Liz Garone
May 21, 2024
A Path to Better Health and Happiness: Regular Self-Care

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. In honor of this, we want to spotlight the importance of regular self-care, which is one of the best ways to get started on your journey to better mental health and happiness. 

We asked three of our clinicians to share their top tips for making self-care an easy part of one’s daily routine:

Julianne Dunn, LCPC

First of all, it is very important to view self-care as vital (or vitamins) to our emotional well being and to give ourselves permission to take care of ourselves first. It is not selfish; it is self-preservation. We truly cannot take care of everyone that we want/need to take care of unless we fill ourselves up first. 

I like to make investments in myself – which is really what self-care is – that last. For example, a pedicure, getting my nails done, getting my hair done; those investments last for quite awhile. It feels good in the moment, and it continues to provide enjoyment everytime I look at my hair, nails, and toes. There are low or no cost options as well. Taking a bath while playing relaxing spa music, taking time to sit outside and enjoy the first morning cup of coffee while not reading work emails, allowing yourself to not answer a phone call, or to not immediately respond to a text message, and giving yourself space to enjoy life or to just breathe for a minute are all forms of self-care. 

I would also recommend taking some breaks throughout the day to recharge your battery, whether is it taking a look at pictures from a vacation that you enjoyed, acknowledging what is going well in your life, listening to a song that makes you feel good, or enjoying a favorite treat (sometimes we have dessert before dinner; making memories with your family can fill the bucket pretty quickly).

Take time to take care of you, and realize that self-care is the preventative to burn out so that you are the most productive you that you can be. 

Kristen Zellinger, LMFT

One of the best things a person can do for self-care is to make sure they are practicing self-care at all times, not just in reaction to stress or difficulties. Self-care is a skill in and of itself, and skills only develop with regular practice. It takes time to discover which strategies work best for us. 

Whether you practice self-care with a sleep hygiene routine, massages, exercise, limiting screen time, favorite hobbies, meditation, therapy, or any one of a number of other things, they are all most effective when done consistently over time.  

On a personal note, my consistent self-care involves regulating my social commitments. A lot of socialization is very draining for me and, over time and with years of practice, I've learned how to regulate the number of commitments I make, prioritize things that are the most important, and above all say no to things when I know it's going to be too much. It does mean sacrificing some activities, but I know definitively that I am much calmer, contented, and pleasant when I'm not running on fumes, and that is a worthwhile sacrifice.

Anthony Nigro, LMHC

One of the things that I strive to do is to live intentionally and to show gratitude, both of which help my mood and overall frame of mind. An example of living intentionally for me is being open to learning new things throughout my life. Over the years, I have learned to play a new musical instrument, learned some basic electricity so I can wire a light, and lately my son-in-law has exposed me to the joys of building Legos.

I have fun doing these things and the carryover is often surprising. For example, my learning to play the harmonica brought me in contact with a whole set of people who love the blues. We would go to the harmonica class, learn how to play, have a beer and chicken wings afterwards, and through this process I developed many friends over the past 20 years. I also got to be a pretty good musician, and the ability to entertain myself and others with music has always been important to me. 

Gratitude is very simple but somehow magical at the same time. At the end of the day I reflect on something that made me smile, that brought some enjoyment to my life, that let me feel good about being able to assist someone, whether it's just being nice and acknowledging them on the street or holding a door open. These simple things go so far in making our day-to-day lives better, and this is something that my patients have taught me. That thing that may seem little or not very special can be very important to someone and it makes their day go better. Seems to make my days go better, too. 

We don’t just promote mental health - we live and breathe it every day, and have the insights to prove it.  From updates to our services and techniques, to tips on better living, this is where you’ll find it.