Self-care, not Selfishness: The Mental Health Benefits of Focusing on You


There’s a mindset among many people that self-care amounts to selfishness. It’s a misunderstanding rooted in an ethos of self-sacrifice and hard work that drives many people to the brink of mental and physical exhaustion, raises stress to unhealthy levels and puts pressure on relationships. There’s nothing wrong with working hard, but it’s critically important to take care of yourself ... especially if you’re a hard worker. Taking time out for yourself helps keep your life in balance and your perspective in proportion.

If self-care makes you feel like you’re inconsiderate or not pulling your weight, try thinking of it as a healthful practice that can keep you active and effective at work and in your personal life. 

Self-care does not have to mean spending a lot of money on yourself, spending time away from your family, or being pointedly self-indulgent. It’s all about taking care of yourself in every way that matters. If you find going for a long walk relaxing, then you should do it as often as you can. It also includes getting enough sleep, reducing stress, not committing to too many responsibilities, and just taking time to decompress. Personalize your self-care routine by emphasizing activities that are most meaningful to you. 

If you tend to run down easily, then taking time to get extra sleep might be your greatest self-care need. If you have high blood pressure, exercise and relaxation may be your focus. Practicing effective self-care will help keep your life in balance. Avoiding activities that make you feel good can undermine self-confidence, sap your energy and negatively affect your performance at work. The sky’s the limit, so try something you know you’ll enjoy. 

A little ‘you time’

Even if you’re a normally sociable person, there’s a lot of value in spending a little time just doing something by yourself. There may be an activity you enjoy that others don’t. Maybe your weeks are just too busy to allow for reading a book over a good cup of coffee, or perhaps you’re an avid bike rider but don’t get to do it as often as you’d like. The important thing is not to dismiss the need to indulge yourself once in a while. Not paying attention to your own needs can have long-term costs, even if you’re not aware of how it may be affecting you. 

Try something new

Don’t be afraid to try something you’ve always wanted to but thought it’d just be a waste of valuable time. That’s a self-defeating mindset, and it means you need to rethink your priorities a bit. Have you always wondered about your ancestry? Why not do some digging and give genealogy a try? It’s one of the most popular hobbies on earth, and there’s an endless supply of free resources to help you get off to a good start. There are also many opportunities to take a class online, or even pursue a degree. If you have an interest in a particular subject, why not explore the possibility? 


Meditative disciplines can help calm your mind and reduce stress. Best of all, meditation doesn’t take a lot of time, and you can do it without investing a bunch of money. Take a yoga class, or learn the discipline of meditation. Many people focus on a mantra, repeating a word or phrase over and over. Find a room in your home, a quiet spot where you can meditate in peace and comfort. 

Self-care is an investment in your mental and physical well-being. If you can find a way to make it a priority, you’ll benefit mentally, physically and emotionally. You might even find a new passion that could transform your life.


Special Tips for Mental Wellness Month

Here are a few ways to help maintain your mental well-being:

Develop A Positive Attitude – Remember that YOU control your attitude. Tell yourself you can change. Check out online resources like THIS for tips to help you maintain a possitive attitude.
Learn Self-Appreciation – Focus on your strengths and try to change the way you feel about your weaknesses. Mistakes can be learning tools. HERE is a resource about how to develop self esteem.
Strengthen Mental Resilience – Resilience is the ability to bounce back from tough situations and to avoid becoming a victim of helplessness. Consider how every situation can be a learning experience. Learn more about improving your resilience HERE.
Laugh – You know the saying "laughter is the best medicine". It is also a great way to take care of your mental wellness and manage stress. Laughing has many positive health benefits. Learn how to introduce more laughter into your life HERE.
Develop Relationships – A support network is vital for your well-being. You need to have people that you can rely on to share experiences and help you cope with situations. HERE are some tips on developing several types of relationships.
Exercise Regularly – Being active can boost energy and release chemicals in the brain that fight mental fatigue. HERE are some tips on how to start and maintain an exercise routine. You can also try yoga and meditation which are great for mental wellness.

NAMI: Stigmatizing Media Portrayals: What Can We Do?

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By Emma Frankham

The media often reports on individuals with mental illness. However, little is known about how accurately the media portrays these individuals. Are journalists getting mental illness “right?” It seems the answer is no. I analyzed news reports about individuals with mental illness who were killed by police during 2015 and 2016 and found that these individuals were often stigmatized because of their mental illness. In 301 online news reports, I found 231 examples of stigmatizing language.

This stigmatization took a variety of forms. At times, journalists used the stigmatizing language. Other times, stigmatizing language was present in quotes from family members, community members or police. Here are some examples:

  • Using mental illness as the defining characteristic of an individual: “paranoid schizophrenic,” “alcoholic” or “drug addict.”
  • Describing people with mental illness as helpless with little chance of recovery.
  • Using derogatory language: “crazy,” “insane,” “mental,” “crazed,” “deranged,” “nut.”
  • Implying that suicide is caused by a single event—such as having a relationship problem or losing a job—not by mental illness.
  • Portraying violence as the norm for people with mental illness. (However, research has indicated that on average individuals with mental illness are not violent and that individuals with mental illness are more likely be victims of violence.)
  • Describing individuals with mental illness as “not normal” and “not mentally there.” This implies that there is a fundamental difference between individuals without mental illness (“normal”) and individuals with mental illness (“not normal”).

