Self-help is the best help: How you can develop self-care plan for physical, mental well-being

It is time to realise maintaining mental health is essential to ensure physical wellbeing because of its effect on people’s life and livelihood. Failing to take care of their own mental health, people do not seek services and treatments, thus escalating the amount of suffering, which could be harmful in the long run.

According to the World Health Organization, one in four people experiences mental or neurological disorders at some points in their lives. A 2013 small-scale epistemological study showed that 37.5% of Nepal’s population suffers from mental disorders. However, only 1% of the budget is allocated to the issue which is noticeably insufficient in accordance with the demand of the country.

Due to the current Covid-19 crisis, people are more prone to various mental health problems. To minimise the potential risk, we need to engage in self-care for substantive mental and physical growth and wellness.

Self-care is a daily process in which individuals ensure space for themselves to revive from their daily burnout, thereby, catering to their inner needs by engaging in themselves and the environment that surrounds them.  However, when we ask 10 people if they do enough to take care of themselves, here is a good chance most of them will end up giving a handful of reasons why they do not.

The Ministry of Health and Population of Nepal estimates that about 15-20 % of the country’s population (around three million) suffers from mental health issues.  Thus, the need to engage in self-care is indispensable in Nepal because of the lack of provisions for professional mental care services. Nepal has only 0.03 psychiatrists per 100,000 population and 0.59 mental health workers per 100,000 population. Thus, we all need to step up in a variety of ways to deliver resources, provide training, and underscore the message that self-care is both fundamental and indispensable.

With increasing mental health problems and the dreary consequences such as suicide, helplessness, hopelessness, anxiety and stress, it is high time for us to engage in self-care for substantive emotional, physical, mental and financial growth. If the chronic stress of everyday life is not managed properly, it can and does make people ill.  In some cases, it can lead to hypertension, skin-related conditions, diabetes, or obesity. Behavioural manifestations like impulsivity, lowered tolerance towards others, and aggression are seen with prolonged chronic stress.

Globally, one in four people is currently affected by mental disorders, of which 75% do not receive any treatment. We are wrapped up with the mindset that we need to work non-stop and view self-care as an activity we do not have time for. But, what we forget is without personal contentment, we fail to achieve our targets in other sectors too. From my personal perspective the more I have, the more I can give to others. When I am healthy, mentally and physically well-rested, then I am much more available to share good things with the world.

Sometimes, the last person available for each individual’s care is themselves, but we often neglect our needs, fearing we could be seen as selfish or self-absorbed persons. De Saussure says, “A person’s difficulty in putting himself or herself first and the inability to acknowledge that an individual’s needs deserve to be made priority immensely undermine the idea of self-care.” Some of the obstacles of self- care are negligence, too many responsibilities, and the fear of appearing weak or vulnerable, which are directly linked to our mindset.

However, there are not any one-size-fits-all self-care plan. With the unique identity and behaviourism of each individual, one needs to understand themselves first to find what a proper self-care plan for themselves is. It might include activities like reading books, engaging in adventures, cooking food, hiking tirelessly for hours, involving in creative activities or simply enjoying holidays with oneself or family. We need to be consciously aware to utilise self-care time for personal growth and better resilience.

In the meantime, there are some generalities among all self-care plans, such as, taking care of physical health, managing and reducing stress, honouring emotional and spiritual needs, nurturing relationships, and finding a balance between personal and professional lives. To reach these objectives, each person needs to identify what they need as part of day-to-day life and what they value. They also need to identify the strategies they can employ if and when they face a crisis along the way, which is emergency self-care.

The most prominent practices of self-help are to develop healthy habits, understand the nature of your body, ask for and give help, cultivate compassionate, kind and considerate nature, create clear boundaries and not to push oneself too much. Also, developing ones individual’s coping strategies like writing, communicating, painting, walking during the high-level stressful time and going for a run to revive from burnout and stress definitely results in a more serene health environment.

Thus, we can start slow and be relaxed in accordance with our personal regimen of self-care. Also, we should be mindful on when to seek help and create a personal boundary, mainly during the time of crisis. Only when self-care is ultimately recognised as essential to other activities, then only we can achieve the idea of substantive mental and physical growth.

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Devkota is a psychology and social work graduate. She currently works as a gerontologist.

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