9 Ways to Practice Self-Care During Mental Health Awareness Month

Self-care means taking actions to boost your mental, physical, and emotional health. It’s crucial for managing stress and enhancing well-being. Learn how self-care intertwines with Mental Health Awareness Month, its origins, goals, and practical self-care strategies to improve your life.

Tahara DeBarrows By Tahara DeBarrows, LMFT
Woman reflects while journaling.

Updated on May 29, 2024

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Self-care refers to different actions individuals engage in to help strengthen their mental, physical, and emotional health. Self-care can include behaviors such as prioritizing your needs, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, or setting healthy boundaries with others.

Practicing self-care is an excellent way to celebrate Mental Health Awareness month. Mental health self-care allows individuals a way to better cope with life stressors, encourage resilience, and help create and maintain positive interpersonal relationships.

Let’s take a look at the origins of Mental Health Awareness Month, along with core strategies to practice self-care and how therapy can support you along your journey.

Mental Health Awareness Month

Mental Health Awareness Month (MHAM) originated in the United States in 1949 and was initiated by Mental Health America, a community-based nonprofit organization. MHAM highlights the importance of supporting others facing challenges with mental health and advocating for these individuals with policies in mental health care that will prioritize their emotional well-being as well as their loved ones.

The goal of MHAM is to increase awareness, improve mental health, and reduce the stigma around individuals having mental health challenges. This month is significant because mental health professionals work to increase understanding of how mental health disorders, such as substance use, affect not only the person, but also their providers, family members, and our society at large. By delivering this knowledge, individuals are empowered to spread helpful accurate information to the public not just during the month, but throughout the year.

The Impact of Self-Care on Mental Health

Self-care practices, such as activities that improve your well-being, can lead to improved mental wellness. The benefits of self-care are significantly associated with psychological well-being. Self-care activities such as taking a warm bubble bath or hiking can be categorized as stress reduction techniques that are important for maintaining your emotional health. It’s fair to say that if stress is not reduced, it can lead to other mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and substance use. Having a daily self-care routine can help nourish your mind, body, and soul, leading you to feel happy, relaxed, or rejuvenated.

Core Self-Care Strategies

Physical Self-Care

Exercise Routines

Physical self-care refers to physical activities that are used to help maintain or improve someone’s physical health and well-being. For example, if you are interested in anxiety relief activities, yoga and tai chi, both rooted in Asian cultures, are proven to help relieve anxiety symptoms. Individuals experiencing depression might benefit from a daily self-care routine that includes regular exercise. Researchers have theorized that physical activity triggers a release of dopamine and serotonin, which can, in turn, improve mood.


Your mental well-being is also impacted by your nutrition. Having a balanced diet, increasing your awareness of portion control, and limiting sugary foods are ways you can practice physical self-care.  Furthermore, drinking an adequate amount of water and meal prepping your meals and snacks are also ways to practice self-care.


Judith Armstrong, a Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner and Grow Therapy provider, states, “Sleep is one of the most important self-care practices.” Maintaining healthy sleep hygiene is essential when prioritizing your physical self-care. It is recommended for adults to sleep at least 7-9 hours to avoid possible health issues. This amount of sleep is necessary to help with focusing on tasks and memory. Armstrong goes on to say that “it is important to establish a relaxing bedtime routine and create a sleep-friendly environment to improve the quality of your sleep.”

Emotional Self-Care

Mindfulness and Meditation

Mindfulness and meditation are self-care activities that can be used to help better manage and regulate emotions. Armstrong states, “These practices allow a person to focus on the present moment and improve overall well-being.” One Reddit user states in a forum on mental health, “I just sit in my car for 10 minutes when I get home from work.” During moments of mindfulness, individuals can increase their awareness of their bodies enabling them to better identify and understand thoughts, feelings, and triggers. Mindfulness and meditation promote an increased awareness of oneself and improved cognitive functioning.


Journaling is a therapeutic self-care activity that can help you better express and regulate emotions in a safe outlet.  Journaling can help individuals increase their self-awareness about possible patterns which can then lead to more personal growth. Through journaling, you can let go of any negative or unhelpful thoughts that are negatively impacting you.

Setting Boundaries

Setting healthy boundaries includes being assertive with others, communicating your wants and needs clearly, and being consistent. When you are communicating, use open body language and a clear tone. By developing self-awareness around your mental and emotional limits you are enforcing boundaries which will enhance your mental health.

Social Self-Care

Connecting with Others

Connecting with others plays a significant role in our mental health well-being. Humans prosper when they are interacting socially with others. The quality of a relationship can be increased when both parties have a healthy emotional connection. This includes open dialogue with others, sharing experiences, and engaging in social activities of interest. Once individuals are social they can reduce possible feelings of loneliness which can also improve their emotional well-being.

