This post was for World Mental Health Day.
Self-care practices are essential for physical, psychological and spiritual health and well-being. The practices shared here by 30 mental health experts can help to reduce anxiety, depression, stress and many other concerns. They are also great for developing coping strategies, boosting your mood and creating a general sense of health and well-being.
Once you’ve got some tips from below, head on over to Mental Health Begins With Me and make a mental health promise to yourself!
1. When I feel stressed and overwhelmed, my mantra is “something’s gotta give”…meaning, I can’t do everything and I can’t do it perfectly. In line with this philosophy I try to find a few small ways to make my day a little easier. Sometimes I decide to turn my phone off for the rest of the day or I order take-away because the thought of cooking is too much. Other times, I’ll make a deal with myself that in my lunch break, I need to step away from my computer and go for a 15 minute walk. Mindfulness is another big self-care technique for me. By being mindful I give myself permission to stay in the here and now. A place where to do lists, emails, Facebook, phones and worries about the past and future don’t exist (sounds like Utopia doesn’t it?). It’s challenging to stay present when you feel pulled in a thousand directions, but tuning into the here-and-now even just 2-3 times a day for a few minutes at a time can make all the difference. For 5 tips on simple ways to incorporate mindfulness into your life visit my blog. Dr Jacqueline Baulch, Clinical Psychologist, Melbourne, Australia.
2. I do things that make me feel nurtured like having a massage, a pedicure, Reiki treatment or cuddle up on the sofa with a soft blanket and watch a favorite movie. Laura J. Reagan, LCSW-C in Maryland.
3. My gym has a steam room and I do legs up the wall pose, which lowers stress in the body and mind. It’s meditative, I sweat out a lot of crud probably, and it’s a bit silly looking maybe. Win-win-win. Allison Rimland, LPC, Certified Emotionally Focused Therapist, Denver, Colorado.
4. I practise kundalini yoga, shakti dance, eat a great diet, have a conscious social life, meditate and enjoy my friends and family. Before my halo slips, I also love chocolate…. Self-care does take practice and commitment (will) along with forgiveness if I slip up (love). Self-care is a must as a practitioner – it helps my resilience and ultimately, that of my clients. Bernadette Devine, MA Psychosynthesis Psychotherapy, London, England.
5. As a busy Central Victorian, Bendigo based family counsellor and clinical social worker, I always find time for weekend brunch with friends and family. My all time favorite brunch venue is The Bendigo Art Gallery coffee shop. Enjoying fantastic food, coffee, art works and show stopping exhibitions is my kind of stress busting activity. Lisa Pola, BSW, MAFT, Family Counsellor, Bendigo, Australia.
6. I love looking up at the sky, whether it’s to catch a beautiful sunset, notice the cloud formations, stare at the bright moon, or gaze at the stars. I also love to take mindful walks that involve noticing the smell of the flowers, feeling the sun shining on my skin, feeling the breeze, and observing the plants, trees, and houses around me. Marni Goldberg, MFT, LPCC, San Diego.
7. For my self-care, I practice creative writing, I hike up 14,000ft mountains, dance around the house with my daughter, have pizza nights with friends and laugh hysterically at old Friends reruns. Robyn Mourning, MS, MFTC, Child & Family Therapist/Parent Coach, Westminster, CO.
8. I do Zumba twice a week and personal training three times a week, these are done with two amazing woman, who love life. I also surround myself with wonderfully, supportive friends. Cait Wotherspoon, Counsellor and Psychotherapist, Penrith, Australia.
9. I own horses and dogs. The time spent with my animals is very soothing and therapeutic for me. These non-verbal relationships speak volumes to my sanity. At work as a supervisor to other therapists, as well as in full time practice myself, I seek mental health services in an effort to be proactive in my own self-care and encourage my supervises and colleagues to do the same. “A brain surgeon cannot work on their own brain.” Mindy J Nicholson, Licensed Clinical Addiction and Marriage and Family Therapist, Salina, KS.
10. I do things for self-care that help me to unwind and clear my mind, like exercise and puzzles. When working with clients, I practise awareness around my own baggage – this means looking at things that I might take for granted such as preferences, beliefs and expectations. I spend some time reflecting after every session to see how it has affected me – I check in with my body, emotions and thoughts. Sally Hunt, Clinical Psychologist, Centre for Research Excellence in Mental Health and Substance Use, NDARC, University of New South Wales.
11. I go to the gym to enjoy the steam room, sauna, and hot tub – sometimes I don’t even workout – talk about relaxation! Also, I schedule regular girlfriend time – when we get together we eat the best food, laugh, cry, and talk until we are exhausted. Crystal Jones, Owner/ therapist at Life Source Counseling, PLLC, Fredericksburg, VA.
12. I like to paint without thinking about what I am doing. Then I like to explore the meaning. For instance I painted something that included pillars, several words came to mind and it led me to thinking about being successful in everything that I do. I also use journaling for self-care. Today I journaled about “how to create my life vision” which included making a list of what mattered the most. Annmarie Wilson M.S LPC – IT, Army spouse, advocate for suicide prevention and mentor, Wisconsin.
