We are in the middle of spring and we are preparing for summer. Cleaning and organization are synonymous with spring. We’re all spring-cleaning and organizing our lives, so it might also be a good time to think about taking care of our mental health.
Self-care is essential to maintaining mental health. Everyone has their own way of taking care of themselves, and taking care of yourself means being aware of our emotional needs. The key is to always recognize our emotional needs in everyday life. Sometimes we are so busy caring for others that we ignore or even neglect to learn what we really need emotionally in our lives.
Until the COVID-19 pandemic, I was always busy taking care of others. We have all been affected by the closures. I couldn’t see my clients, and in the silence of the closing, I realized that I had cared for so many clients that I had neglected to take care of myself. How could I forget my own emotional needs when I am a therapist?
As we do our professional jobs, raise children, and care for others, many of us neglect the one person who needs self-love to continue giving to others: ourselves. Eventually, I was able to assess myself and my emotional needs amid the silence of the pandemic.
Long working hours lead to poor boundaries with others, people-pleasing behaviors, anxiety, and poor eating habits. But here are a few things I’ve done as part of my self-care journey:
I joined a boot camp and started exercising three days a week with a group of women who are on the same trail as me. Boot camp was not about losing weight for me; it was about improving my health.
I learned how important eating healthier and exercising is to maintaining mental health. Plus, I met women who loved each other and encouraged me to be my best self. I often call my training camp where the angels are because it really saved my life.
Exercising strengthened my love for myself, allowing me to set healthier boundaries with others. Diabetic for 20 years, exercise has not only improved my emotional well-being but also my physical well-being.
I have found that gratitude helps me deal with anxiety better. Gratitude allows me to not think about all the problems or tasks that I have to accomplish in my life; instead, I’m grateful for the things I’ve already accomplished and have in my life.
The most important thing I did to maintain my sanity during the height of the pandemic was to reassure myself that it’s okay to be the bad guy sometimes, that having to take care of others is not my responsibility. All the time.
COVID has taught me that life is too short and can be gone in a flash. I encourage you to figure out what your emotional needs are and take care of your mental health with a bit of self-love.
Natalie Dennis is a Licensed Professional Counselor in Oklahoma City.