17 Ways To Practice Self Care During Mental Health Awareness Week

Ways to practice self care during mental health awareness week, photo of a black woman wearing a brown sweater, drinking coffee and reading a book, health
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Self care isn't selfish!

Amazing Self Care Tips for Mental Health Awareness Week

Happy Mental Health Awareness Week! Also called Mental Illness Awareness Week, this week is so important because more than 1 in 5 people in the United States have a mental illness. We put together a list of ways to practice self care to help you get through this week and the rest of the year.

Lasting from October 7th through 13th, Mental Health Awareness Week includes highlights of World Mental Health day on October 10th and National Depression Screening Day on October 11th. The week long celebration and awareness campaign first began in 1990 and has only grown since then. Organizations like the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) and Mental Health America have helped the growth of the Mental Health Awareness Week, along with other grassroots efforts.

If you suffer from mental illness, it's important to remember that you are not alone and that help is available for you.

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1. Acknowledge your feelings

One of the most important ways to take care of yourself is to actually acknowledge what you are feeling while you are feeling it. Seattle writer Alle C. Hall says that, "Naming feelings is the only way I have found to keep from drowning in them." Realize that it isn't weak to allow yourself to feel and experience emotion.

2. Create a self care kit

Self care is an important part of life. If you're someone that tends to have rough patches come out of nowhere, having a self care kit all ready to go when you need it can be a real life saver! Get a box and pack it full of your favorite tea, an amazing moisturizer, some of your favorite photos, and whatever else speaks to you.

3. Write your thoughts down

Journaling can be an incredibly therapeutic form of self care. Ryan Howes, Ph.D., calls it "powerful," stating that it allows you to "consolidate your own thoughts on" whatever "issue" you're struggling with. If you don't have the time to journal at the moment, he suggests jotting down a few notes to save for later when you can devote the time to writing about them.

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4. Listen to a special playlist

Music is something that has been found across nearly every culture. It unifies us. And it also makes a really great form of self care. Make a playlist of your favorite songs that you can listen to when you need it most and sooth yourself with the familiarity.

5. Talk to someone close to you

Most of us have people in our lives that we are able to vent to about what we are feeling without judgement. If you're lucky enough to have that and feel comfortable talking about what you're feeling, give yourself permission to do so. Dr. Howes says that "it's best to stay engaged and talk through your thoughts and fears" when we're upset."

6. Don't be afraid to cry it out

Believe it or not, crying actually has several benefits. It can help relieve stress in the body, aid the sleep process, help relieve pain, and help soothe you. So don't be afraid to let yourself cry if you need to. It will help!

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7. Stretch

Clinical psychologist Andrea Bonior, Ph.D., says that, "A lot of people are having very physical reactions. People are walking around with clenched jaws. People are saying, 'I'm angry like I haven't been in a long time.'" Getting a nice stretch in will help relieve a lot of tension in your body.

8. Make a craft

With this one, you don't necessarily have to make a craft. It can be anything you love, like coloring in an adult coloring book or reading a book for awhile. Just make sure it's something that distracts your for long enough that you're able to calm down and recalibrate.

9. Try deep breathing

Deep breathing, according to Liz Arch, a domestic violence counselor advocate, "helps pull us out of the past by giving us a direct anchor to the present moment." Becoming stressed or anxious can make our breathing shallow and rapid, but switching to deep breathing forces us to breath from our stomachs rather than our chests. It "has a calming effect on body and mind."

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10. Take a break from social media

Social media can have the effect of making people feel worse than they already did before, especially if they aren't in a good place. Trauma specialist Nancy Irwin says that taking a social media break allows us "to be in acceptance, which is more easily done in calm, quiet and solitude." Sounds perfect!

11. Meditate

Whether you're simply taking a moment to yourself to meditate or are practicing guided meditation, science has shown very positive benefits of meditation. Some of these benefits include stress reduction, improving sleep, and anxiety control. Click here to learn about the history of meditation and other methods that can be effective for treating stress-induced insomnia.

12. Complete something on your to-do list

Whether it is something small like taking out the garbage or taking a shower, crossing something off your to-do list give you a feeling of accomplishment that will really boost your mood. Focus on the things you have gotten done rather than the things you haven't and remember that you aren't expected to accomplish everything in one day.

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13. Get moving

We all know that getting exercise is important, but it can be really hard if you're feeling depressed. That's why it's important to make it an exercise that you either enjoy or is easy for you to accomplish. If you love yoga, start up a yoga video on YouTube. Take a walk and get some fresh air if you like spending time in nature.

14. Start a garden

Gardening has become a really popular self care activity, and for good reason! According to Psychology Today, it allows people to become nurturers, gives a sense of responsibility, and relaxes us by releasing dopamine and serotonin.

15. Avoid triggering people

Spending time with people that make you feel worse about yourself is, unsurprisingly, only going to make you feel worse. Not everyone is in a situation in which they can avoid the triggering people in their lives, but if you're able to, try to. Dr. Bonior says, "You do have to give yourself permission to not be spending time with people who you know are going to upset you or invalidate you."

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16. Eat a healthy meal or snack

We're most likely to overeat or eat food that is bad for us when we're upset. However, not eating or not eating enough isn't healthy either. Preparing and eating food that is tasty and healthy for us is a great form of self care because we're taking care of our bodies and doing something productive at the same time.

17. Talk to a professional

There is still a lot of unnecessary stigma around mental illness, which is unfortunate because finding a therapist that is right for you and building a relationship with them can make a world of difference in your life. If you have the resources to do so, talking to a professional can help so much.