Self-care has become a bit of a buzz phrase in the last few years, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be valued as a critical part of life. And with all the time we’ve had to spend with ourselves in the last year, it’s more important than ever to take care of our mental health.

Ahead, ten ways to keep your self-love game strong in any circumstance.

Understand that self-love looks different for everyone
The first step in maintaining strong mental and emotional health is realizing that the most effective method for you may differ completely from ours, your best friend, or that super cute Instagram influencer who seems to have it all together.

Don’t get discouraged if you try something and it doesn’t work for you. The key is figuring out what makes you feel empowered, charged up, and ready to take on life.

Get on a good sleep schedule
We know — boring. But science says balanced sleep is maybe one of the most important ways we can take care of ourselves. The operative word here is balanced. Those of us prone to falling into a sleep-all-day mode when we’re not feeling our best may jump for joy at the thought that sleep can help improve mental health, but oversleeping can cause its own issues as well.

Sleep needs are unique, so find your “sweet spot” and try to stick to it as regularly as possible.

Keep an eye on your nutrition
Much like sleep, proper nutrition is integral to keeping your body and mind moving throughout the day.

According to Harvard Health Publishing, “Studies have compared ‘traditional’ diets, like the Mediterranean diet and the traditional Japanese diet, to a typical ‘Western’ diet and have shown that the risk of depression is 25% to 35% lower in those who eat a traditional diet.”

When we think of self-care, it can be super tempting to fall into a comfort food rut. For a lot of us, that means processed, sugary, or fat-heavy dishes — but that can actually make you feel worse in the long run. Make sure you’re enjoying a balanced diet with plenty of whole foods to get the most mental bang for your buck.

Nourish yourself
The simple act of putting in the effort on your own behalf is super powerful for your mental health. Anything you can do that tells your mind, “I am here, doing work for your benefit” can increase your mental strength and relaxation.

Cooking for yourself is one of the easiest ways to do this. You don’t have to be a world-class chef, either. There are a ton of simple (tasty!) recipes you can whip up in a snap.

Clean up your space
Your environment can have an immense impact on your mental health. You may not feel like doing chores when you’re trying to enjoy “me time”, but studies show clutter can actually cause psychological strain. We’re not saying clean the house instead of reaching for that face mask; definitely reach for the face mask. Just consider doing a few dishes first! Your brain will thank you.

Take care of the tasks you’ve been putting off
When we think of setting goals, we often think big (like career, family, relationships big) but setting small goals and fulfilling them literally primes our brains with the self-efficacy needed to tackle those big goals.

Have an errand you’ve been putting off forever because you just don’t feel like it? Accomplish it, and see what happens.

Watch or read something funny
Sometimes you just need a little something to snap you out of your head. Comedy is perfect for this. Regular laughter doesn’t just improve your state of mind — it can also have long-term physical benefits.

Move your body
No, we’re not suggesting you go to a gym or do a deathly 60-minute HIIT workout. Just 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity per day will maintain your physical health and improve your mental condition.

What constitutes “moderate-intensity” depends on your current fitness level. For people who are only modestly engaged in physical activity, this could mean a 30-minute walk. For those more accustomed to exercise, try something new! Perhaps a brisk jog or mobility challenge?

Phone a friend (or nicely say “no” to one)
Humans are social creatures — we need each other! If you’re feeling like isolation is getting the best of you, schedule a phone call or FaceTime with a friend.

On the other hand, if you’re feeling drained by all those socially-distant happy hours and Zoom calls, you are perfectly within your rights to say, “I really care about you, but I need some time to myself. Can we connect next week?”

Don’t turn your mental health into a competition (with others or yourself)
Mental health isn’t something to “accomplish.” Days and months bring ebb and flow. Your value is not determined by how many self-care things you do, or by how you’re feeling from one moment to another. Work hard, don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty, but don’t ever trade being balanced for being better.

What are some things you like to do for self-care? Let us know in the comments below!

xx, The FabFitFun Team