Canadians are always keeping one health problem or another in mind. June is brain injury awareness month, and last month we focused on a variety of problems from celiac disease to brain tumours. May also had a couple important health days and weeks for mental health awareness. Unfortunately, it can sometimes feel as though mental health is still a taboo topic in Canada, so we think it’s important to talk about the importance of self care whether it’s mental health week or not. While self care generally refers to both the body and the mind, today we’ll be focusing a little more on the mental aspects.
Process Your Emotions.
Whether you need to talk it out with your spouse, best friend, or therapist, or prefer to work through your emotions by yourself, it’s important to understand and process your feelings regularly. Some people love to write about what’s frustrating them; others prefer to run until they feel in control of their life again. It makes no difference whether you paint, slam dunk, or talk your feelings out. What matters is you spend a little time each day acknowledging your feelings and find a way to express them without anyone (including yourself!) getting hurt.
Eat well, Exercise, and Get Enough Sleep.
While we’re focusing on mental health, it’s impossible to entirely separate body from mind. In order to have a healthy psyche, you’re also going to have to take care of your body. We’re not saying it’s impossible to be happy and get the most out of life when you’re hungry or tired, but it’s definitely harder. Try to clock at least 8 hours of sleep each night. Stay away from highly processed foods, and eat a healthy diet rich in fiber, fruits, and vegetables. Finally, make sure to get a bit of exercise in each day. You don’t need to be running a marathon, but take a brisk walk or go for a bike ride every day.
Take Mental Health Days.
No one feels guilty taking a sick day when they’re bedridden (or worse bathroom-ridden!), try to be as kind to your mental health needs as you are to your physical health needs. Just like a broken arm needs a sling, high levels of anxiety might need a hot bath or a day curled up on the couch reading. If you’re a generally healthy person, dealing with a little anxiety or stress when it’s still a small problem can go a long ways to being a more productive and happier person when you go back to work tomorrow. If you suffer from chronic mental illness, things are going to be harder for you. Try to be kind to yourself. Depression isn’t any less real than two broken legs. If you really can’t function in the “real world” today, try to get out of bed, shower, and put on some fresh pyjamas. Own your mental health day. Turn a symptom into a decision to spend a day loving yourself.
Canadians are kind and selfless people. It’s why we’re so respected around the globe. We send financial support to those in need in other countries, we open our doors to strangers during states of emergency — just ask the citizens dealing with the recent Fort McMurray fire. Try to extend that kindness to yourself too. It’s not selfish or unprofessional to take a Me-day. It’s just an important part of self-care.