Self-care can help you build resilience toward the stress life throws your way. Because whether you’re simply trying to balance life’s demands or managing a mental health condition—emotional suffering should not be the norm. The recognition of International Self-Care Day this summer (on July 24) is the perfect time to put a closer focus on your self-care routine.

“Put your oxygen mask on first.”

This direction is one of the most common instructions flight attendants give before the plane takes off. If you run out of oxygen, you won’t be able to help others survive a crisis.

The same instruction goes for life on the ground too. When home, work and family responsibilities pile up, it can be easy to forget to prioritize yourself. Over time, putting yourself last can have a negative impact on your health.

What is self-care?

Self-care can encompass many dimensions of wellness, but generally, the term refers to actions that improve your well-being, help you manage stress and live your life to the fullest. Like building muscle mass, self-care strategies are most effective when you regularly practice them, and it may take time to feel results.

The many forms of self-care

You may think of a hot bubble bath or massage as a form of self-care, and that’s true. But self-care encompasses more than just the physical—from mental, spiritual, social and more. You may find you feel best with a mix of activities from each of these areas.

“There’s a different way to look at how you take care of yourself and a way to sort of just shift your perspective in terms of self-care,” says Dr. Desreen Dudley, licensed therapist and a Teladoc Senior Mental Health Quality Consultant“You actually are taking care of yourself when you devote time to your own needs and not always prioritize other people. You need to be able to do that.”

Self-care doesn’t have to be complicated

It can be helpful to take time to think through your current routines. Are there activities you do now that bring you joy, contentment and stress reduction? Maybe it’s reading a juicy novel, playing tag with your little ones or enjoying some peace and quiet when your phone is on do not disturb.

That’s self-care.

  • It doesn’t have to take hours out of your day, be expensive or overly complicated. It might just look like regularly making time for some of the activities you thought of above.
  • An effective self-care routine will look different for everyone.
  • And as your life circumstances change, your self-care routine may change too. Self-care is meant to be a fluid practice that evolves to meet your needs.

There’s a different way to look at how you take care of yourself and a way to sort of just shift your perspective in terms of self-careYou actually are taking care of yourself when you devote time to your own needs and not always prioritize other people. You need to be able to do that.
Dr. Desreen Dudley, licensed therapist and a Teladoc Senior Mental Health Quality Consultant

5 self-care strategies you can try this month  

The following strategies only scratch the surface of ways you can work to make your well-being a priority. They can help get your self-care muscle-flexing. See if any of these ideas resonate with you, and if so, pick just one or two to focus on over the next month.

1. Talk with a therapist

Therapy is the ultimate form of self-care. Using tools like positive thinking, open communication and stress reduction techniques, your therapist can help you uncover self-care and problem-solving strategies. It can be easy to find the right therapist for you with Teladoc. Choose a therapist who fits your needs and schedule video appointments seven days a week, from wherever you are.

Dr. Dudley on How do I find a therapist with Teladoc: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e_dcsx8ohc4&t=49s

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2. Get outside

The ancient Greek physician Hippocrates said, “Nature itself is the best physician.” While nature should never replace medical care, it’s easy to feel nature’s therapeutic properties when you spend time outdoors. Explore a local park, eat lunch under a shady tree or simply bask in the sun for a minute or two (just don’t forget your sunscreen).

3. Reflect

Thinking of fond memories with your loved ones, expressing your gratitude and appreciating the joys of life can quickly improve your mood and bring clarity. This could be in the form of journaling, meditating, leaning into your spiritual side or pursuing artistic endeavors like painting or photography.

4. Enjoy good company  

Staying connected to loved ones by telephone or video chat, whether friends or family, is a great way to stay positive and avoid feelings of loneliness. People feel more worthwhile when they feel connected to others.
 Dr. Desreen Dudley, licensed therapist and a Teladoc Senior Mental Health Quality Consultant

Surrounding yourself with healthy relationships goes a long way in “filling your cup.” Call a friend while you walk the dog, join a virtual book club together or meet for coffee between errands. Self-care can even look like cleaning up your friend list on your favorite social media platform so your feed only contains people who enrich your life.

“Staying connected to loved ones by telephone or video chat, whether friends or family, is a great way to stay positive and avoid feelings of loneliness,” says Dr. Dudley. “People feel more worthwhile when they feel connected to others.”

5. Take care of your body

Self-care can be as simple as getting an extra half-hour of quality sleep or sitting down to enjoy breakfast instead of eating on the go. It can also look like seeking support from a dietitian or talking with a doctor for issues that have been lingering.

Taking care of your physical body—eating nourishing foods regularly, moving your body, drinking enough water and sleeping well—goes hand-in-hand with your mental well-being.

 More support for your self-care routine

If incorporating more self-care strategies into your life feels intimidating, start with just one thing—like taking a 60-second quiz to see if therapy can help you.

Teladoc offers online therapy services on your schedule, with experts available to talk by phone or video from wherever you are seven days a week, 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. local time. Get support for a wide range of mental health needs—from managing daily life and incorporating self-care strategies to anxiety, stress, depression, bipolar disorder, trauma and more.

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Do you feel your current treatment plan isn’t working, or you’re just not feeling better? A Mental Health Treatment Review from our experts can help.

Published July 8, 2021