Woman smiling and having a picnicHave you seen the term "self-care" on social media recently? It's become a popular topic and can be an important part of your mental and physical health. Today, we talk about what self-care is and suggest some ways you can introduce it into your routine.

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An Intro to Self-Care: Tips for Sleep, Nutrition and Well-Being

May 8, 2019

Woman smiling and having a picnicIf you've browsed the internet or social media lately, you may have noticed that the term self-care pops up frequently. More than ever, people are thinking about little things that they can do to improve their mental and physical health by lowering stress and increasing their happiness.

But while the term is sometimes attached to images or stories about binge-watching TV or eating junk food, self-care is more about looking at and caring for your needs before focusing on the needs of others. Just as you may think about helping a friend or family member with a chore or offering advice, productive self-care is about taking the time to help yourself make progress, whether it's in your personal or professional life.

During Mental Health Month, consider adding these self-care practices to your routine.

Get the right amount of sleep

Sleep is important to both physical and mental health. Getting an appropriate amount of sleep helps you prepare for the day’s activities and reduce your stress. But did you know that sleeping too much may be detrimental to health? Everyone's sleep needs are different, but you can talk with your doctor about how much sleep you should be getting and figure out a sleep routine.

Establishing a pattern, such as turning off any electronics and lowering the lights about 30 to 60 minutes prior to sleep, may help you rest better. Set an alarm to help you wake up at an appropriate time and feel more rested throughout the day. You might not like waking up to an alarm, but once you're getting the right amount of sleep, you may find that you wake up just before your alarm goes off. This is a sign that you're getting enough rest.

Meditate

Meditation is a way to take a break from the stresses of the day — whether it's from a job search, work, errands or something else — to focus on being calm. You may find that this is the mental break you need to bring more focus to your tasks.

Try this simple meditation exercise:

If you're able, sit comfortably in a dimly-lit room for about 5 minutes. Close your eyes and focus on your breathing. Try to slow and deepen your breaths so that each breath takes about 6-8 seconds from inhale to exhale. Rather than letting your mind wander to your to-do lists or your job, try focusing on where you feel the breath the most, when you inhale, in your chest and stomach, or as you exhale.

Eat well

We've seen many people add the hashtag #selfcare to images of large, decadent meals. But because self-care is taking care of your needs, opting for a large cheeseburger, fries and a slice of cake is probably not your best choice.

While it's not wrong to indulge every once in a while, making healthy choices is an important part of self-care. If you have a disability that affects your nutrition needs, talking with your doctor about what foods your diet should or shouldn't include can help you make good choices. A doctor can also help you determine foods that can reduce inflammation or increase energy levels. Knowing which foods will best nourish your body will help you make the best choices for yourself, which can be particularly important as you transition to a new job and your schedule changes.

Ask for help

Self-care isn't only about doing things yourself; often, it includes understanding your needs and whether you need help taking care of those needs. Take some time to consider what tasks you're currently facing and deciding whether and whom to ask for help.

For example, searching for work can be stressful, and Social Security's Ticket to Work (Ticket) program may be able to help you along the way. The Ticket program supports career development for people ages 18 through 64 who receive Social Security disability benefits (SSI or SSDI) and want to work. The Ticket program is free and voluntary. It helps people with disabilities move toward financial independence and connects them with the services and support they need to succeed in the workforce.

If you're in the process of looking for work, reaching out to a Ticket to Work service provider is the type of self-care that offers you the support and services you need to succeed. By asking for help with your job search, you may find that some stress associated with the task is alleviated as you work with people who can help you write and edit your resume, prepare for an interview or transition to the workplace.

Learn more

To learn more about the Ticket program, call the Ticket to Work Help Line at 1-866-968-7842 or 1-866-833-2967 (TTY) Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET. Ask a representative to send you a list of service providers or find providers on your own with the Ticket program Find Help tool.

Learn more

To learn more about the Ticket program, call the Ticket to Work Help Line at 1-866-968-7842 or 1-866-833-2967 (TTY) Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET. Ask a representative to send you a list of service providers or find providers on your own with the Ticket program Find Help tool.

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