Taking Time for Yourself During the Summer

Summer is warm and exciting, with plenty of fun activities to participate in. But summer activities and jobs can get overwhelming. Year-round jobs during the summer (while everyone else is sunbathing) can get pretty overwhelming and depressing, too.
Therefore, it’s just as important as ever to take your occasional mental health days, or to set aside some time for you to relax by yourself, or with others.
 
Here are some of the ways I like to spend my own mental health days:
 
1.) Coffee and a good book. 
 
 
Don’t underestimate the power of an extra cup of iced coffee or tea to accompany that new young-adult, romance or science-fiction novel, while sitting near a window, or outside if possible. I recently read We Were Liars by E. Lockhart, one of my favorite childhood authors, and it helped distract me from everything that usually stresses me out during the work week.
 
2.) A date with your laptop or TV.
 
Let your mind relax while you watch a movie in bed, or binge-watch a couple of the new “Orange is the New Black” episodes.
 
3.) Explore your town or city.
 
As someone who has been living in Washington, D.C. for the past year, I can honestly tell you that I have barely explored any of it. I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that many of us live places where there are areas we have yet to venture out to. Take a break and explore your surroundings. Take it all in and let your mind wander. 
 
4.) Petsmart trip.
 
 
 
If you don’t have a pet of your own, consider relaxing by going to Petsmart. Look at all of the cute little kittens or the weird looking birds and guinea pigs. Also, studies show that watching fish swim in fish tanks can help relieve stress and anxiety. 
 
5.) Youtube pet videos.
 
If you can’t go to Petsmart, take a look at some of these online cat and dog videos that are sure to make you smile.
 
6.) Take a break from social media.
 
Uninstall Facebook and Twitter (if you can) from your phone for a day. Sometimes social media stresses us out more than we can tell. Social media is great, but it’s important to maintain your mental health while using social media 
 
7.) Listen to instrumental music.
 

 
I love listening to rock, country and pop music. However, I have come to realize that sometimes lyrics can stress me out. When I really need to calm down and relax I turn to my favorite pianist, Yiruma. I also enjoy listening to the Scottish instrumental band Mogwai
 
8.) Go for a swim.
 
 
 
 If you live in an apartment complex with a pool, or if you live near a pool, take a swim every now and then. Swimming can help clear your mind.
 
9.) Redecorate.  
 
Sometimes, all you really need is a change of scenery. Move around some furniture in your home or hang up a few new pictures and interior decorations here and there. Need help? Check out Apartmenttherapy.com, which is one of my favorite redecorating blogsCurrently, this article about temporary and removable adhesives is my favorite.
 
10.)  Try a cold shower or a warm bubble bath. 
 
We often get caught up in the hustle and bustle of rushing to get ready for work on time and rarely ever take that time to relax. If you get a moment later in the day, try a cold shower (you know—for when it’s INSANELY hot outside and your commute home involved walking) or a warm bubble bath (because when was the last time you actually took a bath? What about one with bubbles?) with a book to read or music to listen to. 
 
11.)  Window shop! 
 

 
Whether it’s the book store down the block, or the consignment shop two streets over (or maybe you have returned to take another look at the fish in Petsmart), window shopping is a nice (and free) way to get your mind off of daily stressors.
 
12.) Creative expression.
 
Have a few hours to relax in between jobs or obligations? Try a quick and easy outlet like creative writing, sketching, journaling, painting or singing. Personally, I tend to prefer writing or painting to help express myself. This article is one of my favorite guides to painting for stress relief. 
 
13.) Go on a road trip. 
 
If you have a car and gas money to spare, road trips can be really fun and are great for taking your mind off of work. It doesn’t have to be long, either. Maybe you live two hours away from the beach, or three hours from the mountains. Pick a friend or family member, your favorite CD and hit the road! Driving down country roads with the windows down, while listening to “Carry On Wayward Son” by Kansas never fails to make me happy. 
 
14.) Go kayaking or canoeing.
 
If you don’t have a canoe or kayak (I don’t have either), you can still take part in this activity. There are many businesses along rivers in cities and towns that let you rent a canoe or kayak for an hour. I like to kayak on the Potomac on Saturday mornings when I’ve had a really bad week. The wind and the smell of the fresh, river water helps me relax. Plus, it’s a great work out. It can be a little expensive ranging from $15-$20 an hour, so I only do it occasionally.
 
15.)  Rant. 
 
Find someone willing to listen to what you have going on in your life—your best friend, your mother, your significant other, your dog, the Internet…and just rant. The rant could be about annoying coworkers or your detail-oriented boss, but they don’t have to be. Rant about the weather. Rant about climate change and social justice issues. Rant about how silly you think it is that a museum in Kentucky decided to keep a sinkhole as a tourist attraction. Just rant For me, I am constantly ranting to myself about these subjects in my head, but since I’m not letting any of that anger out verbally, it just bottles up. After getting all of those rambling, raging thoughts out of your head, the weight on your shoulders starts to feel a little lighter, and it really does help. 

Guest Blogger:

Rain Freeman, Summer Communications Intern

@_RainFreeman

Mental Health Association of Montgomery County

A Walk a Day Keeps the Doctor Away

 

shoe

Opportunities to get “well” are all around us. They are shouted from billboards advertising gyms, hidden in community education catalogues, and “sold in a store near you.” It’s exhausting.

