The summer season is a time for you and your family to get active and enjoy the beautiful, sunny days. For some, the summer comes with added mental health stressors due to changes in schedules, routines and social expectations. A solution can be to start with building a self-care routine into your lifestyle.
International Self-Care Day is July 24th. This day helps celebrate and raise awareness of building self-care into your year-round wellness routine. Not having an adequate self-care routine may cause us to feel overwhelmed and burnt out. In these moments, we must hit pause and remember what is most important – you. Regular self-care is essential to maintaining a healthy relationship with yourself. It means you’re playing an active role in taking care of your mind, body and soul by engaging with practices that promote well-being.
Jenna McLeod, Team Lead, Poul Hansen Family Centre for Depression at Toronto Western Hospital, UHN, shares her insights and techniques on how to incorporate self-care into your year-round routine and mental health.
Jenna McLeod, Team Lead, Poul Hansen Family Centre for Depression at Toronto Western Hospital, UHN
We started off by asking Jenna what International Self-Care Day means to her, “The day for me is a jumping off point, it’s an important day but it’s important to be thinking about our own self-care every day. I like to think of self-care in terms of what we do that nourishes us and what we do that depletes us. It’s the idea of putting your oxygen mask on before putting on someone else’s. You have to take care of yourself in order to do anything else.”
Make yourself a priority
We tend to prioritize the needs and wants of others before addressing our own. This people-pleasing habit may leave us feeling drained with little time and energy to do what’s important to us. Learning to say ‘no’ and placing your own needs and wants first will allow you to take time to do what you want to do and reflect on your own goals and values.
“You have to assess your own priorities and whether they match what your values are. This will allow you to set boundaries, help you to say no and be mindful of the things you are willing to let pass by. This will lead to more time to choose what things you want to do, and choosing things that nourish you and feed your soul. It really comes down to what’s important for each person and be in tune with your priorities and values to make choices that feed your wellness.” – Jenna
Take time for yourself
With our busy work, school and home lives, it can be difficult to carve out that “me time.” It’s vital to our well-being to establish boundaries with others and take time to do what we need for our own wellness, such as eat healthy, exercise regularly and sleep well. Taking time for yourself to recharge is an important step.
“Determine what you really want to do and carve out that time. This goes back to priorities and values and one thing I think gets lost is time with ourselves. We may plan to go to sit in a park and read a book and then our friend reaches out and asks us to go do something, and we say yes even though we had that date with ourselves. Time with ourselves is just as important as time with someone else.” – Jenna
Choose activities that nourish you
Summer allows us to take advantage of the warmer days and longer hours to plan activities with family, friends and most importantly—yourself. Taking time in your day to unwind and enjoy an activity of your choice will help reduce stress and restore clarity. This could be something as simple as going for a walk, reading or gardening. Participating in activities that bring you joy will help elevate your overall wellness and self-care.
“Summer can be a really busy time for people. Often times because there’s so many things going on and you have to make choices and determine what’s important for you. Some people can feel isolated and pressured to take advantage of summer activities. It is important to remember that just because it is summer, it does not mean that all our mental health challenges are solved. Remembering to keep assessing your priorities and needs because there are so many competing priorities at this time of year.” – Jenna
Expressing gratitude, even in small ways, not only helps build your relationship with those around you but contributes to a healthy and positive relationship with yourself. Practicing gratitude can involve showing your appreciation to someone who did something nice for you, keeping a gratitude journal or sharing with people in your life what they mean to you.
“Be grateful for the small things – they are really not that small! It’s important to look for and acknowledge those moments in our day that we’re grateful for. Whether it’s someone holding a door open for us, someone buys us a coffee, or a text message from someone that was really kind.” -Jenna
Take small steps
We’re more likely to achieve our personal goals when we implement smaller changes rather than larger, broader changes. Developing a plan and setting simple and realistic goals into your self-care routine can make you feel more productive towards meeting those attainable goals. Aim to be consistent in your goals or have a friend involved to hold you accountable. Remember, be kind to yourself in the process!
“It’s important to take an active role in your wellness and one way to do this is by being aware of what your needs are. It can be difficult to ask for help. Start with small actions and be consistent, acknowledge where you’re at to help you pick a place to start. I like the concept of being one per cent better, or doing one per cent more – it may seem small and can help you to move towards your personal wellness goals. It can also be important to acknowledge that we do not always have to do more or be better if we are feeling nourished – people often don’t give themselves credit for mental health maintenance.” -Jenna
Developing a year round self-care routine can make a difference to your overall health. UHN continues to integrate physical and mental health for a healthier world. Learn more about mental health at UHN, here.