30 No BS Self-Care Ideas for Bad Mental Health Days

30 No BS Self-Care Ideas for Bad Mental Health Days

Self-Care Ideas have turned into a phenomenon of bubble baths and face masks. Tips like ‘Sleep more’ or ‘Stop worrying so much’ plague the world of self-help. But, there’s so much more to self-care than these things.

Self-care is a system of things that you do for yourself that positively impact your mental, emotional, and physical health.

There’s nothing wrong with doing those things for self-care. But, ask anyone who’s dealt with serious mental health conditions and they’ll tell you that there is so much more to all of it than ‘stopping worrying.’ Trust me, we would stop worrying if we could.

Today, I’m going to share 30 no BS self-care ideas that I use regularly to enhance my mental health. And seriously, I practice every single thing on this list and they’ve helped me gain some control over this chaotic existence we call life.

30 No BS self-care ideas pinterest graphic.

Okay, first things first, there is no reason for this list to be in any order. Depending on a variety of factors, the hierarchy of your self-care practices will change. (Honestly, the only reason I numbered this article was so that I would know how many ideas I have, lol.)

1. Yoga for Anxiety

2019 has taught me why yoga is essential for everyone. As someone who struggles with a lot of anxiety, it calms me down and helps me spend time on myself.

Focusing on breathing while doing yoga poses is the best way for me to calm down from a panic attack.

I’m not joking at all, yoga has changed my life for the better. It’s enabled me to reconnect with my body and be aware of different muscles and my breathing. It teaches me to persevere through pain and the importance of quieting my mind.

Go more in Depth: Yoga for Anxiety and Depression – Harvard Health Publishing

2. Journaling is One of the Most Enlightening Self-Care Ideas

Okay, journaling is one of the more basic self-care ideas. But that’s because it’s invaluable for your mental health.

I started journaling my emotions, thoughts and feelings when I was a child. (Literally. I have journals that date back to when I was 6!) Throughout the years, it has helped me grow as a person and a writer.

However, not everyone naturally expresses their emotions through writing. Take some time and explore how you express emotions. Whether through drawing, painting, talking, sculpting, dancing, or some other way. You do you, boo.

a picture of pink flowers that has one of the best self-care ideas on it: 'Say 'no' often.'

3. Exercise

Exercise is probably one of the most quoted tips for dealing with a variety of mental struggles but that’s because it has countless benefits. Those benefits include your mental and physical health.

Over the years, I’ve learned that to find a sustainable exercise routine, you have to enjoy how you exercise. Recently, my favorite kinds of exercise have been long walks, bike rides, and yoga. Getting out in nature helps me ground myself and get out of my head.

Often I’ll listen to podcasts, call a friend, listen to music, or enjoy the beauty of the world while I walk. I particularly love going on walks while I’m on phone calls because you forget that you’re exercising. The other day, I went on a 6-mile walk without trying because I was so engrossed in conversation.

Go more in Depth: Exercise Increases Brain Size, New Research Finds – Science Daily

4. Nature

For me, going outside is one of my favorite self-care ideas. I’m not exactly sure why. Perhaps it has to do with getting out of the house. Or, maybe it’s because it reminds me how big this planet is and how small my problems are. Like, there’s over 7 BILLION people who live on this planet.

5. Research

This is one of the weirdest things to put on a list of self-care ideas. Most people’s self-care lists include things like bubble baths and deep breathing. But that’s beside the point.

I believe that research is part of self-care because understanding your problems is the first step to conquering them. Okay, that sounds snobbish and like I’m writing a research paper. But it’s true. Once you understand the problems you’re facing, you can learn ways to cope with them and hopefully overcome them.

It’s like people always say, ‘The first step to recovery is acknowledging that you have a problem.” But, you can’t really acknowledge your problem if you don’t understand what your problem even is.

I’ve spent hours reading articles and books, listening to podcasts, and watching videos about mental illnesses. And, it’s helped me to understand my struggles.

6. Healthy Eating

Taking care of your mental health has been a huge conversation lately. But over the past few years, I’ve learned how important it is to take care of both your physical and mental health.

Fun fact, the majority of the chemicals that control your emotions are created in your intestines. This is why food can have such a drastic effect on our mood.

When you’re having bad mental health days it’s hard to put effort into taking care of your body. That’s why healthy eating is an important self-care practice.

