Self care is a big conversation in the field of mental health. Since the pandemic, more people are stressed, feeling isolated and alone, and depression is on the rise.
Some people think that self care equates to selfish care. This isn’t the case. Self care is a means of integrating habits into our daily lives that reduce stress, bring peace of mind and create micro-rituals that are beneficial to our overall well being. These can be anything from drinking tea, developing an exercise routine, getting an app to remind you to drink water and being mindful of our thoughts throughout the day. There are so many more examples, these are just a few.
“An estimated 26% of Americans ages 18 and older -- about 1 in 4 adults -- suffers from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year. Many people suffer from more than one mental disorder at a given time.”
That’s a big deal if you ask me. When we consider the fact that we live in one of the most affluent countries in the world, this is a staggering number! We have all of the conveniences and luxuries to make our lives easier, not harder, and yet we are struggling with some core issues that keep us stuck. This limits us from living our best lives and putting our best foot forward in the wide world.
“During August 2020–February 2021, the percentage of adults with recent symptoms of anxiety or a depressive disorder increased from 36.4% to 41.5%, and the percentage of those reporting an unmet mental health care need increased from 9.2% to 11.7%.”
So where do we go for our mental health needs? What institutions are in place to support us? Is it easy to go to an authority for help and do we need to? These are a few options we have at our disposal.
- Alternative Therapies
These are a few modalities that practitioners use to help people with mental health issues that I am aware of. What I don’t see happening with systems in place to address the needs of people are:
- Connecting people to the natural world as a way of reducing stress
- Introducing a program of gratitude practice and presence
- Teaching meditation in schools to young children to boost resilience at an early age
- Teaching people about the neuroplasticity in the brain so we better understand the ways in which we can change our habits and behaviors for the better
- Bringing people closer to others (family, friends, groups) to bridge the loneliness gap that encapsulates some in a trap of isolation
- Teaching people mindfulness practices to help them reduce the effects of environmental stressors (this is somewhat covered in counseling therapies)
My takeaway from this is that there are many things we can do in small doses on a consistent basis that will bring greater peace into our lives. However, our cultural interactions and the architecture of choice has us locked into certain molds that are difficult to break away from.
This is what I mean by that…
We have created a world where fast food, movie watching, screen surfing (telephones and tablets), sedentary leisure practices, focusing on all the things wrong in our lives and compounding that with all the things that truly are wrong in our lives, has left people raw in the nervous system and lacking the tools needed to cope properly.
So we wander around in a frenzy, because who has time to stop, reflect and adjust the minor places that are lacking? When we are working, parenting, running to appointments, dealing with family emergencies, cooking and cleaning, we hardly have time to breathe, let alone actually choose wisely in the realm of mental health habits.
What if we incorporated JUST ONE of these practices into our life?
5 minutes of stretching first thing in the morning or at work.
I know, who has the time? But did you know that just adding 5 minutes of a body awareness practice can curb stress as well as many other health issues that seem completely unrelated to one another or to the act of exercising.
Alexander Pope said:
"Strength of mind is exercise, not rest."
Plato also states that:
"Exercise would cure a guilty conscience."
Harvard Health Publishing wrote an extensive article on the matter that covers so much more than just the benefits of stretching, or the mental plasticity that occurs from doing hard things. They really delved into it with an article they published that highlights all of the areas in which exercise can greatly improve our way of life by helping us RELAX and they are noteworthy!
Who knew that in order to feel most relaxed, we need to be active? Well, some of us knew… but with all of these inventions in our modern age, when we thought they would provide the means for us to relax more and work less, we see the opposite.
So take back your health, your relaxation and your position in the world as a powerhouse of confidence and calm by doing one thing… just one little thing. Move your body for at least five minutes a day, mindfully.
The statistics prove how much better you’ll feel and maybe, just maybe we can start getting those numbers back down to a manageable range where mental health is no more an issue of what to put on in the morning.
It’s up to us and taking back responsibility for our own paths in life.
You can help others too by sharing this article and giving them the support they need to get back on track if things aren’t going so well for them. Sometimes, its just a little nudge we need. Other times, it's a 2x4 over the head. Sometimes I need the 2x4 but I’m getting better about recognizing those nudges and making the changes I need so the 2x4 method, which can add more stress rather than reduce it... becomes a thing of the past!
It’s not just about living longer, it’s about living better too.