Take a break, they say. Self-care first. Meditation is good for your mental health, they say. Exercise. Practice yoga. Do this. Do that. But it’s all easier said than done. Who’s got the time? After all, we’re just trying to catch up on our to-do lists and we’re just trying to survive and figure out the next best thing to do - the next thing to learn - the next thing to accomplish. It never stops. And there is always something to do.
But in my experience, busy or not, developing a consistent practice and daily habits that are good for my mental health has become a priority, a full-time job even. Why? Because it’s the only way I know how to thrive and not just survive - to live a fulfilling life. Routines and daily practices of these habits have become key to my overall well-being which contributes to my health, growth, and success.
A practice is defined by, “action or process of performing or doing something; habit; systematic exercise for the purpose of proficiency.” It’s the action itself that’s the hardest thing to do. And I believe that a daily practice of a healthy habit is one of the biggest forms of self-care, but many people struggle to make time for themselves, especially women. Here’s my theory, all based on my own experience.
For so long, I felt guilty about doing something for myself, especially being raised in a traditional Filipino household, where a woman’s role is primarily to be of service- take care of the family and everyone else around her. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with that (in fact, it is admirable), the flip side of it is that women tend to forget all about themselves because they get too busy serving others. So, for some time, I felt selfish resting. I felt selfish about taking care of myself when I was supposed to be taking care of others. I felt like I was a lazy person doing nothing. Staying busy was the only way I knew how I could prove myself, or so I thought. And simply put, serving and helping others was the only way I thought I could prove my worth. And boy, was I wrong.
After a lifetime of learning and growing, today, I believe I am loved. I am enough. I am worthy - even when I’m not serving, even when I’m resting and doing nothing.
If I am being honest though, there are times I still feel bad. When I talk to some female family members and they tell me that they have been so busy doing housework and taking care of everyone else, while here I am taking a warm bath for myself, I feel bad at times.
But I have to come to my senses and realize, that is their own choice while I get to choose for myself... then I am going to live and love myself, enough to make time for something that’s good for my mental health and well-being.
So, I want to share with you simple habits I practice every day that help me and support my mental health. And in recent years, with all the hard times we’ve been living, with all the uncertainties and fear of the unknown, these habits have proven even more beneficial and paramount to my mental health.
Several of these habits are actually part of my morning routine, so they can be done in a short amount of time.
- Meditation. There are many forms and types of meditation. It doesn’t matter which one you choose to practice. It matters most that you take the time to sit quietly and allow yourself to just be. I practice meditation for 20 minutes in the morning and 20 minutes in the afternoon/night. It’s only been 3 years since I’ve developed this consistent practice and I have seen an enormous difference in my overall sleep and anxiety. Movement can also be a form of meditation. You choose and do what works best for you. Setting an intention to meditate even for just 5 minutes a day can do wonders.
- Reading. After my morning meditation, I take the time to read my daily devotionals, or more recently, I just read the verse of the day (short video included) from the YouVersion Bible app. They’re short and quick enough if you’re busy. It’s a great way to start my day guided and supported, no matter how I’m feeling that morning. After that, I read about a few pages or a chapter of a book that inspires and motivates me. And you would be surprised how many books you can finish in a year even if you just read one chapter a day. This is a good trick, especially if finding the time to read a book is hard because life can get too busy.
- Listening to music. After my meditation, I actually start listening to music and I leave it playing in the background all day long. It’s soothing, it’s comforting and it’s basically therapy for me. I listen to all different kinds of music depending on my mood and what I think I need at the time.
- Movement. Normally I exercise 3-4 times a week between cycling and yoga, but I also started walking around the neighborhood more. They say, move your mood by moving your body, and now, I can actually attest to this. For the first time in my life, I actually get it. Moving at least 20-30 minutes each day helps calm your mind and alleviate stress and anxiety. But take note, listen to your body first. Sometimes forcing yourself to move defeats the purpose.
- Getting some fresh air. This really needs no further explanation. No matter where you live, just try to step outside for a few minutes and take a little time to breathe.
- Self-check-in. Last but certainly not least, take a few minutes a day to check in with yourself. This is the best act of self-love. Be honest with yourself, tune in with how you truly feel, scan your body, and ask yourself, “how do you feel today”? “What do you need today”? This simply means allowing yourself to feel and honor what your body and mind are going through. If your body feels tired, take a break- and do nothing. If you feel overwhelmed, stop, and rest. If you need help, ask. If you’re feeling alone, reach out to someone. If you feel emotional, allow yourself to cry. Basically, it’s about giving yourself permission to feel all the good and the bad, and everything in between. Honor your needs, because honestly, no one else will.
Make time for these small daily practices to strengthen and love yourself, so you can then be of service to others. It doesn’t matter how you do it. You choose what works for you and what makes you feel good. Some days it will come easily and naturally, some days it will be hard and that’s okay, that’s why it’s called a practice.
And remember, it is more than just the practice itself. It’s about the purposeful way of living life day after day. It’s about knowing that you are worthy of the time you make for yourself, and practicing the things that lift you up. Because at the end of the day, it’s the little things you do for yourself that matter.
Thank you! Thank you for putting words to so much of what I’m experiencing and for sharing your simple daily habits…it seems so simple, but why is it so hard to put into practice…I’m going to take the pressure off and just move forward one simple daily habit at a time :) xo