Taking care of your mind and body can have positive effects on mental health.

Phil Epstein, a psychologist at Partners for Behavioral Health & Wellness in Beachwood, and Jason M. Joyce, senior director of clinical services at Recovery Resources in Cleveland, said practicing self-care can lead to emotional wellness.

But, what is self-care?

“There are a couple areas that one can focus on when thinking about self-care,” Joyce said. “Self-care involves getting active, eating a balanced diet and taking care of your physical health. It is identifying, accepting and expressing a range of emotions in a healthy way. Self-care helps you search for meaning and understanding in life.”

Epstein said, “Self-care is relaxation, recreation, good nutrition and good rest. Sleep is crucial. People who are sleep deprived tend to be irritable, short-tempered and inattentive. Also, if you say ‘recreation’ in another way, you get ‘re-creation.’ People don’t give themselves enough time to relax and recreate themselves. They are overwhelmed, and by the end of the day, they’re spent.”

Joyce said there’s a connection between self-care and mental health.

“Self-care is extremely important for your mental health,” Joyce said. “When one considers mental health, the highlights typically include emotional well-being, the capacity to live a full life and the flexibility to deal with life’s inevitable challenges. Good self-care helps to maintain all these functions. Good self-care is key to improved mood and reduced anxiety.”

Epstein noted self-care includes going to the doctor.

“Another important aspect of self-care is going to the doctor,” he said. “There are a lot of people these days, because of insurance problems or they don’t have time to be sick, will experience all kinds of difficulties. You need to visit your physician to make sure your health is in good shape. Health can affect mood.”

Self-care can mean different things to different people.

“Mindfulness and physical relaxation are important, like meditation and yoga,” Epstein said. “Learn to focus on a focal point on a wall or to close your eyes and breathe evenly. But you’d want to change these actions person to person. There are individual differences.”

Joyce said there’s no wrong way to do self-care.

“Self-care is important because you’re focusing on what is fun and meaningful to you,” he said. “If training for a marathon and meditating or yoga is not your thing, don’t do it. It will only make it feel like work. When your body is telling you it needs a break, take it. When you are overwhelmed with your thoughts or feelings, do something positive to get you out of that moment. Self-care is important because it helps maintain the best version of you.”

Epstein added, “Self-care helps to calm anxiety, mood disorders and helps with adjustment disorders. Self-care is not rocket science, it is about living a healthy way of life.”

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