An Integrated Approach to Young Adult Mental Health Rehab

6 Daily Self-Care Practices for Young Adults

Reading Time: 5 minutes

For young adults, self-care isn’t always a priority. The pressures of college and/or starting a job can make basic self-care seem more like a luxury than a necessity. But making a commitment to incorporate self-care practices into your daily routine can create a positive difference not just now, but for the rest of your life.

Self-care isn’t just about manicures and bubble baths—although those are good, too. There are many sustainable self-care habits that can be incorporated into your schedule to boost mental health and well-being, as well as physical health. The benefits of self-care include better stress resilience, more balanced emotions, and increased energy.

Here are six self-care practices to integrate into your regular routine.

1. Listen to your body.

In the midst of our busy routines, it’s easy to lose touch with what we need on the most basic level in physical self-care. Sleep and nutrition are essential pillars of health and wellness. Therefore, we need to ask ourselves the simple question: Am I getting enough rest and nourishment? Then look at how you can adjust your schedule or your choices to improve your sleep and eating habits.

Furthermore, moving our bodies is particularly important. It’s good for our physical health, and it also benefits our mental health. In fact, exercise increases the body’s production of endorphins, the brain’s “feel good”

In a 2018 study of the link between exercise and mental health, researchers studied the workout habits of more than a million adults aged 18 and up. They found that those who exercised regularly had significantly better mental health than those who did not. Moreover, doing a physical activity you enjoy increases feelings of accomplishment and self-confidence. Therefore, it’s a great tool in your kit of self-care practices.

Know the Facts

A 2018 study found that people who exercised regularly had significantly better mental health than those who did not. Moreover, doing a physical activity you enjoy increases feelings of accomplishment and self-confidence.

2. Weave mindfulness into your day.

Mindfulness is key to psychological self-care. Learning to slow down and appreciate each moment, rather than rushing through one task after the next, is a game changer. Therefore, take the time to notice your experience instead of getting caught up in thoughts of the past or worries about the future. Consequently, you’re recharging your spiritual and emotional batteries.

Mindfulness practice supports you in looking at the world with fresh eyes—seeing “the miraculous in the common,” as Ralph Waldo Emerson put it.

Here are three ways you can incorporate mindfulness self-care practices into your life, so they become part of your daily routine.

  1. Conscious breathing: Before you brush your teeth in the morning and at night, take three slow, deep breaths. You can also do this at other moments of your day, such as when you’re stopped at a red light or while you’re waiting in line.
  2. Body scan: When you get in bed at night or before you get out of bed in the morning, do a body scan. Specifically, send your attention to each part of the body, starting with the toes and moving up to the head, and focus on the sensations you feel in each area. Relax the muscles in each area of the body before moving on to the next.
  3. Activate your senses: While you’re walking the dog, waiting at the bus stop, or walking from your car to your workplace, observe and savor what’s around you. Additionally, pay attention to the way the air feels, what you see nearby and in the distance, and the sounds you hear. Tune in to what is beautiful and interesting in your environment.

3. Ask for help.

While independence is important for young adults, reaching out for help is just as essential. Asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness. Be willing to let go of what you think you “should” do on your own. Give yourself permission to ask for and receive the help you need—whether it’s a shoulder to cry on, practical assistance, or company on a day you’re feeling blue.

Besides giving you access to the resources you need, asking for help could have other beneficial consequences. For example, asking an acquaintance for help could deepen that connection into a friendship. Asking a family member for help—especially if you’ve had conflicts in the past—can build trust and communication.

Hence, asking for help and accepting that help with gratitude are self-care practices that can set off a domino effect of positive emotion.

4. Seek authentic connection.

Self-care includes spending time with people you trust who listen to you, care about you, and make you feel good about yourself. Therefore, create your own support network, including family, close friends, like-minded peers, and/or mentors.

Multiple studies have shown that relationships improve mental and physical health. Thus, the more connected we feel with others, the more resilient and positive we are. Therefore, this type of authentic connection is one of the most important self-care practices.

Authentic connection begins when we reveal our true self to another person. This means that we are honest and direct with our feelings, we practice active listening, and we speak truth in a respectful manner.

Heather Monroe, MSW, LCSW
Director of Program Development at Newport Institute

5. Practice self-compassion.

Another powerful self-care practice is self-compassion. While we often focus on building self-esteem, self-compassion might be even more helpful in the long run.

Neff’s research has found that people who are compassionate to themselves are much less likely to be depressed, anxious, and stressed. Furthermore, they are much more likely to be happy, resilient, and optimistic about their future. In a study of 177 undergraduates, Neff found that self-compassion was also linked to greater positivity, wisdom, personal initiative, curiosity, agreeableness, and conscientiousness.

"Self-compassion involves being kind to ourselves when life goes awry or we notice something about ourselves we don’t like, rather than being cold or harshly self-critical", says researcher and psychology professor Kristin Neff.

6. Try these two relaxation exercises.

Because we spend so much time rushing around and responding to technological stimuli, our nervous systems are in constant “fight or flight” mode. To counteract this stressful state, we need to consciously activate the parasympathetic nervous system. As a result, the heart rate drops, blood pressure falls, the breath becomes slower and deeper, and we move into what’s known as the “relaxation response” or “rest and digest” mode.

Here are two relaxation techniques that move us from “fight or flight” to “rest and digest.”

Progressive Relaxation

  1. Lie on a comfortable surface.
  2. Start by tensing the muscles in your toes.
  3. Keep them tensed for about five seconds, and then consciously relax those muscles.
  4. Relax the entire body for 30 seconds.
  5. Next, tense your foot, hold for about five seconds, and release. Relax for 30 seconds.
  6. Continue working your way upward, tensing each area of the body for a few seconds, releasing, and then letting your whole body relax.

Visualization

  1. Picture a place that you find particularly relaxing, such as a beach, a house you feel especially comfortable in, or a beautiful garden.
  2. Visualize how this place looks, sounds, and smells. Imagine the temperature and how the air feels on your skin. Is there a soft breeze blowing? Do you hear seagulls calling?
  3. Breathe slowly and deeply as you focus on the sensations and the positive feelings that the image conjures up.

Sources

J Health Soc Behav. 2010; 51(Suppl): S54–S66.

Hum Dev. 2009 Jun; 52(4): 211–214.

Lancet. 2018 Sept;5(9): 739–746.

J Res Pers. 2007 Aug;41(4): 908–916.

Mental Health / July 22, 2020

Newport Institute

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