Taking care of yourself – my mental health statement

Focussing on mental health is absolutely wonderful, and incredibly important. Subsequently, I thought I’d contribute my views, should this statement be either valuable or (less likely) original.

Remembering to take care of yourself is precious, especially during periods of difficulty, and given the plethora of modern challenges we face. Our brains might be fascinating, but we rarely afford them the appreciation they deserve. As with any functioning organ, we must take care of them, being as susceptible to the afflictions of physical symptoms as any other.

My only intention here is to spread some positivity, conveying how I (sometimes unsuccessfully) attempt to look after myself. Please don’t consider this an all-encompassing guide. I’m not an expert. These are merely the steps I personally take, and trust to improve my mental health, as part of practising self-care.

That step alone is precious. Acknowledge that you deserve to be your own focus. Life, and the external world, is important, but far less so than your internal equilibrium.

It’s not selfish. You’re allowed to prioritise yourself.

Benefits of sleep for mental health

Image showing how not to take care of yourself - bad mental health
Taking care of yourself means avoiding this vicious cycle

Having heard sleep described as our ‘superpower’, that sentiment has continued to resonate with me. We still have yet to uncover the full mysteries of sleep, but it is the most fundamental step towards taking care of yourself. Don’t jeopardise sleeping time. It’s our time for relaxation, and recovery, for our wonderful bodies to take the initiative and restore a natural equilibrium.

Western societies have adopted a number of toxic cultural attitudes towards sleep, especially praising those who neglect it, in favour of work or socialising. Sleep is unimaginably important. Conversely, sleeping too much can also prove detrimental. It’s a tough balance.

Adults are advised to sleep between seven and nine hours each night. It is a lot of time, especially given the temptation of just one more episode…

Image showing sleeping cat with positive mental health
Longing for the stress-free feline existence

Some of the most common issues disrupting healthy sleep are stress, current or past trauma, mental or physical health conditions, or recreational drugs and alcohol. If you’ve been struggling with sleep, check out the support offered by Mind.

Sleep makes us feel better in every sense. We need a balanced circadian rhythm to function healthily. The benefits of sleep all culminate in improved physical health too.

Personally, I really strive for eight hours. Admittedly, I do often struggle. I’m often easily distracted, or resolved to finish projects that day. I’ve also tried to reduce my alcohol and caffeine intake, both of which (besides other associated detriments to health) severely disrupt sleeping cycles, alongside the quality of any sleep we might eventually have as well.

Sleeping with Science; Presented by Matt Walker

Take care of a good book: Read

Reading not only improves our actual intelligence, but it can be entertaining and relaxing. Carve time out of your day to read, even if it’s only half an hour, or ten minutes.

I often find reading feels like the exact opposite of relaxation. It can be a chore, to strain over words when I’m desperate to think of nothing. It’s certainly not a matter of disliking reading, more that it can require greater effort, and often be less stimulating, than the variety of activities conducted across different screens.

Crucially, reading is not designed to be a challenge. It can be a luxury, where your daily schedule affords the time to absorb Try experimenting with your subject material. One of my 2021 goals was to finish twenty-five books (nothing to some, a realistic ambition for me). Thus far, I’m only slightly behind, on three.

Image showing reading taking care of mental health
Take care of a good book – read your imagination wild

Despite having possessed a lifelong affinity for books, in recent years I’ve become de-incentivised to read. Whilst at University, it’s primary and often sole purpose was for research alone, marring any prospect of further reading.

In re-discovering my love for books, this year I’ve read Willa Cather’s ‘Song of the Lark’, Lee and Andrew Child’s ‘The Sentinel’ and John Grisham’s ‘Guardians’. Much as I enjoyed the former, it was occasionally hard work. Though the prose is unparalleled in its genius and beauty, it was long, and sometimes descriptively dense.

If your books exhibit that problem, read something else. Venture into different genres, try different authors. Try different audiences, if necessary. Young adult fiction is often just as captivating in subject matter, and significantly easier to digest.

Whilst we’re mentioning it, I’ve published several short stories to this site. Since the purpose of this post is promoting positivity, I’ll unashamedly say: They’re pretty good. Try ‘Harmless Escapism’, a light-hearted detective thriller intermingling murder and laughter. It’s a fun read.

How exercise can benefit mental health

Focus renewed, with another, fantastically original tip.  It remains an important one. Incorporating exercise into your daily routine is integral to appropriately taking care of yourself.

There are countless physical benefits derived from regular exercise, which can contribute to elevated mood. In order to maintain good fitness, at least thirty minutes of sustained activity resulting in increased heart-rate is recommended. Additionally, it’s a crucial part of promoting satisfying sleep – a 2013 study found that 76-83% of participants engaging in regular exercise slept well, compared to 52% of participants who infrequently exercised.

Stock image showing running improving mental health
Blissful running – take care of your mental health

One of the greatest obstacles I’ve faced in staying consistently active is the temporary ceasing of organised sport. Exercising purely for its own sake feels less essential.

A key part of staying motivated for me has been setting realistic goals. Failing to adhere to any schedule, rigorous or otherwise, can be disheartening, defeating the ultimate point of exercising. Know your limitations, and strengths, and work around your capabilities. The routine you settle upon should be challenging, but achievable. Share your targets with others, and deliberate focus on forging positive habits in the early stages.

Each subsequent day will only get easier.

