Six Tips for Self-care this Spring
We all have days where we just don’t feel like ourselves and any task can seem overwhelming or impossible to achieve. For people who have physical challenges, these situations can wreak havoc on our mental state leaving us feeling depressed and isolated. Now that Spring has arrived and people are coming out of hibernation from the long winter months excited to be outside, it's a good time to think about how to improve our mental health through self-care.
1. Spending time with friends and family is also self-care :)
In order to have positive mental health, surrounding yourself with friends and family can boost your mood and feelings of self-worth. Seeing my friends or being with my family makes me feel happy and lowers my stress. Being around people that care about you reduces the feelings of loneliness. By not spending time with friends and family, feelings of depression can increase. I tend to feel isolated and lonely when I do not spend time with people that I care about so I plan to see friends as much as I can.
2. Exercise - in little ways, big ways, all ways
Being active helps your overall physical health, but it is also known to help mental health as well. One of the main reasons why I keep active is that it helps reduce feelings of depression and anxiety. The other big reason why I exercise daily is because it reduces Ataxia symptoms and helps slow the progression of the disease. Doing some sort of activity helps distract the brain from those negative thoughts and focus on positive ones. When I come home from the gym, I always feel good about myself and that I accomplished something. By doing some form of exercise daily, your brain releases endorphins that make you feel energized throughout the day. For my exercise, I like to go on walks and bike rides with my mom, swimming, yoga, and hiking. Exercise also helps with stress. Stress can cause our bodies to tense up, which leads to muscle cramps, joint pain, back pain, insomnia, stomach pain and much more. Exercising is a good and easy way to get rid of that stress and strengthen your muscles while also benefiting your mental state.
Image: Ellie riding her recumbent trike on a sunny day.
3. Rest and therapy - finding time to reset and recharge in our own ways
Some days of the week can seem full of things that need to be done and it can be exhausting. Resting is a form of recharging yourself, either mentally or physically. When there is too much going on, sometimes our bodies can’t keep up so we have to plan a time to rest. I used to think that I didn’t have time to rest but I realized how beneficial it was. After resting, my body felt better and it helped me focus on myself. Another self-care tip is going to therapy. I see a therapist every week and it helps me a lot. During college, I didn’t think I needed to see a therapist, but I was struggling mentally. I didn’t have my official diagnosis of Cerebellar Ataxia until after I finished college and the stress of managing all of my symptoms on my own was overwhelming. After I graduated, I decided to get some help and I am glad that I did it for myself. It is nice to find a therapist that understands what people with chronic medical conditions have to deal with.
4. Journaling - out with those thoughts, good and bad
Journaling is a great tool for self-care. I just bought a guided journal and I write in it every day. It is a good way to express your feelings. By writing any negative feelings down on paper, it helps to get that feeling out of your head. My journal has three sections that I fill out every day. What was the best moment of the day? What was the worst moment of the day? and What am I grateful for. Here is a link to all sorts of "wellness journals."
Image: A journal entitled "Best, Worst, Grateful: 5-Minute Mindfulness Journal". The cover has red leaves and large blue circles.
5. Do what makes you happy!
It’s very important to take time for yourself and do what you like to do rather than making others happy all the time. It gets tiring doing the same thing every day which can lead to unhappiness or an unpleasant mood. Doing the things that make me happy lowers negative thoughts and feelings. Some things that I enjoy are art and photography. I also like biking with my mom when the weather is nice. Doing things that make other people happy is good, but it’s also good if you set time away for yourself too, so it’s not draining energy.
Image: Ellie's photograph of pink flowers blooming on a tree.
6. Finding apps and podcasts that you connect with and support your well-being
I have a couple of self-care apps that I use regularly. One of them is called Finch. It is an app where you have your own pet bird and watch him grow up into an adult. Finch allows me to create goals for myself every day and when I finish each one I get points. Every point I get helps my bird grow. I can even invite friends to join my tree tower, and we can send each other messages of support. If I finish my goals for the day, I can invite my friends to go on hikes with me.
Another app I use is called I am. Every day the app sends me 2-3 positive quotes to help me get through the day. There are several good podcasts that talk about mental health. One of my favorite podcasts is Two Disabled Dudes. Sean and Kyle discuss living with a disability and the challenges that come with it. Every episode starts with a segment on mental health and ways to cope.
As you look forward to warmer weather and spending more time outdoors soaking up that vitamin D, I hope you find these strategies helpful. It is always important to address your mental health along with physical health. By following these ideas, self-care can be part of your daily routine. Below I have listed a few other helpful resources.
Exercise and Mental Health:
Apps and Podcasts: