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· Article

6 Self-Care Methods to Boost Mental and Physical Health

· Article

6 Self-Care Methods to Boost Mental and Physical Healt

Therapist Erica Reed sometimes renders clients speechless with one simple question: What do you need right now?

“A lot of times, the clients who come to me don’t recognize they have needs and that those needs are important,” says Reed, a licensed clinical social worker and adjunct professor at Bowie State University in Maryland.

“When I ask them a simple question — ‘what do you need?’ — the response is usually crickets. They just can’t answer, because they rarely take time to check in with themselves and reflect on how they’re feeling.”

The answer usually involves self-care.

Elusive Self-Care

“Self-care is simply a conscious decision to give yourself whatever you need in this moment,” she says. “Whether you need to feel more relaxed, or more productive, or more energized, the first step is to check in and ask yourself what you need, and the second step is to allow yourself permission to experience that.”

Research shows that practicing self-care, however you define that practice, can reduce anxiety, depression, and other symptoms of poor mental and emotional health.

One 2018 study published in the journal BMC Medical Education found that medical students who participated in self-care strategies like adequate nutrition, physical activity, and others, reported decreased stress and a higher quality of life.

Self-care can also increase productivity.

“Our bodies are not made to be constantly on the go,” Reed says. “Our systems, like our brain and our heart rate, require rest in order to function. If we practice self-care, we’re able to have clear cognition, our thought process is clear, we have a better memory and concentration and we’re also more focused on goal achievement, which makes us more productive. We’re also not as scattered in our thought process, so we’re able to stay focused on tasks for a longer period of time.”

6 Effective Self-Care Methods to Boost Mental and Physical Health

Brown-haired and brown-eyed woman peeking from under sheets pulled up to nose.

1. Sleep

If you do nothing else, focus on getting quality sleep whenever you can. Sleep impacts your creativity, mood, patience, will-power, and physical and mental health. You spend one third of your life asleep. Your body wants and needs quality sleep. With 12 million people sleeping on a Sleep Number bed, and their smart beds earning 4.7 out of 5 star ratings, this is a change you can do with your eyes closed. (see what we did there? 😉 ) Where’s your nearest Sleep Number store?

Bowl of brightly-colored, chopped fresh vegetables for a salad. Healthy lifestyle. Brain food.

2. Eat healthy

Emotional eating or binge eating is often a sign we need to pay attention to what our bodies need, whether that’s less stress or more sleep. Eating well is an act of self-care, and it means you’re more likely to practice self-care in other areas too, Reed says. “If you’re running five miles a day, you’re less likely to go home and eat a gallon of ice cream.”

Sleep’s Superpower: When sleep-deprived, you’re more hungry and never quite satisfied with your meals or caloric intake. The result? You consume unnecessary calories which are usually empty calories — junk food. Caving in to temptations is a sure sign of poor sleep — including temptations like another piece of pie. Read more about junk sleep.

Backside view of woman in athletic clothes stretching arms outside near field and trees.

3. Exercise

“It all goes back to what you need,” Reed says, of using exercise as self-care. “I might just like to sit on my front porch and enjoy looking at the trees, or I might really feel a need to be outside and walk. Some people prefer to run and hike, it’s exhilarating for them.”

Sleep’s Superpower: Sleep Number® SleepIQ® sleepers who exercise daily are the most restful overall, and have the best SleepIQ scores and lowest heart rates. And, SleepIQ sleepers who exercise in the morning or afternoon receive the most restful sleep, compared to those who exercise in the evening. Even exercising just once a week is significantly related to increased sleep restfulness compared to not exercising regularly.*

Back view of kids with arms around each other oceanside.

4. Visualize what makes you happy

“Everyone has a memory that evokes an emotion,” Reed says. “If your last family vacation was very relaxing, then pull out a picture and immerse yourself in it momentarily to bring back that feeling of peace and relaxation. If you kicked butt at your last presentation and you want to re-experience that, recreate it for yourself to produce a desired feeling.”

Sleep’s Superpower: According to the National Sleep Foundation, a good night’s sleep can improve your memory. Sleep triggers changes in the brain that solidify memories—strengthening connections between brain cells and transferring information from one brain region to another.

Sharpened colored pencils on open notebook with coloring pages.

5. Color like a kid

Many of Reed’s clients practice self-care by settling in with a coloring book and pencils. “Adult coloring books allow you to block out everything else around you and just focus on what’s right there,” Reed says, which can provide a needed emotional break.

Sleep’s Superpower: Consider yourself creative, or want to be more creative? Consider these sleep routines of creative types.

Woman with eyes closed inhaling through nose.

6. Breathe

When her clients need a reset, Reed reminds them to just breathe. “When you’re going somewhere, you usually park and jump out of the car and run into the building. But if you sit there in the car for just two minutes, catch your breath, recenter yourself in the moment and be intentional about what you want to have happen next, you’ll have a much different mindset than if you just ran into the building,” she says.

Sleep’s Superpower: To relax and better manage stress, try this 4-7-8 breathing technique tonight in your bedtime routine, as shared in the free online Sleep30 Challenge by Sleep Number.

Graphic that includes images detailing 6 self-care tips including sleep, healthy eating, exercise, visualizing happy thoughts, coloring, and breathing.


Like diet and exercise, quality sleep is essential for optimal well-being and performance. Because everyone’s sleep needs are different, Sleep Number 360® smart beds, with SleepIQ® technology inside, sense your movements and automatically adjust firmness, comfort and support to keep you both sleeping comfortably. Find your Sleep Number® setting for your best possible night’s sleep.

*Based on SleepIQ® data from 1/1/19 to 1/31/19 and self-reported survey data (from a Sleep Number study) among SleepIQ® sleepers.


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