 

In my role at the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing, I manage a group of wellness programs called the Healthy Communities Partnership. Every day, I hear many, many messages about wellness, and I’m constantly working with my team to come up with messages and strategies to help people find the information they need.

 

But maybe we’re over-thinking this. Is it possible that there is a simple answer? A recent video by Dr. Mike Evans promotes a single therapy that has been clinically proven to:

 

  • reduce depression and anxiety
  • reduce progression of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease
  • reduce progression from pre-diabetes to diabetes
  • reduce hip fractures in post-menopausal women
  • reduce overall risk of death
  • reduce fatigue
  • increase quality of life.

What is this miracle drug? Walking. Walking 30 minutes during the day has been proven to accomplish all of those things.

 

I like this idea because almost anyone can do it without spending a lot of money or dramatically changing their lifestyles. The problem with most of the wellness strategies I hear about is that they just don’t fit my life. I can do anything for a few weeks, but I’ve got a son to raise, a job to do, a house to maintain and a television to watch! I’ve got priorities! But I can walk. All I need is a pair of sneakers and a few minutes.

 

We recently competed in an internal walking challenge here at the Penny George Institute. It wasn’t complicated. We divided into four teams, and the team with the most steps at the end of six weeks wins. We measured our steps with high-tech pedometers called Fit Bits.

 

During those six weeks, I figured out how to walk 10,000 steps a day without compromising other parts of my life. I walked my dog every day, something I wanted to do anyway. I worked in short walks during the day. We had some walking meetings. I took the stairs more. And I felt better!

 

You can take or leave the pedometer. I found it useful, personally, and you can get simple ones for less than $10. But the goal is to walk. It’s the easiest way I know to dramatically improve your health.

 

Guest Blogger:

Nathan Kreps, Healthy Communities Partnership Program Manager/ Live Well Blog Writer

Penny George Institute for Health and Healing

Maintain Your Mental Health As A Social Media User

Do this. Open your search engine. Start typing in “social media makes me.”  What are the top search results that you see?

Here’s what I saw:

social media makes me lonely

How many happy days have been destroyed by Facebook posts about your ex and the new girl/guy? How many relaxing nights alone at home have been ruined by Instagram pics of friends out on the town, having a great time while you’re downing pints of Ben and Jerry’s in your zebra onesie?

Social media is an incredible tool. It has the power to reconnect us with friends we haven’t seen since we were kids, to share good news with millions of people worldwide in seconds, to even make dreams come true. But it also has the power to control our lives and our moods – if we let it. Like any powerful tool, use it wisely we must.

 

use it wisely

 

I’ll share a few tips on maintaining positive mental health as a social media user found around the web, as well as a few tips I’ve picked up from friends’ experiences and from some of my own.

 

Is your social media use cutting into the real-life things that make you happy?

  • Talk to your friends – Make sure you’re connecting with your friends in person, or at least via phone or video chat. Constant liking, sharing and commenting can make it seem like we’re always connected to friends. Social networks are no substitute for having actual, meaningful conversations.  Meet up for a cup of coffee or give a friend a call who you haven’t spoken to in a while.
  • Set Time Limits – Set boundaries for yourself so you don’t end up checking your accounts continuously throughout the day.
  • Be in the present – Scrolling through your feeds all day means that you miss out on the greatness happening right in front of you.
  • Remember that Facebook friends DO NOT equal real friends – Your roommate has more than 1,000 friends on Facebook. You have 250. That means she’s more loved than you, right? It’s easy to get sucked into this way of thinking, but there’s no way she can call on those 1,000 people to vent at the end of a long day. Think about the real people that you can depend on in your life. Those are the friends who count.

Are you trying to keep up with the Joneses?

  • Keep in mind that people share selectively – When checking your social media updates, it seems like everyone’s getting engaged, everyone’s getting promotions, everyone’s doing something exciting. Remember – people only choose to share those spectacular moments in life. No one shares about being short on rent or getting into a fight with their spouse.
  • Don’t use social media to seek validationIt feels good when people like your posts and pictures. It’s tempting, but don’t utilize your social media accounts to seek validation. When you share a picture of yourself that you think is cute or a post you think is hilarious, your lack of likes can be a blow to your self-confidence and a serious downer. Don’t give your networks that power over you. Self-confidence and true happiness comes from within, not from some acquaintance of yours giving their stamp of approval on your outfit.

Do you need a social media vacation?

  • Delete social media apps from your phone – Has that 4 inch screen growing out of the palm of your hand taken over your life? (Side note – that much hunching over your phone cannot be good for your neck or posture.) Consider removing social media apps from your cell phone to limit your access to your accounts and cut down on the time you spend posting and perusing feeds.
  • Remind yourself why you’re using each social media platform. There are a million social media applications available. Do you really need to be on all of them!?

 

We love social media – it’s what allows us to connect with you! Just make sure your mental health isn’t being negatively affected while using it.  

 

And follow us, we promote positivity, won’t spam your feeds and share really great articles on mental health and wellness.

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Guest Blogger:

Jasmine Berry, Communication, Education & Advocacy Coordinator

Mental Health Association of Montgomery County

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