photo credit - @djpulsemuscat
Being #proactive is something that I speak to in a majority of my #counselling sessions. So much of our #anxiety can be mitigated by being proactive as opposed to waiting and being reactive to the ‘what if’ questions that may come. Those ‘#whatif’ questions can be completely paralyzing and keep us not only from being proactive, but from truly being able to be present and life your life to its fullest.
We tend to avoid anything that will answer the what if question as it often feels safer to not have an answer than to find some finality either way. But truly, this keeps us in a place of #suffering as we sit and wait for the inevitable outcome to happen to us, rather than taking control and creating the outcome that we desire.
So, in the spirit of being proactive, I am writing this blog to highlight the importance of self care and how to start being proactive with our #selfcare as the seasons shift.
In my experience, I have noticed two times of year that people are less likely to seek #therapy; summer and the winter holiday season. The reasons for this, I believe, are that these are both times where the majority of people are surrounded by people they love, activities to keep them engaged, less #isolated (potentially) and excitement built around what these times of year mean. However, the flip side of this is that I have also seen a spike in individuals seeking therapy in September/October and January as life begins to return ‘back to normal’.
We begin to return to our old habits, we are spending less time outside, on holidays or with loved ones, and life takes a shift away from all of the fun things and times that we were doing previously. It makes complete sense and is also totally normal. Humans are creatures of habit and do therefore we can be very sensitive to changes in our environment, our #relationships, and ourselves. Often these changes are subtle and gradual and we do not notice that it may be affecting our mood until we are really noticing stronger symptoms of feeling depressed or #anxious. Often, at that point, we struggle to take the steps toward self-care as it feels challenging to do so and like a mountain to climb as opposed to a speed bump to navigate.
What is self-care?
A definition from psychcentral.com defines self-care as, ‘Self-care is any activity that we do deliberately in order to take care of our mental, emotional, and physical health.’
It really captures just about anything that we do for ourselves that improves our quality of life. An easy way I have learned to define self-care activities for myself is to think of the term: time flies. We have all experienced a time in our life when we are so engulfed with an activity we are engaged in, that time seemingly passes very quickly without us really noticing. What that tells us, is that we are being completely present in that moment and that we are allowing ourselves to not focus on anything other than the current activity. For some this could be #exercise, for others it could be reading, while for another it could mean writing in their #journal.
Self-care does not need to be extravagant in order for it to be effective either. I had a colleague that was trained in Heart Math. Heart Math is a company that has been around for over 20 years and has done extensive research on the heart/mind/body connection to health and #mentalhealth. That colleague explained to me (previous blog posting information alert) that if we can engage in a self-care activity for 5 minutes, 3 times a day, then we can start to change our every day normal benchmark level for anxiety that we are experiencing and shift our response from a trigger feeling like a mountain, to that of a speed bump.
With that being said, as the leaves begin to change colour and the days grow shorter and cooler, we have less ability to engage in the self-care activities that we were just a few short weeks ago, and that brings us to the main point of this posting, what will you do for your own self-care as the season shifts into winter?
Take some time for yourself and reflect on times when you have experienced the time flying phenomenon. Sit down with a piece of paper, your phone, tablet, etc and create a list. Jot down all of the times that you can recall in your life when you have been completely present in one moment and your mind wandered less and that time seemed to pass easily without you noticing it. You now have a list of your own personalized self-care activities.
Now, look over your list and look for which activities are dependent on the season or time of year. You may find that some are, while you may be surprised that many really are not, or could be modified simply to be adapted to any time of year.
If you go over your list and think, ‘these are all seasonal activities that I do when it is warmer out,’ then take a different approach and try to look at the themes that you are noticing. For example, maybe your list has, going to the beach with friends, trying a new restaurant with someone, enjoying time on a patio, and ultimate frisbee. A common denominator among these activities is that they all contain an element of being with other people and socializing. You now have information that being social is an important part of your self-care and your own mental wellness. This makes sense when we think about how when we have symptoms of low mood or depressive feelings, we often isolate and then we can feel those symptoms increase; it can be chicken and egg at some point.
You have the information now that being social is a key component of your own self-care, but that the ways that you were engaging in this are now more challenging as the weather has turned. What other opportunities do you have available to you, that you enjoy, and that would include a social component for you that do not require a temperature of 20 degrees Celsius at a minimum? Do you enjoy the museum? How about skiing or snowshoeing? Are there new restaurants or spots in your neighbourhood that you have not tried and do not require a trek across the city in the snow? The possibilities are truly endless and if you are reading this and living in Toronto, or another major Canadian city like myself, the sky truly is the limit.
I recall being a child and my parents would have dinner parties often and some of them included a murder mystery game. I think back to those evenings when their friends would arrive dressed and assuming the characters that had been assigned to them. My parents would greet them and often my dad would be cooking up a storm in the kitchen. Their friends’ children would come over and we would be playing our own board games in the family room while listening to the group of adults laughing and enjoying themselves tremendously. I remember looking forward to adulthood when I could participate myself. It was a small thing that they did, but they found a way for themselves and their friends to connect and enjoy themselves socially during the cold winter months. I grew up in a small town in BC and so it meant that people would have to drive to our home, but it also negated the fact that nothing was open after 5 pm as well.
So, taking the advice above and identifying what your themes for being kind to yourself and engaging in mental wellness, how does your self care change with the seasons?