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Self-care: What about your living habits?

My first step of recovery included taking a long, close look at my own habits and start to actually take care of myself. Everything from your general lifestyle to social relationships and recreational activities influence your mental wellbeing, and there are ways for you to influence and boost it.

When I initially set out on this journey of self-betterment at the beginning of the year my habits were terrible to put it mildly. I’d sit up the majority of the night, sleep about 3-4 hours before my son woke me in the early morning, and repeat. I was constantly exhausted and stuffed myself with sugar and caffeine in order to cope, and of course, my energy levels quickly crashed again after a brief high. As I started to change my sleeping schedule, sorted out my diet and tried to make sure to keep myself hydrated throughout the day I almost immediately noticed a difference in my wellbeing.

1. Hydrate
This was a big one for me. I used to be extremely dehydrated. I didn’t really feel thirsty so I never even gave it much thought. So please, don’t let that fool you. You don’t have to feel thirsty to be dehydrated. What I did is that I purchased a water bottle to carry around with me throughout the day. That way I can keep track of how much I drink, and I always have easy access to water. I also noticed that once my body started to get adjusted to drinking more, I also started to feel thirst regularly. It was as if my body had supressed thirst until I reminded it.

2. Sleep enough
I can’t stress this one enough. Sleep boosts your mental health. Research even shows that long-term sleep loss can cause depressive symptoms to increase. Set a bedtime and commit to it. Wind down about an hour beforehand by switching off your electronics, maybe drink some camomile tea and read, journal or do something that relaxes you.

3. Eat well
Our bodies cannot function without food, nor can our minds. Body and mind are connected. Food is fuel, and for our minds to operate optimally we need to fuel correctly. Make sure to consume a variety of different foods. Vegetables and fruits are a given. Also, make sure to choose whole grains over refined grains as they still contain the nutrients and fiber of the grain. Limit added sugar such as soda and candy. However, do feel free to enjoy more nuts and fish, but cut down on the red meat. Specific “mind foods” are fatty fish, whole grains, lean protein, leafy greens and yogurt with active cultures.

4. Get creative
I love this one. Being creative gives me an outlet to express myself, and allows me focus on something else than my mind for a while. It can be everything from writing, to drawing, creating music or journaling. If you’re not a great artist yourself you could always get some mandalas to color. It will still put you in that headspace of calmness.

5. Listen to your body
Trust your instinct. If you listen to your body you’ll be able to tell what it is you need at that time. Are you feeling tired? If so, sleep is a good bet. Feeling stressed? Maybe wind down with a good book, color a mandala or take a hot bath.

6. Avoid tobacco, alcohol and drugs
The advice is to keep alcohol to a minimum and avoid other drugs. Many people who suffer from mental illness use alcohol and drugs as a way to “self-medicate”, but the truth is that alcohol and drugs only aggravate your problems. If unlucky it can result in an addiction.

7. Get help when you need it
This is probably the most important tip of them all. Seeking out help isn’t something to be ashamed of- It’s a sign of strength. Treatment is effective, and with the appropriate treatment you got good chances to recover, or learn how to manage your illness.

8. Read inspiring quotes
On days when I feel down I usually turn to Pinterest to find quotes that inspire and motivate me. Try it.

I’ll end the post with a favorite quote of mine:

“Being happy doesn’t mean everything is perfect.
It means you’ve decided to see beyond the imperfections.”

With love,

Kristina

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