7. Limit Caffeine

As a self-proclaimed caffeine addict, I’m only too aware of the terrible effects it can have on my mental health. Thanks to the years of addiction to it, it doesn’t affect me too bad, most of the time. Unless, I’m already having an anxiety attack.

It’s important to be aware of the side effects of caffeine and how they can impact your physical and mental health. For example, drinking too much caffeine or drinking it too late can impact your sleep. And we all know that sleep is very important.

Go more in Depth: Coffee Myth-Busting: Cup of Joe May Help Hydration and Memory – NPR

nature pictures with the words 'humans are basically houseplants with complicated emotions' below them

8. Drink Water

Staying hydrated is key to being healthy. Ask any smart science person. Humans are like 90% water.

We’re basically houseplants with complicated emotions.

It’s easy to get consumed by things and forget to do simple self-care ideas like drinking enough water.

Go more in Depth: Dehydration Influences Mood, Cognition – Psych Central

9. Breathing is One of the Foundational Self-Care Ideas

Life tends to move at an incredibly fast pace, which causes us to take time to sit and focus on the simpler things of life. Like breathing.

I’m always surprised by how easy it is to forget to just focus on the simple act of breathing.

As I mentioned earlier in this article, my favorite way to focus on my breathing is to focus on it while doing yoga. I’ll breathe deeply while I’m doing each pose and hold the pose for 5 breaths. It’s amazing how calming and relaxing this simple practice can be.

Go more in Depth: Decrease Stress by Using Your Breath – Mayo Clinic

10. Reading or Just Escapism in General

Escapism is my favorite way of dealing with my mental health. Maybe not the healthiest coping mechanism but it works pretty well most of the time.

Literature is a wonderful way to indulge in it. Recently, I read an entire book in 24 hours and it was liberating. Yeah, I’m really good at the whole ‘Forgetting to practice self-care until I desperately need it’ thing. That’s why, every so often I have to take a ‘mental health day’ and lose myself in literature or podcasts.

Picture of a moth that says, 'The smallest parts of life often have the most meaning as we age' below it

11. Routines

Being aware of what’s happening next enables you to have lower stress levels.

Over the years, I’ve learned how helpful a simple a morning routine can be for my mental health. Having a routine you do every morning can help you have a good day.

On the other hand, spontaneity is something you should work on dealing with too. As someone who prefers to have 5-7 business days to decide if I want to do something. Spontaneity can be very difficult for me. But, apparently it’s essential for being a functioning human being.

Go more in Depth: The Power of Routines in Your Mental Health – Psychology Today

12. Simplicity

Simplifying your life also leads to lower stress levels.

I’m too good at going all-in on everything. My brain functions at either 150% or 0% with no in-between. If I’m going to put effort into something, I’m going to go all the way with it. (That’s why most of my blog posts are over 1,000 words long. Oops)

Recently, I’ve worked hard to simplify my life and let go of things that aren’t a positive addition to my life.

13. Organization

Organization also lowers stress levels. Trust me. You don’t have to worry (as much) about forgetting this or losing that when you’re decently organized.

I am simultaneously an organized and disorganized person. I guess you could say that I live in organized chaos. As a perfectionist, I have the mentality of ‘if something is worth doing, it’s worth doing well’. This leads me to purposely not organize stuff until I can go all in.

Taking the time to put your stuff away will lower your stress. But if you don’t have time, the piles of organized chaos can help keep your stress levels semi-normal. (pffft, who am I to talk about normalcy? It’s definitely something I’ve never attained.)

Go more in Depth: Americans are Obsessed with Tidying Up. But There’s a Downside to Being Organized – Time

picture of heather playing the guitar. In a box on the picture it says, 'normalcy is something I've never attained.'

14. Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

As a highly sensitive and anxious person, I find it easy to get caught up in the little things. Removing unrewarding things from your life will help you manage your life.

I try to live my life by this motto: “If it won’t matter in 5 years, don’t spend more than 5 minutes stressing about it.” (Along with 17,000 other mottoes… What can I say? I’m an all or nothing type of person.)

It’s so easy to stress about stuff that doesn’t ultimately matter. Work on developing the hierarchy of your life’s priorities. And maybe one day you’ll be able to say that you have it all together. (I don’t think I’ll ever reach that day but it’s fun to imagine.)

