On Tuesday, I talked about the first steps of regaining and maintaining sanity while planning a wedding. Today, I’m sharing the basics of self care that any couple — and, honestly, any person — can follow to maintain beneficial, positive mental health. It’s a long list, so hang in there with me.
Because everyone is on a different point in their mental health journey, I’ll break this down into three levels. Start wherever you can and work toward the end of this list to develop healthy habits for your mental well-being.
take your medicine
Not everyone needs prescription medicine, daily vitamins, or over-the-counter allergy pills, but for those of us that do, the single most important thing to do every day is take your medicine. You’re on those pills, gel capsules, or chewable tablets for a reason. You’ll feel much more like yourself if you take them as prescribed.
drink water. a lot of water.
You’ve probably heard of the “eight cups of water every day” rule, but that is a rudimentary guideline and not easy to measure in real life. Instead, make it your goal to drink water every time you think about it. Carry a reusable water bottle with you everywhere (I do mean everywhere, in my case) to make this easier. Try to drink the whole bottle twice a day (three or four times for smaller bottles).
eat at least two meals a day
Your body and mind need energy to get through the day — and snacking, while providing some intake, isn’t enough. (Although you can make a meal out of combining several “snacks” — see below.) Even if you don’t have the time or energy to do a regular breakfast, lunch, and dinner schedule, make time to eat at least once before noon and once at the mid-day to evening time period.
Meals can be traditional like baked chicken or a Caesar salad, or they can be store-bought baby carrots with canned beans and a bag of popcorn. You can make a “snack meal” with a serving of nuts, some pretzels, celery sticks with ranch, and raisins (or similar combinations, you get the idea). If you’ve got the time but you’re bored with food, Pinterest and cooking blogs have endless recipes available to try. Whatever you eat, as long as you’re fitting in multiple food groups and getting enough calories, I count it as a win.
sleep at least six hours every night
All-nighters are nobody’s best friend. Staying up until 6 a.m. working on your favors, or even just binging Say Yes to the Dress or Queer Eye, is not doing you any favors. Ideally, you’d probably benefit most from eight hours of sleep, but six is a good starting goal for an adult. Those invitations will get done a lot faster with fewer typos when you’re working with a fully-functioning brain anyway.
shower regularly, and brush your teeth every day
Everyone’s hair and skin is different, so I won’t try to tell you how to maintain your body. This point is less about a set schedule and more about the principle: wash up and maintain good hygiene.
It may be tempting to just tie your hair up, spray on some dry shampoo and scented body spray, and hope that nobody stands too close to you on the subway. But you will feel so much better, physically and emotionally, if you carve out a few minutes — maybe even an hour — to clean yourself up and respect your own physical needs.
This is super important in the long term. Don’t take on more DIY projects than you have time to finish while being mindful of your other needs, like time for sleep. Space out your planning timeline so that you won’t be scrambling two weeks before the wedding to iron out the details with the baker while confirming arrangements with the florist while answering questions about bridesmaids’ hair. Teach yourself to feel comfortable saying no as needed when someone asks for your help, because your time is valuable and your primary responsibility is taking care of yourself.
make your bed
A clean, organized environment makes a huge difference for your mental health, and getting one task done can make you feel productive and give you the motivation to accomplish more tasks. So, to start your day, gain both of these boosts by making your bed.
eat three meals a day — and make at least two healthy
If you’re eating twice a day on the regular, it’s time to step it up. Make having breakfast, lunch, and dinner a part of your daily routine, even if the schedule changes every day. And make at least two of these daily meals healthier.
If you have a blender, you can replace morning Frosted Flakes with a homemade berry smoothie for just a few extra minutes (this is one I do a lot). Kale or spinach salads are popular for a reason; make a few at the beginning of the week to take to work for lunch. A crock pot full of chicken breasts, chicken broth, and a few spices and herbs with a pot of rice can give you a budget-friendly, super easy week’s worth of dinner (another of my favorites — I love switching the chicken out for turkey sometimes).
sleep on a regular schedule
Sleeping six to eight hours every day is a major accomplishment for many adults, so I applaud you if you’ve made it that far. To increase the mental health benefits, several studies and doctors recommend sleeping on a schedule. Try to go to bed every night and wake up every morning at roughly the same time, and make “sleeping in” days no more than an hour later than your normal schedule. (I’ll admit, I’m still working on this one.)
Ah, sunshine and fresh air: the most basic of mental “reset” buttons. Even if it’s just to check the mail, take out the trash, or walk to the bodega on the street corner, get out of your house or apartment every day.
Along with sleep and diet, exercise is one of the building blocks of a healthy mind and body. There are endless options here: walking, bike rides, boxing classes, swimming at the YMCA, Pilates or Zumba at a class or on YouTube, a gym membership, tennis at the park with a coworker. Right now, my exercise routine is Yoga with Adriene YouTube videos. She has guided routines ranging from seven to 45 minutes for every skill level.
take a break
Spend an hour without any TV, computer, tablet, or phone screens. Set aside one or two days every week with absolutely no wedding talk allowed. Take a day to let go of work, wedding planning, and housekeeping to recharge and enjoy your life. This won’t be an attainable task for everyone, but make an effort to have at least a few hours in your week when you can slow down and let go of modern life.
be a kid
The positive effect that play has on adults is surprising. You can gain a lot mentally and emotionally by reconnecting with your favorite childhood activity, like ice skating or jumping rope. Coloring books, sidewalk chalk, bubbles, and Play-Doh don’t have to be just for kids. Fun is good for the soul.
be with friends
Introverts may find social outings more stress-inducing than stress-reducing, but everyone needs other humans in their life sometimes. Have a friend over to watch a movie and drink tea, or go out clubbing for a night with your girl squad. However your friend group likes to be together, make time for the important people in your life — time that does not involve wedding dress shopping or venue visits.
clean your space
One of the most important elements of my mental health maintenance is a clean, organized environment. Very few things can stress me out more than a mountain of dishes, overflowing laundry hamper, and crowded closet. It’s in your best interest, as well as the best interest of anyone you might live with, to keep the dishes clean, laundry under control, bathroom sinks wiped down, and surfaces like desks and tables organized.
stimulate your mind
Your mental health is about more than just recharging the brain cells with food, sleep, and sunlight. Mentally stimulating activities are a big part of being human. Read a book, listen to a podcast, attend a speaker’s event in town, write in a journal, do a puzzle, paint, build a model plane — whatever keeps your attention engaged and passions alive, do that.
comfort and pamper
This is the fun “tumblr self care” bit. If you’re keeping up with the basics — medicine, diet, sleep, exercise, sunlight, a clean home — and you have the time, energy, and resources left over, it’s always fun to have a me-time spa night or book a massage. Bubble baths, mani/pedis, fuzzy pajamas, hot cups of tea — take some time to reward yourself for getting this far with your self care.
If these things just aren’t in reach for you, be it for lack of time, money, or energy, that’s okay. Pat yourself on the back for what you are doing and find some encouraging mantras online (I love The Latest Kate). You’re still doing the best you can for yourself, and that’s what matters.
take a trip
For the adults way up there on the self-care and life-in-general ladders, a vacation can benefit mental health. Book a hotel, a cabin, a cruise, an AirBnB, whatever suits your fancy. Use your paid time off and airline miles rewards to get away from life. I shall watch and envy you from afar.
So that’s my list! Do whatever you can on this list, and be proud of yourself for getting as far as you do. If you add even just one of these tasks to your self care routine, I’m already proud of you. You’ll get through this wedding planning process doing the best you can, and that’s amazing.
For further, more wedding-specific self care ideas, Coffee With Summer has a list that I love.