Seeking Support

Seeking support can help with alleviating feelings of being overwhelmed. Armstrong says, “Seek support when you need it. Whether talking with a friend, family member, or mental health professional,” Armstrong goes on to say, “it takes inner strength to ask for help.”

Recognizing when you need support, reaching out when necessary, and sharing your thoughts and feelings with others, are important when facing mental health challenges. Many communities even have warmlines (free hotlines run by people with mental health conditions) that you can call to talk to someone and receive peer support.

Digital Detox

It’s important to note the impact that some of the online content that we look at from day to day can have on our mental health. Taking a digital detox from social media or your smartphone can help with prioritizing time for things such as engaging with friends or pursuing hobbies.  Creating boundaries around your screen time can be making a rule to not use social media while spending time with loved ones.

Incorporating Self-Care into Your Routine

As stated before, prioritizing your self-care is important for your mental well-being. Armstrong states, “It’s important to prioritize your mental health and make self-care a regular part of your routine every day of the year.”

For individuals who have difficulty practicing a consistent routine, a self-care tip can be scheduling your self-care practices such as a 15-minute yoga session or a 30-minute book read, which can help with prioritization and consistency. Also, incorporating your self-care into your morning routine can be a way to increase accountability.

Building a Self-Care Plan

Building a self-care plan is a way to help incorporate self-care into your daily life. When building the plan it is important to identify your specific needs and activities that will get you more relaxed. A self-care plan can also include steps to take when you are feeling overwhelmed or experiencing symptoms of a mental health issue such as not getting enough sleep, low motivation, or irritability.

Maintaining Regular Self-Care

Common challenges with maintaining regular self-care can be believing that you don’t have enough time to incorporate it into your life. Thinking about the potential benefits of incorporating self-care can be a useful tactic when you are feeling discouraged by time limits. Another common challenge is assuming that you have to be a part of a certain socioeconomic status to practice self-care.  Self-care practices can include free activities such as breathing exercises, taking a warm bath, or listening to soothing music.

Therapy and Professional Support in Self-Care

Therapy can help you identify different thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that occur when you are experiencing difficulties such as stress or depression. A mental health professional can help you recognize different patterns so that you can develop self-care strategies to either disrupt or manage your struggles more effectively. Together, you and a therapist can create a treatment plan that includes coping skills such as mindfulness or interventions related to therapies that work to increase your resilience and better manage your mental health symptoms.

Types of Therapy Beneficial for Enhancing Self-Care

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) helps individuals with identifying and reframing patterns and behaviors that are maladaptive.  The interventions that are used help with restructuring your thinking patterns which leads to enhanced self-care. Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) is used with individuals who have challenges with regulating their emotions and managing interpersonal relationships. Mental health professionals use techniques based on mindfulness and skills training that deal with distress tolerance and emotional regulation.

When to Seek Professional Help

Sometimes self-care alone is not enough and treatment by a mental health professional is needed. The National Alliance on Mental Illness reports that 1 in 5 U.S. adults experience mental illness each year and only half of them receive treatment.

When you begin experiencing persistent symptoms that start to affect work, school, or home and self-care strategies seem ineffective, seeking professional help is recommended. Signs can include experiencing negative thoughts or negative behavior patterns, using substances to cope with emotional pain or avoid issues, isolating or withdrawing yourself from family and friends, and when your mental health issues affect your ability to function in a relationship.


  • Five ways to improve mental health are practicing self-care, having healthy food habits, exercising regularly, intentionally reducing stress in your day-to-day life, and engaging with supportive family and friends.

  • Five self-care strategies are practicing mindfulness and meditation, setting boundaries with others, engaging in hobbies, seeking support when needed, and developing skills to manage stress.

  • To celebrate self-care awareness month you can develop your own self-care plan, connect with others while engaging in a self-care activity, or increase your knowledge of self-care and what it entails.

  • Self-coping strategies for mental health can include mindfulness techniques, problem-solving skills, journaling, deep breathing techniques, and exercising.

About the author
Tahara DeBarrows Tahara DeBarrows, LMFT

Tahara DeBarrows is a licensed marriage and family therapist who specializes in writing on a diverse array of topics within the realm of mental health, with a particular focus on substance use, coping skills, and overall mental well-being. Her expertise extends to addressing the complexities of trauma, anxiety, attachment injuries, depression, and ADHD. Through her work, she aims to provide insightful, empathetic, and evidence-based perspectives to support individuals on their journeys to better mental health.

This article is not meant to be a replacement for medical advice. We recommend speaking with a therapist for personalized information about your mental health. If you don’t currently have a therapist, we can connect you with one who can offer support and address any questions or concerns. If you or your child is experiencing a medical emergency, is considering harming themselves or others, or is otherwise in imminent danger, you should dial 9-1-1 and/or go to the nearest emergency room.

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