Dr Kalanit Ben-Ari
Six Unexpected Practices to Self-Care
To celebrate UK Mental Health Awareness Week, I’m here to share with you six unique ways of taking care of yourself. These practices will benefit your physical and mental wellbeing, as well as give you the tools you may need to process challenging situations as the world around you changes.
The past year has been more challenging than ever on the nation’s mental health, and as schools and workplaces begin to open up and “normal” life resumes, this may leave you feeling more anxious than usual.
If this resonates with you, please know that you are not alone and that professional support is available to you. The good news is that there are also many things you can do yourself to help take care of mental wellbeing, like the six ideas below - some of which might surprise you!
1. Talk to the trees The phrase “Tree of Life” is no coincidence, as there is wisdom in nature; in the branches and roots of trees. Try starting a dialogue with the natural environment and see if it offers answers to your questions. You may find this process brings you a new perspective, regulates your emotions and provides you with a calming space for reflection. If you try it, let us know how it goes.
2. Be kind to others Self-care comes in many forms, and there are many unexpected benefits to helping those around you. Be it offering to collect shopping for an elderly neighbour, or volunteering for a local community project. Contributing your time to help the wider community may give you a sense of fulfilment and satisfaction, that is empirically linked to a healthy mind and body.
3. Spring clean your home
As strange as it might sound, spring cleaning isn't just for the benefit of your home. Cleaning and tidying the physical space around you can help to declutter your mind and offer a fresh perspective. The process itself is therapeutic and can be regarded as a powerful form of meditation. Take some time to consider which of your belongings you don’t really need anymore or don’t offer you joy, that you could helpfully pass on to someone else. The process of making space in your home may help you to clear your mind and relax, and you will be less weighed down with stuff.
4. Get a full health check-up
Feeling in control of your physical health can be hugely beneficial to your mental wellbeing. If you’ve been putting off that visit to the doctor, dentist or optician, now might be the time to get any concerns off your chest and make sure you’re up to date with your checks and in the best physical health that you can be.
5. Challenge yourself
It can be all too easy to fall into a routine that doesn’t challenge you, or allow you to grow as a person. By trying new things, learning new skills and getting out of your comfort zone, you may discover that you are capable of things you didn't think you were. By pushing the boundaries, you will build your confidence and self esteem, while opening yourself up to new possibilities, opportunities and a sense of accomplishment.
6. Work on your relationship with your partner
You may have struggled with spending so much time at home with your partner over the past year, or not enough time together, if you live apart. Either way, if you put some extra time and effort into improving your relationship now, you will see the benefit to your mental wellbeing. It is often believed that when you feel better, your relationship will be better. But actually the opposite is more accurate; when you make your relationship better, you feel better. Having a strong relationship with your partner has been found to be the best protection against mental health challenges, and best predictor of life satisfaction. Investing in your relationship is one of the best things that you can do for yourself.
Please note that these are not a replacement for any talking therapeutic processing (psychotherapy, counselling or psychological) that will address the core of your feelings, but as an accompaniment and more immediate support when needed. Remember to seek professional advice from a GP or therapist if you are struggling. For Imago Relationship Therapists have a look here.
This article was written by couples therapist and parental advisor Dr Kalanit Ben-Ari. With a doctorate in Psychology, Dr Ben-Ari has worked in the field for over 20 years and runs a private clinic in Hampstead, London. She is also an author, speaker, therapist supervisor, founder of The Village (getthevillage.com), and has been the Chair of Imago UK since 2013.