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Self-Care Tips for Mental Health

Kristin Hall, FNP

Reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP

Written by Geoffrey Whittaker

Published 01/19/2022

Updated 01/20/2022

Self-care is a term that has been adopted by a lot of businesses, apps, influencers and other profit-focused individuals over the years, and all for the purpose of making money with the appearance of giving you tools or techniques to indulge in something good for yourself. 

But the shopping sprees, no-phone days and other suggestions popularly recognized as forms of self-care aren’t necessarily good for you. In fact,they may not even deliver a lot of lasting joy.

True self-care involves a lot of factors — some of which may work for others yet not for you. 

The tricky thing about self-care is that it has to be tuned to your own needs and desires, so while your friend may get everything he needs from a day at the gym, you might require time at the spa, the library or just an extra nap here and there. These tips, which could be considered mental health activities, should be the best fit for the individual.

To understand how to find your own best self-care options, it’s important to understand what self-care actually is. Let’s dig in.

Self-care for your mental health is about preserving normal mental function: good cognitive abilities, healthy coping mechanisms, appropriate responses to stress and more. It’s the stuff we all want. 

It’s also a preventative care technique to protect yourself from losing these normal behaviors and functions and falling victim to mental illness. 

Mental illness is a medical condition that affects your mood, behavior and/or thoughts in a  negative way, and hinders your ability to live your life in a normal way as a result. 

It can affect your self-perceptions, work and relationships. Likewise, imbalances in your career, relationships, or your view of yourself can also be potential triggers for mental illness. 

While science doesn’t fully explain mental health and mental illness, we do know some basics. For instance, we know that brain chemistry is involved in mental health, and that’s something you have little control over, but are greatly impacted by.

When something goes wrong, your whole life, or important parts of your life can be hindered, preventing you from enjoying your experiences and relationships.

Self-care, therefore, can be seen as a self-explanatory process; it’s taking care of your mental health, yourself.

This does not mean that you do everything yourself, but rather that you take responsibility for certain practices, behaviors and habits that can benefit your mental health.

To be frank, self-care for mental health looks like getting the help you need, plain and simple. 

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), mental health care is about more than ridding yourself of a mental illness. Instead, it’s about maintaining your mental health, playing a role in your own recovery from mental illness, and generally doing good things for yourself and your stability.

That means taking time to do things to improve your mental and physical health, which can include basics like eating, sleeping and exercising well. It can also mean taking into account your emotions.

When you practice self-care, you are embracing the idea that you are worth taking care of.

It’s important to note that self-care isn’t about selfishness or narcissism. Rather, it’s about self-respect and self love. You’re not spoiling yourself; you’re taking care of you the way you’d take care of another loved one.

The NIMH lays out a few basic tips for getting started with proper self-care, which may be helpful to those not used to the concept. (No matter how often you’ve heard ‘self-care’ as a term.)

It’s important to take self-care seriously. As mentioned above, self-care is not only about buying yourself the latest and greatest tech (if you need or want it), or spending a day at the spa (though those things aren’t prohibited, either).

Instead, self-care is about doing what’s right and good for your health and happiness in the long term.

Many of us are guilty of self neglect, so here are some great ways to practice a little self-care today:

Get Exercise

The NIMH says 30 minutes of walking every day boosts mood and improves health, and while the steps on your fitness tracker might be short of your extra-active friend’s accomplishments, those small steps can build up over time.

Best of all, you don’t need to do it all in one go; you can break your exercise time up throughout the day. 

Eat Well and Hydrate

A balanced diet and lots of water helps improve focus, energy and mood, which can help you perform throughout the day and feel more accomplished and satisfied as a result. 

Take Sleep Seriously

For real: A good sleep schedule that you prioritize and adhere to religiously does wonders for your mental health — not to mention your physical health, too.

Proper sleep hygiene is associated with lower levels of depression and anxiety, as well. 

Enjoy Mellow Activities

We’re talking mostly about meditation and breathing exercises here, but anything from journaling to working on a puzzle is good for you as long as it allows you to relax both mentally and physically.

Practice Gratitude

Remember those mental activities we mentioned? That includes the mental activity of framing your life in a positive way.

That may mean identifying negative and unhelpful thoughts (and if you need help with that, a mental health provider can offer support). 

It also means remembering to be grateful, whether you do this in a journal or by saying sincere thanks to those who support you. 

Keep Relationships Healthy

While you’re at the thank-you part of positivity, don’t forget to communicate with and interact with friends and family.

Mental health can cause us to retreat — and staying in touch with friends or reaching out to others when you need support is key to sustained mental health. 

Just remember to be the same friend in kind when you can.

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Your emotional health is worth protecting. So whether you consider yourself well or not, you should spend time taking care of yourself every day, even if that means just a few minutes of exercise, or the minimum number of hours you need to sleep. 

An effective self-care plan doesn't have to be complicated; it's mostly about attending to your needs when you see warning signs of growing problems. 

That may mean texting more friends or scheduling a night out when you've neglected your social connections, or walking around the neighborhood to take that phone call to squeeze in some more physical activity. 

Self-care might also mean getting mental health advice from a trained professional if you feel like you're starting to need support. Whether you're already in need of that support or just asking questions, it might be a good time to look at our mental health resources guide for information about other self-care activities like deep breathing exercises. 

If you need support now, consider telepsychiatry and online therapy for immediate help.

2 Sources

Hims & Hers has strict sourcing guidelines to ensure our content is accurate and current. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We strive to use primary sources and refrain from using tertiary references.

  1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (n.d.). Caring for your mental health. National Institute of Mental Health. Retrieved November 30, 2021, from
  2. “Mental Health Conditions.” NAMI,
Editorial Standards

Hims & Hers has strict sourcing guidelines to ensure our content is accurate and current. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We strive to use primary sources and refrain from using tertiary references. See a mistake? Let us know at [email protected]!

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment. Learn more about our editorial standards here.

Kristin Hall, FNP

Kristin Hall is a board-certified Family Nurse Practitioner with decades of experience in clinical practice and leadership. 

She has an extensive background in Family Medicine as both a front-line healthcare provider and clinical leader through her work as a primary care provider, retail health clinician and as Principal Investigator with the NIH

Certified through the American Nurses Credentialing Center, she brings her expertise in Family Medicine into your home by helping people improve their health and actively participate in their own healthcare. 

Kristin is a St. Louis native and earned her master’s degree in Nursing from St. Louis University, and is also a member of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners. You can find Kristin on LinkedIn for more information.

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