13. For me self care is about taking care of ‘the basics’, that is, being sure to get good nutrition, adequate sleep, drinking water throughout the day and making time for exercise, fun and time in nature (maybe a walk along the beach or a bush track). I use humour and love watching funny movies. Recently, I have been using Kirsten Neff’s self-compassion meditations both personally and with clients. I also use and recommend other Mindfulness techniques on apps like Buddhify, Mindfulness Daily , Benjamin Bonnettis guided meditations and anything by John Kabat-Zinn. During the work day, self-care is about scheduling clients wisely and making sure to have water/tea/coffee/meal breaks and even to remember to stand and stretch and get out in the fresh air between sessions. Michele Hill, Psychologist, Sunshine Coast, Australia.
14. For me it’s all about nature as a way of looking after myself: I seek out tranquil green places, I have a swing at the end of my garden which looks out over bushland, I horse ride in the Blue Mountains, I kayak down peaceful rivers, I go on long walks and find joy in watching my dogs run. Connecting, sharing and laughing with my partner, children and friends are also times I cherish and prioritise. These experiences nurture and ground me, so I am available to support, nurture and ‘be there’ with my clients. Sara Beresford Terry, Accredited Mental Health Social Worker, Counsellor & Clinical Supervisor, Menai, Sydney, Australia.
15. Connecting with, and appreciating nature is a crucial part of my self-care routine. I breathe in moments of fresh air, stop to notice the beauty in nature, go for walks and enjoy outdoor activities. Sarah Leitschuh, MA, LMFT, Burnsville, MN.
16. I meditate and practise yoga every day to keep my stress level down and my mind clear. Elizabeth Owens, LPC-Intern, supervised by R. Keith Franklin, LPC-S, San Antonio, Texas.
17. As an introvert, both my practice and I thrive when I am balanced – this includes carving out daily time to myself. From season to season this changes and can include any of the following: making art, creating a sandtray, journaling, yoga nidra, asana practice, walking to the Potomac River, connecting with nature, or cooking. When I am at work, I drink a glass of water with every client – this flushes my system and cleanses as I go. I smudge and use the fire place to clear and energize the space. If I have a client cancellation, I can often be found rocking out to everything from Jay Z to Nina Simone to Adele. My own therapy, supervision and consultation keep me grounded and clear. Amy Tatsumi, MA, LPC, ATR-BC, Psychotherapist, Counselor, Art Therapist, & Daring Way™ Certified Facilitator-Consultant, Washington, DC.
18. I love to have get-togethers with other therapists/friends to decompress over a good meal, maybe with some wine. You could call it “Healing for Wounded Healers”. I hope to expand the idea one day for the mental health community in my area. Leana Sykes, M.Ed, LPC, Oaklyn, NJ.
19. My best self-care tool is my dog Wilbur. In between clients I go out into a beautifully landscaped garden retreat and play with my dog and listen to the tinkle of the water in the fountain. Fresh air, nature and being with the unconditional acceptance of a pet is incredibly restorative. Marg Ryan, Psychotherapist, BArts. MBusPsych. ClinDipSomPsych, Melbourne, Australia
20. As therapists, we often give so much to our clients that we forget or don’t prioritise our own well-being. Therefore, I’ve adopted the principle of treating myself as my most important client. This may sound a tad narcissistic but when looked at from the perspective of “therapist heal thy self”, it makes sense. I suggest to clients practices such as: having boundaries, a supportive routine, to eat well, exercise regularly, make time for supportive relationships, feed your spirit, time for laughter, play and creativity. It would be inauthentic if I wasn’t living from this place for myself. Marcia Watts, Counsellor & Psychotherapist, M.Couns, B.Soc. Sci, Dip Min, Brisbane, Australia.
21. I go to the beach and practice mindfulness; I focus on the sun’s warmth, listen to the ocean, watch the waves, and breathe in the salty air. I don’t bring a phone or a book so that I can fully focus on my environment. I also like to read humorous books. One of my favorite books is Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. Sarah Fuller, M.S. Florida Registered Mental Health Counseling Intern, Safety Habor, Florida.
22. For self-care I enjoy walking or yoga. But what really relaxes me is putting on a movie and counting change. I don’t know why, doesn’t matter how much change it is, but just the motion of counting always relaxes me. Kathryn Busch L.M.F.T., Bluepoint, NY.
