World Mental Health Day: Self-care and Your Mental Health

World Mental Health Day: Self-care and Your Mental Health

She opens her sleepy eyes to the bright light of the springtime sun that has intruded on her tiny bedroom. It is 6 am. “Why,” she begrudgingly utters as her mind immediately races with thoughts of all the problems that she took to bed with her last night. “Why did morning have to come so soon? Why can’t I just sleep my way into a better phase of my life?” She has not had a decent meal in a week, she is fatigued, lonely and confused about what the future holds for her. “Oh well, Sindy, life goes on,” she says to herself as she pulls her heavy and surrenders herself to another day in the hell that has become her life.
World Mental Health Day: Self-care and Your Mental Health

Sindy’s story mirrors that of many people who find themselves in situations that they simply don’t have the strength to manage. Sometimes the pressures of life can be so intense that they overpower our ability to navigate our paths wisely and to keep a positive perspective. Sometimes life’s situations affect us beyond the physical, and we find ourselves in a battle to preserve our mental health. We find ourselves fighting to sustain our emotional, psychological and social well-being. Certain circumstances can rob us of the ability to control how we feel, think, act and make decisions. This is exactly where Sindy finds herself.

There is, however, a better way to deal with such times. Instead of grumbling our way through the emotional valleys of our lives like Sindy, we can choose to take better care of ourselves to surmount the obstacles that weigh so heavily on us. Self-care is simply taking the time to do the things that help you live well. Self-care is implementing practices that improve your physical and mental well-being. Imagine managing your stress appropriately, lowering your risk of illness and increasing your energy just by consciously making choices that feed the essence of whom you are instead of draining you. Well, this idea does not need to only remain in your imagination; below are four things that you can start doing today to take better care of yourself and subsequently improve your mental health.


  1. Healthy Eating

Understandably, eating well can be a challenge when feeling depressed however, what you put in is what you get out. Therefore, it is important to eat regular meals and stay hydrated. Do your best to include fruits and vegetables in your diet and have regular snacks that contribute to your physical well-being; biltong, dried fruit and nuts are good ideas for snacks in between main meals. Limit your coffee intake and try your best to keep soft drinks to a minimum. Of course, spoiling yourself is allowed but do your best to keep your food healthy and your portions balanced. This body houses your mind and what you feed it also contributes to what your mind feeds you.

  1. Restful Sleeping

The thoughts, anxieties and worries may keep you up at night, but restful sleep needs to be prioritised as you embark on this journey of practising better self-care. A schedule is very helpful in ensuring that you get enough sleep; set a sleeping time for yourself and stick to it. Set a waking-up time and ensure that you also stick to it. This may be difficult at first, but humans are creatures of habit; you may be so used to random sleeping hours that creating a new routine may be challenging. Remember that forming a new habit may take up to three months, so do not give up. Abide by your new self-care schedule whilst reminding yourself that you are doing it for the most important person in your life…you.


  1. Relaxing Activities

Relaxation is essential in maintaining good mental health therefore investing in a wellness programme or app that has breathing, muscle relaxation and good mood-enhancing exercises would be immensely helpful. Writing is also very cathartic, especially journaling about the things you are grateful for. Practising gratitude reminds us daily of things going well in our lives. Take note of the freely available luxuries you have access to; sunlight, a cool breeze on a scorching summer day, rain to moisturise dry ground and the beautiful sounds of the early morning birds. Staying connected to your friends and family is also an effective way to keep your perspective positive. You are not alone; you have never been and never will be. There is always someone who cares; whether it be that stranger who left the door open for you as you approached the elevator or that colleague who smiled at you in the corridor, there is always someone who cares.


  1. Goals and Priorities

What usually tampers with the mental well-being of most people is that they are overwhelmed by the number of tasks that need to be accomplished within a certain period. We often envision so much for ourselves and try to accomplish it all at once. When we fail to do so, we are left with deep feelings of depression and inadequacy. Ask yourself what needs to be done now and what can wait. Learn to say no to new projects when you feel like you cannot manage them, and please, please, please congratulate yourself for the things you have accomplished at the end of each day.

Although life will never be without its challenges, we can certainly do our best to maintain joy, make better decisions and build stronger relationships. Start where you have the most control; start with yourself.

The orange-purple sun sets after another day of Johannesburg’s hustle and bustle. “It has been four months, and I am still here. I am handling life better than I did before. I can do this; I know I can.” Sindy smilingly says to herself as she lays her body down to rest.

Taking care of our mental health is vital and we should work towards it. But sometimes we need help from professionals. Call the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) 24hr Helpline at 0800 456 789. If you are in crisis, contact the A Suicidal Emergency Line on 0800 567 567

NOTE: This article is written by Nomthandazo Cebekhulu, Soul City Institute’s Front Office Administrator. She describes herself as “Young. Inspired. Living Life Intentionally.” She is a young African woman with a large appetite for life, learning and growth.


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