Summer bursts of life and leisure, a great season for self-care. People often underestimate how refreshing self-care can be for the mind, body, and spirit. Self-care should be incorporated into our regular routine to ensure we don’t miss out on its many health benefits. Those practicing consistent self-care reflect it in their lives. They can appear more balanced, centered, and present.
What does it mean to practice self-care? Essentially, it is taking time out to care for our mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being. In our fast-paced, technological society, slowing down can be challenging. In this article I will give you seven tips for slowing down and making space for self-care.
Schedule time off
- Daily: How are you starting your day? The morning is a great time for reflection, affirmation, meditation, and prayer. Your day will no doubt be hurried—slow it down a bit and take care of yourself. Read some good material, turn off the news, and make your gratitude list.
- Weekly: I believe something spiritual exists in taking one day to rest. Rest can help restore and regenerate your mind, body, and spirit. Consider taking one day a week off, with no work and no house chores.
- Monthly: Try taking one weekend off a month. Whether you choose to do a little get-away or a staycation, one weekend off a month is a good practice for self-care.
Spend time outdoors
Summer is often a superb time to rest and get refreshment. Being outdoors in nature can be a great way to energize your soul. Try taking a hike in the hills or walking in the woods. If you live near the coast, strolling along the ocean shore or laying on the warm sand can also be great ways to relax. You can feel rejuvenated simply by sitting in a serene environment and quieting your mind and body.
There are many ways to exercise during the summer, when the weather is warm and inviting. Jogging, swimming, and bicycling are all popular summer workouts. Exercising is not just for keeping off the pounds–it is also a good way to take care of your brain.
A good cardiovascular workout can improve circulation in your brain and promote balanced brain chemistry. High intensity aerobic exercise can release endorphins into your body. Endorphins in turn help release mood-boosting neurotransmitters such as dopamine.
In addition, regular exercise can help regulate the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline. These hormones are the ones that directly impact the fight-or-flight response system in your brain. By keeping cortisol and adrenaline levels in check, exercise can help your stress levels stay stable.
Take time to breathe
As it turns out, breathing is not just essential for keeping you alive. If done correctly, it can actually help to lower blood pressure, pulse rate, and stress levels. I am a big proponent of taking a calming breath, also known as diaphragmatic breathing. This type of deep breathing can help:
- Release serotonin, the feel-good neurotransmitter, into the bloodstream.
- Cleanse lactic acid, which can heighten feelings of anxiety, from the blood.
- Increase alpha brain waves, giving you a sense of calm.
Sleep is essential
Knowing how much sleep your body needs and getting the required amount is key to self-care. Sleep patterns can change during the summer. Melatonin, a hormone produced by the body and released in the dark, helps us feel tired. Melatonin signals to the brain that it is time to sleep. Extended light hours during the summer means that release of melatonin is delayed, so our body doesn’t feel like sleeping until later when it is dark. Our normal sleep pattern, called the circadian rhythm, can be delayed as the day is longer during the summer months.
Think back on the last time you didn’t get enough sleep—it likely affected your entire day. A lack of sleep can impact our mental health, relationships, productivity, and overall well-being. Remember the importance of a good night’s sleep and get plenty of rest during the summer.
Take time for leisure
Taking time for something you enjoy is paramount for mental health, whether you like to read a good book, go to the movies, or get a massage. One good way to practice self-care is to get involved in a hobby such as painting or gardening. With longer days and warmer weather, summer can be an ideal time to try new leisure activities.
Since more crops are in season during the warmer months, summer can be a convenient time to incorporate more nutritious food in your diet. What we put into our bodies directly affects our well-being. To optimize your brain health:
- Try eating more complex carbohydrates. These are found in whole grains, vegetables, beans and peas.
- Stay away from refined foods like chips, crackers, and cookies.
- Consider getting protein from organic poultry, fish, or beef, as these will not have preservatives or additives.
- Try limiting your consumption of caffeine, sugar, and alcohol when possible.
These seven tips are not an exhaustive list, but they can get you going on your way to practicing self-care. Keep in mind the best version of yourself will emerge from how well you take care of your mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being. If you would like personal guidance on forming a self-care plan, consider visiting a counselor for advice.
- Altman, D. (2014). The mindfulness toolbox. Eau Claire, WI: Pesi Publishing & Media.
- Collins, R. (2016, March 29). Exercise, depression, and the brain. Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health/depression/exercise#1
- The physiology of sleep. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://sleepdisorders.sleepfoundation.org/chapter-1-normal-sleep/the-physiology-of-sleep-the-endocrine-system-sleep
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