23. As a busy sex addiction therapist, author and speaker, I take every 5th week off from my practice in order to focus on other interests such as dance, hiking, writing and hanging out with family and friends. Though I am passionate about the work I do, taking scheduled and intentional breaks away from my practice fills my cup and allows for more energy and balance as a therapist and a woman in the world. It also models great self-care for my clients! Mari A. Lee, LMFT, CSAT-S Glendora, California
24. Gardening has been an enormous help in keeping me balanced and centered. I enjoy the planning and research that goes into finding the right plant and soil for the conditions. Nurturing the plant and watching it grow and change is so rewarding. I think the act of doing hard work to help a living thing grow and thrive and being able to witness the results provides a sense of connection and accomplishment. Other notable self-care practices include spending time with my family, especially my young nieces and nephews, which allows me to give and receive unconditional love; going to the beach is calming and gets me connected to nature; journaling gives me a chance to process what’s going on in my life without filtering. Another fun one is playing my favorite music a little too loud and singing and / or dancing along. Ilianna Luna, LMFT, Plantation, Florida
25. I get a massage every other week, acupuncture & chiropractic and a facial where I get my brows and lashes tinted so I feel and look my best. Plus I let go of stress and all that comes my way that might want to manifest as some form of illness in my body. If I have extra time for fun I do art. I also use Doterra essential oils every day to balance my emotions and manage my stress. Debra Thompson, MA, LPCC, LPAT, ATR-BC, Santa Fe, NM
26. I love doing martial arts as self-care. As a therapist, I spend a lot of time hearing stories of injustice, abuse and neglect. While sitting many hours listening to these stories, my nervous system can react in a fight response, or maybe it is my inner warrior! So, I love to get out some of the energy that gets stuck in my body. It is a great way to reset my nervous system and nurture my inner warrior. Andrea Szasz, Psychotherapist. Supervisor. Group Facilitator. Certified Daring Way™ Facilitator, CMCAPA, PACFA, EMDRAA, Mosman and Bondi, Sydney, Australia.
27. These are some of the things I do for self-care: when I drive I turn up the music and sing along, I dance and don’t care who is watching, I walk some evenings with my mother and we just talk, no pressure, no therapy, sometimes just talk about silly things. Anette J. Badchkam, Psychotherapist, LCSW, CAP, Royal Palm Beach, Florida.
28. For self-care, I have a massage once a month, I take an annual weekend getaway with my sister or to visit with a friend, I attend two consultation groups monthly – one with a niche of the gifted community and the other more general – which while a place for case support it’s also great for emotional support as well. In the 2nd one we started a book club – we had a great first meeting sitting along the Mississippi River with delicious food and wine, discussing the book and life in general. Megan Bearce, LMFT, Wayzata, MN.
29. I like to walk to and from work as it helps me take in the fresh air before and after a long day of being in an office. Doing this also allows me to get some exercise which I don’t get a lot of from sitting in a chair all day. Liz Morrison, LCSW, NYC.
30. Foot spas have become very popular here in Boca Raton, Florida – I love my foot massages! It’s dark and quiet with Buddhist music chanting in the background and I get to zone out. I will go weekly for an hour foot massage for only $35 an hour. It includes a back and neck massage too. I also love spinning! My spin class is in the dark, with loud pumping music and no phones! I get to disconnect and “fly” on my spin bike for 45 minutes. I do this 3 times a week. Jessica Marchena, LMHC, Boca Raton, Florida.
31. I usually take a weekend getaway, socialize with friends, go dancing and I love to sit on my patio drinking tea! Michelle Fyfe, LMHC, CAP, Royal Palm Beach Florida.
32. Along with the usual self-care, I like to read good horror stories or watch quality horror movies (with more psychological & existential leanings than shock & gore, of course) to help me stay in touch with my own Shadow. It’s also nice that these stories are fiction, as opposed to the real horror that our clients have lived through & are processing on their way towards healing. I’m particularly fond of authors (e.g., Clive Barker) who show the beauty & sadness in their monsters. Our Shadows are vitally important to our wholeness! Renee Beck, Oakland Dreamwork & Transpersonal Therapy.
33. In my personal life, I recently took up a pottery class that I have wanted to join for a few years. So far throwing on the wheel is really relaxing even though I’m just learning! In my professional life, I practice self-care by keeping healthy boundaries around start and finish times of counselling sessions and allow myself 10 minutes in between. I take this time to get grounded. Sometimes I do a short meditation, yoga, aromatherapy or watch a lit candle mindfully. This way I don’t feel rushed and I’m ready to be present with my next client. Natalie Wingfield, LPC at Virginia Beach Counseling and Wellness.
34. I don’t over schedule clients, I watch my nutrition, I think about exercise, I watch bad TV and I go to therapy. Susan P. Kimball, LCSW, CASAC, Waynesville, NC
35. My go-to self-care practices include weekly depth psychotherapy, attending an Interfaith service, taking warm baths with essential oils, swimming laps, dancing and bushwalking. I am always on the lookout for meaningful pieces of jewellery that I can use for moments of self-acceptance, self-care, self-compassion and self-love. I have a few heart necklaces, some precious stone pendants and a selection of fusion rings. If I catch myself being too harsh on myself, I pause and use them for self-reflection and reflective meditation. Sometimes I just hold the pendant to sooth myself. Jodie Gale, MA Psychotherapist, Sydney, Australia. *Blog Author*.
Sydney Counsellor, Soul-Centred Life-Coach and Psychotherapist Jodie Gale, is a leading specialist in women’s emotional, psychological and spiritual health and well-being. She has a private counselling, life-coaching and psychotherapy practice in Manly and Allambie Heights on the Northern Beaches of Sydney. Jodie is also available for Private Practice Consultations for Therapists.
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