the workplace. We are a mentally healthier company because of our work-life balance and also because we communicate and support one another. One of the things I love about everyone at Forum is that we are co-workers but also family. The priority has always been to check in on each other before the work day begins and because of this, our work is better.

Self-care practices are not a one size fits all. Everyone’s form of self-care is going to be different, but everyone should create a plan based on your body’s, and brain’s, needs. Engaging in self-care on a regular basis will help you maintain a positive physical and mental well-being.

In case no one has told you, you are stronger than your anxious thoughts. Sometimes we are the greatest obstacle standing in the way of ourselves. Our thoughts can be powerful and can sometimes lead us to believe negative things about ourselves that are not true. It is very easy to give into these negative thoughts and give them control. I try to stop negative thoughts with a couple of strategies. First, I pause, take a deep breath, and break down the situation of the thought. Is this thought true? Why am I thinking negatively about myself in this situation? Then, I try to replace the thought with words of affirmation or encouragement. Here are examples of encouragement that I have used to replace negative thoughts:

  1. Life does not have to be perfect to be wonderful.
  2. Don’t be so hard on yourself.
  3. See every difficulty as a challenge, a stepping stone, and never be defeated by anything or anyone.
  4. Life isn’t a matter of milestones but of moments.
  5. There is something in every season, in every day, to celebrate with thanksgiving.
  6. Even if you can’t see it right now, everything you’re going through is working in your favor.

In case no one has told you, you are not alone. We all struggle sometimes, but most of the time we try to push it down and hide it. Don’t let these struggles, negative thoughts, and stresses take control. Take care of your mind, take care of your body, and talk about it. You will be surprised to find some of the closest people in your life may have similar struggles, and through those commonalities, you can find strength.

So, in case no one has told you, You are loved. You are worth every day before today and every day in your future. You are enough.