Practical Self-Care Tips for Mental Illness

August 16, 2017 Mel Lee-Smith

Try some of these practical self-care tips on your worst mental health days. They're easy and soothing for times where you can't motivate yourself to take care.

Practical self-care tips are important not just for your mental health, but for your physical health as well, but they're harder to do on a tough mental health day. Many popular self-care routines involve taking care of, and often pampering, the body such as taking a bath, applying a face mask, drinking a cup of tea, or working out. However, these activities aren't always feasible for someone having a bad mental health day. Try these practical self-care tips on bad mental health days to rest and recharge.

Practical Self-Care Tips for Your Mental Health When You Just Don't Feel Like It

Take as many breaks as you need to

If you're trying to work or focus on an important task, take frequent breaks. Forcing yourself to work or study when you're on the verge of a panic attack or episode will only stress you out even more, and will detract from the quality of your work. Try the Pomodoro method when studying or working to ensure you take plenty of breaks.1

Listen to soothing music

When you can't face getting out of bed, put on some headphones and listen to something calming. Ambient and atmospheric music often works for me. Try to focus wholly on the melody to quiet your mind. Keep the music at a low to medium volume to avoid sensory overload.

Lie down and breathe

Sometimes, practicing good, practical self-care for your mental health just means giving yourself space to rest and breathe. Vietnamese monk and mindfulness teacher Thich Nhat Hanh has some useful tips for breathing properly. Draw a deep, silent breath through your nostrils. Pay attention to the way the air fills your lungs and causes your chest to rise. The breath should then follow through to your diaphragm, causing your stomach to rise. Hold the breath for a moment, then exhale slowly and silently. Although Nhat Hanh advises against lying down because of the temptation to fall asleep, you can lie down if it makes you feel more comfortable. After all, a short nap is a self-care activity in itself.

Color, doodle, or read

When I'm in a hyperemotional state because of my borderline personality disorder, using my hands is a great way to refocus my energy. You don't have to color a picture if you don't want to. I often color in the lines on a piece of lined paper or fill in the boxes on a sheet of graph paper.

Reading a book is another welcome distraction when I'm depressed. I recommend The Miracle of Mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hanh and The Happiness Trap by Russ Harris. Alternatively, you can snuggle up in bed with your favorite novel, comic book, or blog.

Practical self-care tips, although important, don't have to be complex or time-consuming. If you have a mental illness, you know you can't always practice many of the self-care tips that are popular on the Internet. The next time you have a bad mental health day, take five minutes and try these practical self-care tips to take care of your mental health.

What are your self-care tips for bad mental health days? Have you tried any of these self-care tips before? Share your experience in the comments.


1 The Pomodoro Technique: Is It Right for You?,, accessed August 16, 2017.

APA Reference
Lee-Smith, M. (2017, August 16). Practical Self-Care Tips for Mental Illness, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 23 from

Author: Mel Lee-Smith

Mel Lee-Smith is a freelance writer, blogger, and editor fuelled by a lifelong passion for language (and coffee). She writes because she wants to make a difference. Connect with her on her websiteTwitter, Facebook, Medium or Google+.

August, 19 2017 at 5:33 pm

Thanks for your suggestions, as well as the most important self care that many of us with major depressive disorder, anxiety, etc., may find hard to do that many cannot understand or fathom. The self care of our own bodies. Finding the energy when there is none for cleansing ourselves. I hate to admit it's one that gets left behind when I'm so depressed it's hard to eat right or even drink enough water. These are my worst times, and I've been in one now for weeks. It's so much harder when you live alone and have no family or friends that support you or believe when you tell them just how much you just need a friend to be with you at times. If for anything just to sit with you and talk. About anything or nothing. I have a dog that's my very best friend and without her I don't know where I'd be. She makes sure I'm up and makes sure that she keeps me on my toes when she can. I'm also going to give the Pomodoro Technique a try. Divorcing and being forced into moving to a much smaller place has left me living amongst clutter that I've not opened or put away since I've been here 5 years this month. It's been a HUGE drain on me emotionally and physically. I dread seeing it. I've gotten nowhere with it. I've had friends promise to help me time and time again. It's been FIVE years and I'm still not comfortable here and that's horrible in so many ways because I won't invite new friends over because I'm embarrassed. I've never lived this way. It's not filth, but it's mass confusion for me and it's visible to others. It's been the thing that's eating me alive. I'm starting this technique Monday morning and I certainly hope it helps me make a dent. If I van see progress I believe I can finish. But I have lots to go through. Memories. Bad and good. Those are tough. But I'm giving it my all. Thanks so much for this article and information.

August, 25 2017 at 7:35 am

Thanks for a great article. You're absolutely right about sometimes not being able to do the popular self-care tips that abound in the media. I really like your tips.

Dr Musli Ferati
February, 29 2020 at 12:02 am

Self-care presents primary approach to improving and to strengthen mental and physical wellness. When it comes to people with mental disorders, the need for self-care becomes even more pressing and indispensable. Therefore, it is advisable that psychiatric patients undertake and apply some psychophysical activities when treating their illness that would facilitate their psychiatric treatment. In this regard, your advice on overcoming the successes of psychic disorders and difficulties is a great and useful help, too. So we are dealing with a proactive and inventive approach to our mental disorder and that means actively counteracting the symptoms and complaints of the relevant psychiatric entity. The starting point in this sense should be the maintenance of personal hygiene, the maintenance of the environment in which we live and work, through communication, cooperation and interaction with persons in our natural environment. In addition, people with mental disabilities should have time off for rest, recreation and outdoor activities alone or with friends or relatives, fulfilling such boring hours and boring days. it goes without saying that all these psychomental activities should also be subject to the psychopharmacotherapeutic regimen under the supervision of the relevant clinical psychiatrist.

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