Critical life skills for mental health self-care

Dr Chido Rwafa-Madzvamutse
Consultant Psychiatrist

As discussed in previous articles, mental health is defined as a state of well-being in which an individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a meaningful contribution to their community.

Self-care of our psychological and emotional health is a critical part of maintaining our mental and physical wellbeing.

Self-care is the practice of taking an active role in protecting one’s own well-being, particularly during periods of stress.

Critical skills in maintaining mental wellbeing

Mental wellbeing is influenced by the extent of our self-awareness; our ability to accept ourselves; our relationship building skills; our sense of purpose and meaning in life; our ability to continue learning and growing mentally and emotionally as well as our ability to influence our external environment.


An awareness of one’s thoughts, emotions and the beliefs and reasons behind our behaviours is a critical skill in maintaining mental wellbeing. Are you able to identify when you are getting stressed or upset? Are you aware of the thoughts or patterns of thoughts that can affect your state of mind? Are you aware of how you behave when you are stressed and how this behaviour affects others?


Our relationship with ourselves and our attitude towards ourselves are critical to maintaining mental wellbeing. Do you like yourself? How do you feel about your weaknesses and failures? Do you feel like you are likeable or lovable?

 Relationship building skills

Our ability to connect with others and build lasting relationships will help in building a social support network around us which is critical in maintaining mental wellbeing. Do you have friends that you can be open and honest with? Do you find it difficult to be vulnerable with others enough to form meaningful relationships? How does your behaviour affect others? How well do you read the emotions of others and respond appropriately?

Purpose in life

Having a sense of purpose and meaning in life is mentally protective. A sense of purpose shapes what we think, how we feel about ourselves; how we respond to challenges and stressors in life. Who are you and what is the purpose of your life? What is the vision you have for your life? What are your hopes and dreams? Do you sometimes struggle to maintain a sense of direction for your life? What gives your life meaning?

Continued personal growth

Growth is a sign of life and personal growth and self-improvement is critical in maintaining mental wellbeing. If we are to reach our full potential we must continue to grow and learn and develop. Do you feel stagnant in your life? Are you struggling to make progress in your life or have you stopped growing and improving yourself? When did you last learn something new? Are you still teachable?

How can critical mental health self-care skills help to improve mental wellbeing in our society?

  1. Training of parents or parents to be in mental health self-care could help parents manage the stress of raising children better and create psychologically safe families and homes.
  2. Inclusion of mental health awareness and mental health self-care in school programmes and psychosocial skills development to help build psychological resilience in young people from as early as possible.
  3. Workplace mental health training focusing on mental health self-care and building psychological resilience to promote mental wellbeing which can in turn improve productivity and efficiency at work.

If you or someone that you know may be struggling with a mental health condition, please contact your nearest healthcare provider and get help.

The article was written by consultant psychiatrist Dr Chido Rwafa Madzvamutse for the Association of Healthcare Funders of Zimbabwe (AHFoZ). For Feedback: Dr Chido Rwafa Madzvamutse Whatsapp+263714987729) (; [email protected])


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