15. Another Great Self-Care Idea is to Find your Optimal Environment

Okay, this isn’t exactly a normal self-care idea. But having a gratifying work relationship is crucial for your mental health.

Conversations about productivity tend to center around the habits we’re trying to form. Yet, they often neglect to consider how our environment affects our productivity levels.

Human curiosity is something few people take into consideration when talking about productivity. Humans simultaneously need predictability and stimulation to work effectively.

I’ve found that if I can’t seem to concentrate on my work, changing where I’m working helps my productivity levels. Even if I just sit on the other side of my room. There’s something about novelty that makes it easier to focus.

16. Dance it Out

Ask anyone who knows me and they will tell you that I can not dance. (Seriously. I have no rhythm and my favorite ‘move’ is calf raises.) But that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy trying to.

It’s so freeing and therapeutic to move your body to the beat of music.

Go more in Depth: Dancing and the Brain – Harvard Medical School

17. Art/Creative Expression

Expressing yourself through art is incredible for your mental health. Spend time with different types of art and find what helps you to express yourself.
Some different mediums to express yourself through are:

  • Cinematography
  • Photography
  • Collaging your feelings
  • Drawing
  • Singing
  • Language – Find fun words that express your emotions
  • Painting
  • Write a story about what you’re feeling
  • Express yourself through Fashion
  • Sculpting
  • Cooking
  • Play with makeup
  • Baking
  • Poetry
  • Associate your emotions with colors
  • Find colors that express the range of your emotions/feelings
  • Writing
  • Dancing
  • Or pretty much anything else.

As a creative person, finding ways to express myself continues to be a life long journey.

Go more in Depth: Creativity as a Wellness Practice – Psychology Today

a picture of a cardinal in a tree above a picture of pink flowers. In between the pictures of a quote about self-care ideas.

18. Find Things that Bring You Joy

What are some small things that make you happy to collect or do? Maybe you love going for walks in the city. Or siting in a cafe and people watching. Do you love collecting beautiful flowers or rocks? Or postcards? Find small things that don’t cost a lot of money but bring you some happiness in this travesty that we call life

I love collecting books. As a child, books were my way of escaping to interesting places. My book collection started when I was 9 with 5 books, now 11 years later I have over 150 books. (I’m yet to read all of them but I’ll get there someday.)

19. Find Ways to Be Social

I talk a lot about the fact that I am extremely introverted. (I mean, last time I took the MBTI I scored 96% introverted). Because of that, I struggle to be social. (It’s just more fun to lock myself in my room, listen to rock music and write for hours.) But, over the years I’ve come to learn a few key things:

  • Friendships are vital to a healthy mental state
  • No man is an island
  • We all need people
  • YouTube doesn’t count as human interaction
  • People will think you’re crazy if you start talking to stuffed animals

20. Animals are one of the Perfect Self-Care Ideas for Various Mental Disorders

I currently do not have any pets. But I love taking care of other people’s animals. My sister has cats who I adore hanging out with. And, I do a lot of dog sitting for neighbors.

If you have pets, spend some time with them when your mental health is lower, it’s amazing how helpful they can be.

Go more in Depth: Pets Help People Manage the Pain of Serious Mental Illness – NPR

21. Have a Purpose

This can be a hit or miss self-care idea. Sometimes people can take this too far. You don’t have to have a big purpose for your life. But having something that gives you a reason to get out of bed and take care of yourself can do wonders for your mental health.

Heck, your “purpose” for getting out of bed can be as simple as getting to make coffee or read a book. The smallest parts of life often have the most meaning as we age.

on of the best self-care ideas is written on a turquoise heart: 'Your purpose for getting out of bed can be as simple as getting to make coffee or read a book'

22. Therapy

Seriously, therapy can change your life.

I started therapy a few months ago and it’s been incredible. I’ve learned so much about myself and I’ve started to heal from a lot of pain I’ve held onto for far too long. Everyone should go to therapy at some point in their lives. The world would be a pretty neat place if we did.

23. Mood Tracking is a Necessity for any list of Self-Care Ideas

Tracking your moods and assigning colors to their severity makes you aware of what you’re feeling and when you’re feeling it. When you understand those two things, you can start to learn why you feel the way that you do.

