I love my job as an editor. But there are days when I feel buried in emails, torn between multiple projects as I navigate the logistics of putting out two monthly papers.
Stress is a part of everyone’s life, no ifs, ands or buts about it. What’s important is to make sure you’re giving time back to yourself — or as Katherine Frank with the Healthy Living Team at the Mental Health Center of Denver puts it: “You’re refilling your cup.”
Self-care is an important component of mental health that often stems from other branches of health, Franks said.
“It’s not just about the mind,” she said, “it’s also about typical health.”
Getting enough sleep and eating a healthy diet are a big part of self-care. But emotional and spiritual care also are important parts of keeping up with your own mental health. A key element to remember, Franks said, is that self-care means different things to different people.
“Everyone has their own basis for self-care,” she said. Activities such as yoga and meditation, for instance, may work for some but not for others.
One of Frank’s routines is taking a bus to a new part of Denver to explore a different section of the city. For me, reading a book that’s so interesting I can read for hours without realizing the passage of time is when I feel most at peace.
So, how do you find the activity that works for you?
Many people go home and watch TV or play on their phones, thinking that’s a self-care activity, Frank said. And while it can act as a needed “brain break,” she said, it’s not necessarily a way to give back to yourself. The cup, instead of being refilled, stays at the same level.
One way to start looking for a self-care activity that works for you is to hop on Google. An article Frank said can be helpful is from Develop Good Habits called “275 self-care ideas (and activities) for coping with life”( https://www.developgoodhabits.com/self-care-ideas/). The list offers a mixture of paid and free activities. Frank said this can be helpful for creating a self-care routine because some things are not affordable to do every day.
“Getting a massage isn’t something that you can ideally do every day,” she said.
There are small activities people can do within their workday for mental health as well. Most people in American society spend more than 40 hours a week working, Frank said. Taking a break from your desk, especially during lunch, can be important, she said. People can also do stretches during the day to help activate muscles, making your body tired, which can help you sleep better.
For daily self-care activities, Frank said it’s important to carve out at least 10 or 15 minutes each day.
For me, I’ve been trying to put my phone down and turn off screens an hour before I go to bed. I’ve been spending that time catching up on my favorite food magazines or reading a book. Creating that routine has helped give my brain a break, making it easier to settle into bed. Before I had this routine, it was pretty common for me to lay in bed thinking about the day, or what articles I needed to get done.
Putting in the time is really the key, Frank said, asking “are you doing things that you love to do, or are you making excuses for not having time?”