What Can We Do?
How journalists report on mental illness is crucial, because incorrect reporting can easily reinforce stereotypes and stigma in society. Research has indicated that people who are exposed to stigmatizing language are less accepting and supportive of people with mental illness. Research has also showed that stigmatizing mental illness can increase the likelihood that individuals experiencing symptoms will delay or avoid treatment.

If you notice derogatory and stigmatizing language in the media, contact the news station or journalist to let them know. Highlight the language you felt was stigmatizing and explain why it’s important they not use this type of language. Then suggest other language they can use instead. In doing this, you are helping to stop the spread of stigma on a large stage.

You can also help on a smaller stage, in your daily life, by becoming more aware of how you speak about mental illness and encouraging others to do the same. For example, if a person uses the phrase “a mentally ill person” you could instead use the phrase “a person with mental illness” to reflect that mental illness is not the defining characteristic of that person.

You could also pose questions to encourage anyone who uses stigmatizing language to reflect on the language that they use. For example, “What did you mean when you said ‘psychotic’?” or “Can you explain what you meant by saying ‘She’s so bipolar’?”

If you feel comfortable being more direct, you could suggest more appropriate ways of talking about mental illness. For example, if someone uses the term “nuts” to describe a person with mental illness, you could explain why that word is derogatory and instead suggest they say, “a person with mental illness.”

Stigmatizing language takes a variety of forms in our lives. Unfortunately, journalists often don’t get it right when they need to the most. Whether it’s describing a person with mental illness as “crazy” or portraying violence as the norm for people with mental illness, this is not the message that should be sent to the public. These individuals deserve better.

Safe Space Personal Story: Khali Raymond


Living with Asperger's is not an easy feat. It never is. Imagine yourself in a room full of people. All of those people are laughing and mingling. Meanwhile, you aren’t. You’re sitting there in the corner all alone, watching everyone make nice with each other. Nobody even acknowledges that you’re there. You just sit there, crushed from the inside. You have trouble expressing yourself because you don’t know how to. Your fear of being rejected eats you up. Your fear or feeling inadequate to others eats you up. As you’re living with this disorder, those whom you’re around can’t understand your pain. You’re constantly feeling glum and angry. You feel as if this condition drags you into an abyss, an abyss that leads you to a point of no return.

I have this feeling. Growing up, I could never fit in with others. As a kid, I couldn’t look an adult in the eye. I never had the capacity to. There was just something about looking at another person that made me feel very uncomfortable. In social situations, my heart would pound very fast. I would tend to get nervous. I would always be the one that got left out because I couldn’t relate to the other children. Being bullied didn’t help curb my condition, it only worsened it. Every day, I would walk around and get laughed at. I would be humiliated every day. I would be made fun of because of the way I talked, walked, and looked. Imagine trying to answer a question in class and the kids would mock you. Every word you would say, they’d make this expression, trying to take the words from out of your mouth.

As I was around my family, they couldn’t relate to my condition either. I constantly sent them cries for help and they just rejected me. Nobody listened. This only made me feel even more depressed. The bullying in school got so bad that I nearly tried to kill myself at the age of eleven. I was going to leap from out of my bedroom window, but my mom stopped me in the process. I would use writing as my means to communicate. I loved to write. Whenever I was in class, I would be the first person to get up and share what I’ve written with the class. I impressed my teachers with my impeccable writing abilities. My creativity was amplified. There was nothing limiting it.

But, that didn’t mean my issues with my low self-esteem and my inability to become proactive in social situations waned. The kids would call me all sorts of demeaning names, such as retarded, stupid, and many more. I lost my father when I was just a year old, and his loss alone has had a grave impact on how I grew up. As a black man, growing up without a father—that’s not easy.

My father was a very outgoing guy. Everyone loved him. You would never be able to tell if he was sad. He was so resilient. Everyone tells me I look like him so much, but I’m his complete opposite. I’m not as outgoing as he was. I’m reclusive and shy. I don’t open up too much. These issues with bullying and my bout with Asperger’s did not cease. At the age of fourteen, I was booked into a mental hospital. They had me on medications for a while. I ceased taking them in 2013. None of that helped.

Once I got to high school, I began to give up hope. I felt like there was no haven for a guy like me. I carried all this baggage. I bared all these wounds. Nobody could understand what I had to go through. But, I didn’t stop writing. I let my talent weather the storm. I let the arts influence me. Writing was my only escape. It was the only place I could go and not be judged or harassed. Little did I know—this escape pushed me to write my first book at the age of fifteen. On October 26th 2014, I published The Ballad of Sidney Hill. That book marked my coming of age and how much I’ve matured.

That was living proof that I wasn’t going to let a mental disorder define me. They told me that I wouldn’t be able to function once I got to high school. All these specialists who remained doubtful of my growth, because of my condition—I proved them wrong. Fast forward to now, I have written forty books. I am now attending Berkeley College in Newark, New Jersey. I have a message for you all. Never let your circumstances define who you are. You can be anything!