Being aware of your mood fluctuations can help you find words to describe what those moods feel like. Having different colors for different moods helps me to identify when I’m having a really bad day versus a not so great day.

I started trying to track my moods at the beginning of 2019 with a chart in my bullet journal. Now, I use an app on my phone called ‘Daylio’ to track them. (Mostly cause I got lazy and forgot my moods too easily.)

Go more in Depth: The Benefits of Mood Tracking – Project Stay Alive

24. Playing with a Fidget cube

Having something to occupy my hands when I’m in stressful situations is a very small but extremely useful self-care idea. I am a fidgety person. I constantly move and need to be doing something with my hands to focus.

Some days, I use a fidget cube to occupy my hands or I’ll use a pendant necklace. It’s amazing how helpful having something to do with your hands can be.

25. Sleep is Fundamental to All Self-Care Ideas

Sleep is so freaking essential for being a functioning human being.

We humans, love to be prideful about how little sleep we get and how messed up our sleep schedules are. But we all need to prioritize sleep or we won’t be able to take care of ourselves. (Lol, who am I to talk about good sleep hygiene? I’ve never had it. We love insomnia.)

Sleep is especially important for people with mental illnesses that affect your moods. It’s been scientifically proven that not getting enough sleep can cause a drastic mood shift.

Go more in Depth: Sleep and Mental Health – Harvard Health

26. It’s okay to say No

From the time we’re toddlers, we’re taught to be respectful of other human beings. But sometimes it takes us a long time to be able to show that same respect to ourselves.

Remember, you’re worthy of showing yourself the same respect you give everyone else. It’s okay to say ‘no’ when you need to.

'Remember, you're worthy of showing yourself the same respect that you give to everyone else.' is printed on top of a picture of leaves. This is one of the most rewarding self-care ideas

27. Listening to Podcasts and/or Audiobooks is One of the Leading Self-Care Ideas

This could fall under the research or just escapism part of self-care. But distracting yourself with an audible medium can be especially helpful when you’re having bad days. Because it’s almost like having a conversation that you don’t have to participate in.

I joke that I have a podcast for every mood because I listen to so many of them.

28. Personal Hygiene

Sometimes personal hygiene is taking a bubble bath and sometimes it’s changing out of the PJs you’ve been wearing for 3 days. Everyone is at different places with their mental health, and that’s okay.

If you’re having a bad day, try taking care of your physical body and show it some love. You deserves it.

Picture of a pink flower that shares a few self-care ideas underneath it.

29. Crying/Feeling Emotions is one of the Finest Self-Care Ideas

Negative emotions do not exist.

Emotions are just information. They let us know what’s going on inside of us. If we suppress them, our relationship with them and with ourselves worsens. (Trust me, as a chronic emotions suppressor, I know this too well.)

As someone who is too good at suppressing emotions. (I really gotta work on that.) Allowing myself to feel those emotions and cry when I need to is often one of the best self-care ideas.

30. Social media / Internet breaks

When you’re in a not so great headspace, social media can often put you into a worse mood. That’s why it’s important to be self-aware of how you’re feeling and how your internet hobbies are affecting your mood.

Step back from social media or the internet entirely if it’s affecting you too much. Reconnecting with nature, literature, or other humans often helps our mental health more than the internet.

In conclusion

Life is complicated but taking care of yourself makes it a lot easier to bear. To recap the self-care ideas:

  1. yoga
  2. journaling
  3. exercise
  4. nature
  5. research
  6. healthy eating
  7. limit caffeine
  8. drink water
  9. breathing
  10. reading
  11. routines
  12. simplicity
  13. organization
  14. don’t sweat the small stuff
  15. find your optimal environment
  16. dance it out
  17. art/creative expression
  18. find things that bring you joy
  19. find ways to be social
  20. animals
  21. have a purpose
  22. therapy
  23. mood tracking
  24. fidget cube / necklace
  25. sleep
  26. it’s okay to say no
  27. podcasts / audiobooks
  28. personal hygiene
  29. crying/feeling emotions
  30. social media/internet breaks

That’s all folks!

Just kidding.

Remember, life is hard. But this will pass. It might pass like a kidney stone, but it will pass.

Picture of bee on a flower with a quote above it's head.

Everyone goes through difficult times, but that doesn’t make your pain hurt any less.

It’s okay to not be okay.

Much love, Heather

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