Therapy isn’t just advice-giving; your therapist certainly isn’t going to tell you how to live your life, and if they attempt to do so, it’s usually time to run fast and run far – and seek therapy from someone else. However, your mental health journey isn’t put on pause when you leave your therapist’s office and step back outside into the real world. Most of the work happens outside our therapy sessions! Therefore, therapists often give their clients practical mental health tips and suggestions for everyday life.
While a therapy session is always more personalized towards a person’s particular situation than any piece of advice you might encounter online, some self-care tips can be relatively universal! Here are nine little self-care tips for mental health that therapists actually give their clients to help them on their journey, and which can be used by everyone, regardless of whether or not you’re currently in therapy or struggling with your mental health. Remember – mental health matters every day, and it’s essential to pay attention to it even when you’re not on the brink of a breakdown!
Figure out a routine that works for you
One mental health tip that therapists often share with their clients is the importance of having routines. Having some structure in your everyday life can work wonders for your mental health. It can help you maintain positive habits, increase productivity, and keep your focus on the things that matter, making having a routine an important self-care tip for mental health.
However, it’s also vital that your routine works for you. If you work night shifts and despise running, trying to wake up at 6 am for an early morning jog might make no sense for you. Additionally, many of us prefer relatively flexible routines, while others like more structure and predictability in their everyday lives. Instead of forcing yourself to do things that work for your best friend or a stranger on the internet, creating routines that work for you is a mental health tip that often comes up in therapy.
Be mindful of your alcohol use
Cutting out booze might not feel relevant unless you feel like you’re struggling with your alcohol use. However, alcohol is a depressant, and ‘hangxiety’ – hangover anxiety – can severely impact our well-being and mental health. If you’ve ever felt an impending sense of doom combined with uneasiness and shame after a night out, you know what I’m talking about!
While complete sobriety might not be for everyone, and many of us can enjoy alcoholic beverages in moderation, one mental health tip your therapist might share with you is being mindful of your alcohol use. Mindful alcohol use might include considering why and when you drink, or it might simply be about being more intentional about your drinking by making active choices around when and where you choose to drink instead of drinking out of habit. Mindful drinking and reassessing your relationship with alcohol can also be one of the most important mental health tips for students, who often face extra pressure to party and go out.
Journaling is not just for those people who are ‘good’ at writing
Everyone and their mother seem to talk about journaling and mood tracking these days, which might make it easy to disregard it as just another fad. However, even if you don’t consider yourself a writer, a therapist is likely to recommend journaling as a helpful, everyday self-care tip for your mental health.
Writing your thoughts down helps you make sense of your experiences and feelings, and it can help you analyze and understand your thought patterns better. Journaling for selfcare can also serve as a release through a technique called ‘brain dump’ journaling, where you vent all your thoughts and stress onto paper instead of having those frustrations swirling around in your head all day. Therapists often recommend this mental health tip because it can make therapy easier for you as well. You can bring the notebook you use for journaling with you to therapy, making it easier for you to refer back to how you’ve felt between your therapy sessions if you’re feeling stuck!
Healthy boundaries are essential for all relationships
Many of us struggle with boundaries: we might lack healthy boundaries and go out of our way to please others, neglecting ourselves in the process. On the other hand, our boundaries could be too rigid, where we don’t let anyone in at all.
One of the mental health tips therapists are likely to give their clients is to focus on setting boundaries that help you maintain your well-being: good boundaries are flexible but not overly porous. This helps you keep a balance between saying “no” when you want to say no, and “yes” when you want to say yes. Healthy boundaries help you maintain healthy relationships and avoid resentment, which is why boundary-setting can be so vital for mental health!
Go outside or find other ways to connect with the outside world
One of the practical, everyday self-care tips for mental health that often gets brought up in therapy is the importance of spending time outside and connecting with nature. As the days are getting shorter and colder, it might be tempting to stay huddled up underneath a pile of blankets all day long, but your mental health will thank you for even a short trip outside. Getting enough sunlight can help reduce the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder (SAD), and combining mindful movement with fresh air and nature can help us feel more at peace and connected with the world.
If going outside is currently not an option for you, fear not! Another mental health tip a therapist might give their clients is all about connecting with nature at home! Getting a sun lamp or a light therapy lamp, opening your curtains in the morning and getting a plant (or ten) are also great self-care tips for mental health, especially during the winter months.
Don’t isolate yourself – even if you feel like it
Isolating yourself and withdrawing from social interaction can feel tempting when you’re anxious, depressed, or busy. However, one of the biggest mental health tips therapists tend to give their clients is not to isolate themselves. We, humans, are social creatures, and even if you’re an introvert, maintaining those social connections that feel good to you can make a big difference for your mental health.
You can still enjoy your time alone, and it’s important to listen to yourself and your boundaries while making decisions. However, sometimes the best self-care tip for your mental health might be connecting with other people by having meaningful conversations or doing activities together – and building a social support network in the process. Even if it feels hard, taking small steps towards connecting with other people can be incredibly beneficial for your mental health.
Be mindful of your social media use
The content you consume online can have a massive impact on your mental health. Often, a self-care tip for mental health that a therapist gives their client is being more mindful of how much you scroll, what kind of content you’re seeing, and how it makes you feel. aimlessly scrolling or comparing yourself to someone else’s highlight reel can make you feel much, much worse, so it’s important to stay conscious of your social media usage and its impacts on you! Social media can be a great way to learn new things and maintain our relationships, and it’s definitely not all bad – as long as you’re mindful of how you use it.
Take a break before you feel like you need one
Perhaps unsurprisingly, one of the mental health tips that often come up in therapy is the importance of taking a break. It’s so easy to push yourself into burnout by constantly doing things and expecting unrealistic levels of productivity from yourself – and therapy is often the first place where someone reminds us that we’re allowed to take that break.
Taking breaks can be productive, but it’s also important to remember that resting and taking breaks is important in itself, not just for increasing your productivity. It’s okay to take a break before you feel like you need it! That is also one of the biggest mental health tips for students who are busy with coursework and deadlines: it’s okay to take a break. It’ll let your brain recharge and help you avoid burnout and increased levels of anxiety!