Wandering into the promised land of good times

I was feeling whimsical with this header. If the promised lands prove elusive, keep walking. That’s the real point here: how walking can promote positive mental health.

It’s separate from exercise, owing to the gentler pressure on heart-rate, but walking is an enjoyable way to stay active, whilst applying less pressure to your joints than running. There are also separate benefits of equally worthy note arising from walking.

Image showing landscape improving mental health
Tumbling hills of Dartmoor – freedom improves our minds

I love walking, for the fresh air, and opportunity to leisurely explore new areas (or those more familiar currently). Capitalising upon any wooded areas, or even open, grassy parks, allows us to reconnect with nature, and feel the energy of the living world. More often than not, it also lets our eyes focus on different distances, something not afforded by constantly staring at screens.

These factors all collude to boost mood, an essential part of taking care of yourself. It’s one of the few things we can do sociably right now, too, and offers the chance to enjoy the distanced company of one other (with a projected increased eagerly anticipated).

Alternatively, use the opportunity to listen to music, or discover a new podcast – my top recommendations are Uncivil (brilliant US Civil War coverage), Behind the Bastards (providing a comedic twist on history), or No Such Thing As A Fish (discussing fun and obscure facts).

Stay local, but stay active.

You might enjoy:

Be a good friend.

Mainly to yourself. Be a good friend to others, but also yourself.

Remember that prioritising your own needs is not selfish, and it’s entirely within your control whether you want to participate or engage with something. Allot some time in your routine for self-care and appreciate yourself.

Don’t place undue or excessive pressure on yourself to complete goals. Challenges should be understood in suitable perspective – missing a small target should not cause devastation. Accept your limitations, as they will ultimately define you alongside any strengths, and know that all you can achieve is your best.

Avoid harmful addictions, like alcohol, or even social media, which can be dangerous when not enjoyed in moderation. Try not to stress over small or arbitrary details.

It’s easy to say, and not especially helpful to hear. Honestly, such phrases don’t really help me. But I’m still trying to be nicer to myself.


Thanks for reading. If even one person’s day was partially brightened, this will have been worth it. Let me know in the comments how you best support your mental health. Be friendly and interact with someone else whilst you’re there too.


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23 thoughts on “Taking care of yourself – my mental health statement

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    1. Thanks! It’s such an important issue, and rightfully receiving more attention. Especially given the additional challenges of this past year, we all deserve some self-appreciation

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  1. I enjoyed this post, Tom! It felt somewhat warming to read and something I really needed to hear right now. Even though they’re all tough to stick to, their benefits are so important to recognise, especially in these times. Today I was listening to a podcast that resonates with your thoughts – it’s called Tamras Notes, looking at energy expenditure and how we can improve the ways we use and gain back our energy levels! I think it relates a lot to your post! Nice job, hope you’re trying to follow you’re own advice! (often admittedly the hardest!)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! It’s reassuring to know this has had a positive impact, and I hope things are well with you. I’ll have to try Tamra’s notes – not something I’ve heard of before, but she sounds brilliantly relaxing. Thanks for the recommendation, have a good day!

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  2. This is such a great post! Having spent many years where I kept waking up hour after hour, I really can see the benefit of a good nights sleep to mental health. Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed this! Sleep can be so difficult, and it’s impossible to improve upon as a skill. But sometimes it does feel like a skill, something to master by perfecting a routine conducive to relaxing. When it eventually comes, sleep is great!

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  3. Self-care is so important! I am guilty of falling to the temptation of once more episode, but I have been trying to start a little earlier in the evening so as to give myself a little wriggle room. Exercising the evening also helps me sleep better. 🙂

    Self-care is all about creativity! Wishing you the best of luck in finding the balance that works for you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much, you’re absolutely right on the creativity front. I’ve started light exercise in the evenings too, and have found it very helpful. Good luck yourself in staying positive!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I was listening to a fascinating podcast the other day, which suggests that the energy our brains expend can be divided into three different sections – physical, intellectual, and emotional, and that using one can replenish the other. By that logic, walking is a great way of gentle replenishing the brain by requiring little effort!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. This was such a great read! Mental health is so important and during this time people are truly struggling with keeping healthy overall. I had insomnia since I was young on and off and truly realised the benefit of sleeping only not long ago! Walking and exercising can help so much too! I think what mostly helps me is reading and writing. thank you for sharing x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Those are the best solutions I’ve found – walking and writing especially are so therapeutic. I’m glad you’ve uncovered the secrets to beneficial sleep – it can be a real challenge!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. There’s nothing quite like spreading positivity to fuel your own satisfaction. We’re all our own harshest critiques, and it’s important to remember that friendship should extend to ourselves. Thanks for reading!

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  5. Self care is so important. I feel like after all we went through in 2020 and are still going through, we need to practice taking care of ourselves and our mental health more. 2020 was a tough year for me and everyone too. 2020 saw my mental health take a turn for the worse and I won’t lie I am still trying to recover from the damage 2020 did to me and my mental health. Recovering is a process and I am cool with that haha. The importance of looking after ourselves can never be overemphasized. Looking after ourselves is one of the most important yet overlooked things in the world today and this was a gentle reminder that we need to take care of ourselves even more. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We all struggled, and hopefully all learnt from the experience, not only about how pervasive and common mental health problems can be, but also how important it is to recognise them and help others. Just as there’s a lot of support out there, unfortunately there will also be set-backs,. I wish you the best of luck this year, remember to take care of yourself!

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