HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — Self care is something we all hear about, but many of us don't put it into practice. Maybe we're too busy or we get distracted and don't think about ways we can intentionally pause and care for ourselves.
Licensed professional counselor Lauren Roberts says putting self care into practice is essential for mental health-- for all of us.
"Self care is the deliberate action you're taking for your physical, emotional, and mental well-being," explained Roberts, who works with clients in north and central Alabama. "Providing that care for yourself is very important. It can include things like on lunch break-- actually taking a lunch break. A lot of times, we're still working. We're still moving. But often, we're not taking that break in our day."
She says self care can with stress, anxiety, and trauma.
"All of those can be decreased with self care," said Roberts. "Some of the mindful techniques you can use seem very silly almost at times-- counting colors, breathing, but it's so important to take a minute and a half out of your day to breathe calmly, to notice your senses and what's going on around you. Make sure that you're sleeping on a sleep-wake cycle that is healthy. Exercise or even just going on a walk."
Self care can also be as simple as paying attention to your senses.
"Noticing what you see, noticing what you smell and hear-- those things take just seconds or moments to increase those," she said. "Being aware of where you are in the present moment is self care-- healthy breathing exercises."
These are all things that can be quickly implemented throughout the day. Roberts says everyone should identify self care actions they can take.
"You've got to come up with a healthy self care plan and then you've got to implement it," she said. "Some things work and some things don't. Not everybody is going to take a bath and relax. Some people need a different area of self care. Coming up with what works for you is very important."
She says therapy can also be helpful for identifying those self care actions that work for you. IOnce you've identified ways you can take a time out to care for yourself, Roberts says to be sure to recognize that you're going on that walk or calling a friend to connect-- whatever it may be-- to care for yourself.
"A lot of times with self care, we can go on a walk or take a lunch break and not realize that we are doing forms of self care," she said. "Be mindful and say, I'm doing this for myself right now. It's very important to be aware of being mindful and saying this is something I'm doing out of my day for a minute or 30 minutes to practice self care."
Getting enough sleep, eating well, and regular exercise are also ways you can care for yourself, and research shows these things not only improve your health, but are good for your mood.