How and Why to Practice Self-care – Mental Health First Aid

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With mental health challenges on the increase– rates of depression alone have tripled during the COVID-19 pandemic — it’s possible that you may find yourself or someone you know in need of support. To be equipped to offer that support, you need to take care of yourself.
The ups and downs in working with people can have a huge impact on you. Practicing self-care can better equip you to deal with a crisis and the difficulty of aiding someone with a mental health or substance use challenge. Engaging in a self-care routine has been clinically proven to reduce or eliminate anxiety and depression, reduce stress, increase happiness, and more. It can help you adapt to changes, build strong relationships, and recover from setbacks. In a national survey, Americans cited benefits of self-care as: enhanced self-confidence (64%), increased productivity (67%), happiness (71%). From a physical health perspective, self-care also reduces heart disease, stroke and cancer.
Self-care goals can include:
The activities you chose to participate in for your self-care should help you achieve balance in different areas of your life to promote your overall wellness.  SAMHSA has defined eight dimensions of wellness to help you focus on optimizing your health: emotional, spiritual, intellectual, physical, environmental, financial, occupational, social. When thinking of different self-care activities to try, think about these dimensions in your life and how you can improve them. Self-care should not be something you force yourself to do. Self-care practices will refuel you, helping you to take care of yourself and support those around you. If you’re having trouble thinking of ways you can take better care of yourself, here are four simple ways you can get started.
Think about the advice we get on airplanes: Put on your own oxygen mask before assisting someone else – without caring for yourself, you won’t be able help them. Similarly, if you’re not taking care of your body and mind, you won’t be the best version of yourself, especially when others need you. With a self-care routine that brings you joy, you’ll reap the benefits of a healthier mind and body. And that includes being there for the people who need you.
For more tips on how you can support yourself and those around you with self-care practices, check out these resources:
American Psychological Association. (2020, March 4). Working out boosts brain health.
Clay, R. A. (2020, July 1). Self-care has never been more important. Monitor on Psychology 51(5).
Davis, T. (2018, December 28). Self-care: 12 ways to take better care of yourself. Psychology Today.
Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance. (2021, October 6). 8 tips on setting boundaries for your mental health.
Glowiak, M. (2020, April 14). What is self-care and why is it important for you? Southern New Hampshire University.
Lawler, M. (2021, May 19). What is self-care and why is it so important for your health?
Medalie, L. (2020, April 16). Why it’s important to get a good night’s sleep during the coronavirus outbreak. UChicago Medicine.
Mental Health America. (2022). The State of Mental Health in America. Mental Health America. Retrieved from
Mental Health First Aid USA. (2020). Mental Health First Aid for Adults Assisting Adults. Washington, DC: National Council for Mental Wellbeing.
Mental Health First Aid USA. (2021). teen Mental Health First Aid USA: A manual for young people in 10th-12th grade helping their friends. Washington, DC: National Council for Mental Wellbeing.
Naidoo, U. (2020, April 7). Eating during COVID-19: Improve your mood and lower stress. Harvard Health Blog.
Pilkington, K., Wieland, L.S. Self-care for anxiety and depression: a comparison of evidence from Cochrane reviews and practice to inform decision-making and priority-setting. BMC Complement Med Ther 20, 247 (2020).
Stieg, C. (2021, October 10). Depression rates have tripled during the pandemic – how to recognize the signs and respond to them. CNBC Make It.
University of Michigan Medicine. (2020, April 7). Importance of physical activity and exercise during the COVID-19 pandemic. Department of Psychiatry.
Vagaro, Inc. (2021, January 14). Vagaro Survey Finds Three-Quarters of Americans Believe Self-Care Activities Provide Stress Relief. Newsroom. Retrieved from

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2 thoughts on “How and Why to Practice Self-care – Mental Health First Aid”

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