Why self-care is important for mental health from a self-love advocate
By Anna Crollman, a Self-Love Advocate and Cancer Survivor
As a newlywed ready to start a family, Anna was diagnosed with aggressive triple positive breast cancer at 27 years old. She is now an 8-year breast cancer survivor and infertility warrior turned life thriver and stylish toddler momma to two post-cancer children. Anna is helping others own their unique story, step into their authentic self and thrive through cancer with self-love, wellness and style. You can see Anna’s work at mycancerchic.com or follow her on social media @mycancerchic.
Self-care is self-love. Many of us think about self-care as bubble baths, pedicures or massages. While these pampering activities are common ways to receive self-love, we should create a habit of practicing self-care to better appreciate ourselves. Think more holistically about self-care. A monthly pedicure isn’t likely to preserve our long-term emotional, mental and physical health. We can better accept self-love when we preserve our overall health by practicing some, often, overlooked self-care habits.
1. Learn How to Say No with Confidence
In a society focused on how much we do, it can be hard to say “no” and decline opportunities. Learning how to decline offers with confidence can be one of the most important forms of self-care you can practice. Not only can it help you better prioritize your time, but you just might find yourself at peace with your decisions. Some key phrases to say “no” that work well for me are:
● "I am not up for ____ tonight"
● "My social tank is empty right now"
● “I need to prioritize ___ right now”
● "Thank you for the invite, but I need to recharge."
● “Not this time, but please think of me next time."
Sometimes, I feel sad about missing out; but becoming more comfortable with declining has allowed me to better evaluate and choose how I spend my time. I’m more able to share how I appreciate others in the time I choose to spend with them; instead of over-committing and feeling constantly drained. I’m more balanced, rested and able to approach social interactions with a positive energy that is ready to connect.
2. Find a Mental Health Professional
Periods of mental health distress can happen to anyone. Waiting to find a mental health professional until you find yourself in those situations, can seem like a daunting task. Just like we schedule routine appointments with a primary care physician or dentist, we should do the same with a mental health professional. Why? Because self-care is important. If you’re overwhelmed about where to start, you can consider using Psychology Today, ask your employer’s HR department or use your insurance provider to help. I have seen my therapist for over 11 years and it’s been life-altering to have a mental health professional help me through traumatic periods of my life–including pregnancy loss and cancer–and the day-to-day stressors of work, parenting and navigating romantic and friendship relationships.
3. Practice Regular Vaginal Health
When was the last time you did something for your vagina? Many of us visit the gynecologist for our annual wellness check. Maybe we use lube during intercourse or other intimate moments. But many of us neglect our vaginal health throughout the year. It took breast cancer causing me to go through medical menopause to prioritize my vaginal health. Since then, a self-care habit I practice for my vaginal health is using a daily moisturizer. Just like other body parts, the vagina can benefit from a daily moisturizer such as Good Clean Love’s Restore or BioNourish. Both of these daily moisturizers work with the natural moisture of your vagina to support a healthy vaginal pH range without harmful chemicals, parabens or artificial fragrances. I’ve learned to appreciate this form of self-love and self-care because when I feel good, I’m more open to receive love than when I feel bad.
4. Sit with Uncomfortable Feelings
It’s common to want to move away from discomfort, but avoiding uncomfortable feelings can give them more power. Avoiding these feelings, emotions and thoughts can lead to longer periods of discomfort because those emotions are left to continue hanging over us or add more stress. One technique that can be helpful is to allow yourself a particular safe time and space to process uncomfortable feelings. Maybe you’ve been avoiding feelings of sadness or disappointment. Plan a time to curl up with a cozy blanket and sit with your feelings without interruptions. Practicing forms of self-care like this can open us up to accept love from others and ourselves. I like journaling about my discomfort to process and move through the feelings instead of trying to move around them.
5. Prioritize Deep Connection
Sometimes social situations can feel draining; the small talk, the pleasantries, the forced smiles. (Surface level interactions are the ones that leave me feeling drained–I appreciate being vulnerable with in deep connections.) So how do we avoid exhausting social situations and foster energizing relationships and interactions based on authenticity? Surround yourself with people who feed your energy instead of draining it. Do this by letting go of negative people and situations. Making strategic decisions about your interactions can allow you to reserve your energy and incorporate social plans without feeling physically and mentally exhausted. We open ourselves to receive love when we truly appreciate others’ support and connection.
6. Explore a Digital Detox
Tired eyes, interrupted sleep, neck pain, inability to focus? These symptoms could be a result of screen fatigue. Managing your digital fatigue takes intentional focus and a shift in the way you go about your daily routines. With time your digital detox adjustments will become second nature. Tips to manage your digital habits are: set screen time limits, build in movement breaks and put your phone in a different room during certain activities or times of day. I like to shift my digital consumption by using voice memos to communicate instead of texting. Self-care is important for mental health, so trying a digital detox could give you more time and space to practice self-love
7. Maintain Sleep Hygiene
A lack of or poor sleep can have negative impacts on our physical health, mental health, and ability to navigate the challenges of daily life. Improve your sleep hygiene by creating a consistent routine related to your sleep preparation, your bedroom environment and habits throughout the day that can foster better sleep. Maintaining sleep hygiene is a great practice of self-love, as it can give us a clearer head space to appreciate ourselves and others.
Knowing how to practice self-care is important. Implementing self-care habits into your routine can make a significant positive impact to your mental and physical health. Practicing one of these seven overlooked self-care habits, just may open you to receive more love from others and yourself. Even a small shift can make a huge difference.