Why Should I Bother with Self-Care in Mental Health Recovery?

February 13, 2011 Kate White

Self-Care. Mental health depends on it, but self-care can be something of a confronting word. As if implying I developed a mental illness because I didn't take responsibility for my mental health issues. That may sound like a stretch, but when my therapist says self-care in a tone that says "I can't believe you don't know how take care of yourself!", I feel a little guilty anyway.

Why Self-Care Matters To Mental Health Recovery

Self-care is about doing the things I routinely dismissed and/or ignored before I started the recovery process, because they went against all the principles trauma and anxiety taught me to uphold:

Don't bother. You're a nuisance. Don't take care of yourself, you're just looking for attention, making things a bigger deal than they really are, etc.

Part of anxiety recovery is being able to stop and check those kinds of anxious thoughts. Self-care gives me the fortitude to correct anxious thoughts and to do other things that are good for me. Self-care empowers me to recover.

What Self-Care For Mental Health Recovery Is and Isn't

Self-Care Isn't Babying Yourself

Self-care won't change who you are or spoil you, and it isn't about taking anything away from life as it is now. Self-care isn't selfish or self-indulgent. Self-care is making sure you have what you need to function healthfully. Self-care can't fix everything but it will make you feel better. More capable. Healthier.

Self-Care Is Anything That Promotes Your Resilience

Self-care is about making a change, doing something different from what you did to reinforce low self-esteem or negative thoughts. Or more simply, self-care is about being nice to yourself when you would have been mean to yourself in the past.

So, oftentimes, I behave as if I were already recovered from anxiety. Faking it 'til I make it has helped me a lot. My results lend credit to the positive thoughts therapists tell me to think. But it's not much use thinking positive thoughts if you never act on them.

Self-Care Teaches Me How To Handle Negative Thought Patterns

Negative thought patterns run on their own. They don't ever lose strength unless you step in to stop them. You can always find evidence to fit the pattern you already know because it's so familiar that you'll see it everywhere. It's a brain thing -- we're better at picking up patterns we're already familiar with and have a tendency to ignore/discard contrary evidence.

That's why I easily find myself anxious based on really old thoughts. They're powerful and strong because my brain has had 28 years to accumulate evidence that the thoughts are true. The negative thought patterns are there, but so are lots of other more positive patterns, if I look.

For example, if I can't stop thinking cruddy things about myself, it's fine. I can think other things alongside the cruddy things which adds a touch of balance to an otherwise overwhelming mix. And when I'm good at balancing, self-care will let me create new thought patterns that help me avoid all the bad thoughts.

And that's why self-care helps your mental health recovery.

APA Reference
White, K. (2011, February 13). Why Should I Bother with Self-Care in Mental Health Recovery?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 24 from

Author: Kate White

Dr Musli Ferati
February, 21 2011 at 6:24 am

An ancient Albanian proverb said: work for nothing but don't stay idle. This message is in concordance with your statement Ms White:-doing something that is generally good for mind and body changes my relationship to myself and to anxiety. In other words this mean to increase self-esteem by doing satisfactory deeds. As long as we determine our project in ourself imagination, the same we realize by activity. Otherwise, we should stay amazed and overwhelming by anxiety. It didn't must require a great pleasure, but delight in small and common things. This instruction, step by step would improve mental state that is affected by anxiety disorder. That is to say everyone that is tightfisted from anxiety should change its point of view in order to augment daily engagement. In parallel we would modify our perception about the reality, which mitigate our capacity of adaption in disturb circumstances.

Kate White
February, 15 2011 at 8:30 am

thanks Lissy =)

February, 14 2011 at 11:36 pm

excellent post. It's always practical support that you give

Leave a reply