What is your biggest challenge when it comes to practicing self-care?
For me, it’s always been embracing self-care practices for the mind.
Caring for your body is much easier than caring for your mind and spirit. We often avoid facing our feelings, fears, and emotions.
Well, because facing them can feel very uncomfortable, even intimidating. Other times, we simply don’t want to deal with some of the things we feel. I know that I don’t always love being alone with my thoughts and feelings and in the past, I’d get lost in distractions and noise, just to avoid facing them.
And, to be honest, it’s not all that difficult to do. Our days are filled with noise, deadlines, chores, always being in a hurry. We also often overcommit, sometimes we refuse to let things go.
Keeping all those thoughts and emotions bottled up is a defense mechanism, but sooner or later, they always end up pouring out. As I mentioned in this post, this is something that I want to let go of this year. One of my goals is to come back to the place of peace and mental clarity. To do that, I’m revisiting some of the self-care practices for the mind that helped me in the past and re-introducing them into my regular self-care routine.
9 SELF-CARE PRACTICES FOR THE MIND
JOURNALING + BRAIN DUMPING
Ever feel like you have too much on your mind and wish you had a way of cleaning up that mental clutter? I like to think of brain dumping as a real-life pensieve (definitely one of the magical objects from the Harry Potter universe I’d like to own the most). I use both journaling and brain dumping as a self-care practice for the mind; both help me identify my emotions, stressors and gain clarity. Brain dumping is basically a way to clear up some of that mental energy. There are a few steps to doing this. First, you write down everything that’s on your mind, literally anything that pops into your head. The second step is to organize everything into separate categories, like “work,” “personal,” “school,” “home,” and so on. The third step is to review and process your list and create a plan, schedule, and a to-do list. You can find more tips and details in my post about brain dumping right here.
Many things change as we get older- mental function is one of them. Research has shown that mental stimulation can help keep your brain “young” by stimulating new connections between nerve cells. Think of it as mental gymnastics. This includes anything that you’d call a “brainy” activity. Things like puzzles, crosswords, math games, can all help boost your memory, concentration, and focus skills.
Ever heard the phrase “a healthy mind in a healthy body?” We all know that exercise releases those feel-good endorphins that help promote better mood, sleep patterns, and reduce stress. Regular aerobic exercise has also been shown to improve memory and cognitive function. Cardio increases your heart rate, which increases the blood flow and delivers more oxygen to your brain, producing neurons in parts of the brain that control thinking and memory. Numerous studies also found that aerobic exercise can help to not only decrease the risk of cognitive decline, but it also lowers dementia risk. All it takes is 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise a day, 3-5 days a week. Your workouts don’t need to be too complicated or intimidating. Think walking, jogging, swimming or even dancing.
DO A MENTAL CLEANSE
The idea of a mental cleanse or a “detox” is the same as with cleansing or detoxing your body: it’s getting rid of and eliminating certain “bad” things. Things like limiting beliefs, negative emotions, and habits that do not serve you. The thing is that when it comes to a mental cleanse, you have to put in some effort. Just like your lifestyle and the foods you eat can either fuel or limit your body, feeding your mind with positive thoughts and engaging in good habits and keeping it healthy is just as important. A mental cleanse can include:
- a brain dumping session, which will help you get rid of that mental clutter
- shifting your focus to things that you can control
- setting up healthy boundaries to protect your energy
- allowing yourself to feel the emotions you experience and embrace stillness
Cleansing your mind is not just about embracing the good, it’s also about allowing yourself to feel the “bad” and realizing that your negative thoughts have their purpose, too.
MAKE TIME FOR STILLNESS
When you feel anxious about something, or when you have a lot on your mind, being still and silent can be very intimidating. We don’t always like being all alone with our thoughts and feelings. So, we look for distractions, we keep ourselves busy, pushing some of those thoughts and emotions away. Once you get over that fear and fully embrace the stillness though, it will help you find that peace and clarity. One of the best ways to embrace stillness and restore that mental balance is through meditation. It’s also one of my favorite self-care practices for the mind. There are so many different kinds of meditation, that you’re bound to find something you like. Personally, I love Kundalini meditation and yoga, which is great for developing more awareness and spiritual strength. I take at-home classes with Yoga Download. Guided meditations are another great option, especially for beginners. If you’re new to meditating or want to give it a try, I highly recommend reading this Beginner’s Guide to Meditation by Gabby Bernstein.
FIND WAYS TO LEARN + CHALLENGE YOURSELF
Finding ways to learn new things and challenging yourself is an important aspect of self-growth. I also see it as a self-care practice for the mind. Whether it’s doing something creative (even if you don’t think of yourself as a creative person), rediscovering an old talent or learning a new word every day- there are countless ways to set small challenges for yourself. Doing this can help you find more confidence, overcome fear, or maybe even discover a new talent or a hobby. To start, you can print out a list of 50 Small Ways to Challenge Yourself Every Day.
BRING MORE MINDFULNESS INTO YOUR LIFE
Mindfulness is all about being aware of the present moment. It’s a great self-care practice for the mind as it’s been linked to lower levels of stress, anxiety and overall fear. Your brain often tells you to focus on other things around you- it’s your job to gently bring it back to what’s important, to pay attention to what matters. Being mindful means to not judge negative thoughts that cross your mind. Instead, allow yourself to feel them and release them without judgment. Bringing more mindfulness to your life helps with practicing compassion, kindness, and acceptance. One of the best ways to practice mindfulness is when doing those very simple things and chores you already do every day-find out how right here. The more you practice it, the easier it becomes.
How often do you turn off your phone? How many tabs do you currently have opened in your browser? I think it’s safe to say that many of us have become very attached to our digital tools. While digital technology was meant to improve our productivity and save us time, it often does quite the opposite. It provides a lot of distraction and noise, making it very easy for us to waste time. You can’t be truly still, or present in the moment if you constantly reach for your phone to check your notifications. Spending an entire day without your phone, computer, tablet or TV might seem impossible, so start by doing just a one-hour digital detox. Think of some of the things you love doing, that don’t involve electronics.
TAKE A MENTAL HEALTH DAY
Okay, so we can’t always afford to take an entire day off. But perhaps, you can take a few hours a week and spend that time practicing some self-care for your mind? Meditating, journaling, reading, or simply sitting in a park, staring at the sky, listening to the wind, feeling the sun on your skin. Whatever you choose to do, remember to turn off your phone, and disconnect from the world once in a while.