By Aurélia Mir-Orefice, HEARTcare Project Research Assistant
Aurélia Mir-Orefice is an MSc student at the University of Calgary specializing in School and Child Psychology. Her graduate research focuses on the development of handwriting and vocabulary in elementary school children.
“The maintenance of your psychological and physical health can improve your overall well-being by taking active conscious steps to better your mental health.”Tweet
After going through the COVID-19 pandemic, taking care of one’s mental health has been put forth as a priority. There are several self-care strategies that can be used to support our mental health and avoid burnout, such as our other blog post “Building Back from Burnout”. However, these strategies should not be used as a “band-aid” solution to deeper problems. They should be maintained over time to feel better on a daily basis. For instance, including these strategies as part of your daily routine can help make these less effortful over time. The maintenance of your psychological and physical health can improve your overall well-being by taking active conscious steps to better your mental health.
These strategies are split into two categories:
Physical Health: It is much more difficult to maintain good mental health when we do not have good physical health. It is the building block for psychological well-being.
- Eating healthy: Providing your body with adequate nutrients will allow you to have enough energy to complete all the tasks you need to do in a day. This is important in avoiding burnout. This doesn’t however mean that you should avoid sweets completely, but rather they should complete an otherwise healthy diet.
- Exercising: Exercising has been proven time and time again to improve your mental health by helping you manage your stress and boost your mood. This can be as short as a quick 30-minute walk in the park. You can also include this in your daily life by choosing to walk instead of taking public transit or the car for reasonable distances.
- Fresh Air: Going outside and getting some fresh air can be beneficial. Leaving your usual stressful environment and exposing yourself to nature can allow you to relax. This can be as quick as walking your dog, or as long as going camping for the weekend. Find more information on the benefits of fresh air here: https://www.webmd.com/balance/ss/slideshow-health-benefits-nature
- Good Sleep: Just like eating healthy, getting a good night’s sleep is an important step in setting yourself up for success. This allows you to have enough energy to take on the day and avoid burnout. There are many helpful strategies to improve your sleep, such as staying on a regular sleep schedule, avoiding caffeine too late in the day, putting your phone and any other electronic devices away for the evening, etc. Find some more information from the CDC here: https://www.cdc.gov/sleep/about_sleep/sleep_hygiene.html
Psychological Health: Supporting your psychological health is another important aspect of your overall well-being.
- Social Support: Social support can look different for many. Spending time with loved ones, whether it is just talking or engaging in fun activities together, is a great way to improve your mood. Feeling supported and included by those around you is crucial. However, know your limits and do not let this drain you. Find more information on the impacts of poor social support here: https://www-ncbi-nlm-nih-gov.ezproxy.lib.ucalgary.ca/pmc/articles/PMC2921311/
- Setting Goals and Priorities: Setting goals and priorities can help you devote your energy to what matters and what is important to you. This can help you avoid feeling overwhelmed by helping you limit how much you do in a day. By prioritizing, it becomes easier to say “no” to less important tasks.
- Mindfulness: There are many ways to practice mindfulness. For some, this looks like meditation, for others, journaling. Being present and aware can help reduce those feelings of being overwhelmed. This is somewhat connected to gratitude and can help change the way you think over time. Find more information on how mindfulness can support you: https://www.apa.org/monitor/2012/07-08/ce-corner
- Gratitude: Engaging in gratitude practices, such as having a gratitude journal, can help you develop a more positive outlook on life. Appreciating the opportunities you have on a daily basis can support your motivation. Over time, this will become a habit and will no longer require the effort it takes to think about what we appreciate
While engaging in these strategies can be helpful when they are being sustained over time, these are not always enough to address bigger issues in one’s life. It is important to reach out and get professional help when facing a crisis, when feeling that these strategies are not enough, or when wanting additional support. You can read our other blog post “3 Tips in Choosing a Mental Health Professional For Therapy” for more information on how to get additional help.
For additional resources on general self-care tips you can integrate into your daily life: