Five Ways to Practice Summer Self-Care

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Summer is an inviting time for many social activities, less formal routines, and long days of sunshine. As we dive deep into the season, however, we may find ourselves feeling overwhelmed and full of anxiety, whether we’re experiencing less structured schedules riddled with figuring out what to do with the extra time on our hands, or we’re stuck inside for our jobs, yearning to be outside instead to enjoy the beautiful weather. 

One of the best ways to combat these feelings of anxiety creeping in as “summertime blues” is to take small steps in taking care of ourselves. Here are five ways you can practice self-care during the summer:

Take a social media or technology break. Nowadays, we can get easily wrapped up in checking messages, mindlessly scrolling through our social media platforms, and constantly binge watching every show on our favorite streaming service. Taking a break from these devices help us think more about our own quality of life. Whether it’s a few hours to a whole 24 hours away from our phones, televisions, or computers, practicing technology breaks can bring us back to being more mindful of our lives, our thoughts, and our emotions.

Start a new hobby. By not solely focusing on social media, our minds are open to taking on new hobbies and experiences that can ultimately improve our mood. Some great examples of outdoor hobbies during summer include gardening, tennis, trail hiking, biking, or swimming. If you prefer to stay indoors, take on a hobby that might be productive for yourself or for others. This could be journaling and jotting down your thoughts and feelings or learning to cross-stitch to make Christmas gifts for your family and friends.

Have an at-home spa day. Instead of spending money at an expensive spa, take some time to create your own spa escape. Draw a bath, light candles that bring you feelings of calm, have something relaxing to read, and treat yourself with a homemade refreshing drink. You’ll be able to relax in the comfort of your own home, in your own bathtub, without having to go anywhere nor breaking the bank.

Relax outdoors.  For many of us who may be stuck inside the office for our jobs, this is a great way to enjoy the summertime. Schedule time to go exploring outside, have a picnic in the park, or go to your nearest beach, river, or lake and take in the sights and sounds of summer weather. Under the sun, you'll be able to get a great dose of vitamin D, which is also a natural “be happy” vitamin. Breathing fresh air will also help refresh your mind while enjoying a different setting. Remember to be safe when you’re out in the sun by applying sunscreen before going outside. 

Don’t stress about your appearance or size. Being outside in the summertime can be stressful for many of us; we all can get anxious about whether or not we have a “beach body.” Please don’t let that stop you from wearing your favorite summer outfit or bathing suit when you go out to the beach or pool. Enjoy the summer by feeling comfortable with your body - the truth is that everyone is too busy thinking about themselves that they’ll hardly pay any attention to what you look like in whatever clothing you wear for the season.

These are just a few of the many ways to practice self-care in the summer? How do you take care of yourself during this season?

If you are seeking more ways to practice self-care or get through the summer blues, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us at Safe Haven and connect with a counselor. Call us at (256) 600-1473 or email us at safehavencounselingfoundation@gmail.com.

Stay in touch for more tips and join the discussion on self-care by liking our Facebook page.

Written by Elizabeth McDonald



 


Healthier Eating and Mental Health? I Should Eat My Vegetables!

Many people may not know it, but there is a deep connection between what we eat and how we feel. Actually, its quite ironic that the words food and mood rhyme together, and each serving meanings that intertwine with one another.

Along the road, weve viewed the body and mind as two different items, which has left a gap in the understanding of nutrition on the brain and nervous system. In a generation where limited dieting and low-fat foods are shining medals, evidence shows that there is a dangerous correlation between the lack of eating healthier foods and rising mental health issues.

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Mental Health Keeps on Growing!

Mental disorders such as depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and other related illnesses are becoming tricky. Due to their interactions biologically, psychologically, and socially, mental disorders have become outsiders in scientific study. Depression and anxiety in themselves are the most stigmatizing of all disorders, casting a dark shadow of shame among those who struggle with these conditions. Yet, despite this cold reality, these disorders are more common than we think. As predicted by the World Health Organization, depression will be the second leading cause of disability in the world!

Eating Your Vegetables Can Be Huge!

The findings are fascinating, bringing into question the causes of the unknown. Could healthier eating be the best way to solve these problems? But if so, why the crazy increase in the levels of depression and anxiety? Honestly, the results are still unknown. It is likely that outside factors can be at play. However, there seems to be a changing switch when it comes to mental health. Through many studies, there has been a great amount of focus on correcting chemical imbalances in the brain. And yet, we still feel depressed and anxious? Well, new scientific studies are showing that

neurotransmitters (a substance that delivers a message to other parts of the brain) are not only in our heads, but in each system of our bodies. At the smallest level, all parts of our bodies require a balance of nutrients and enzymes to work correctly. The bad newswe arent getting enough of those nutrients as we should.

The link between food and mental health is nothing new, and when you think about it, it makes a great deal of sense. History has observed this connection between nutrition and behavior, only to be too often ignored by modern-day research.

Dont Worry, Broccoli is Your Friend.
Here are five foods that will provide a powerful punch to your mood:

1. Fish Our brains are made up mostly of fat. Fish contains omega-3 fatty acids, which has been shown to increase mood and regulate the buildup of essential fatty acids.

2. Whole Grains Simple carbohydrates creates low mood my spiking levels in blood sugar. Complex carbs such as brown rice and oatmeal help us feel full and fuel the brain.

3. Protein Protein is the most typical substance in the body, influencing mood by producing a feel good substance called serotonin.

4. Green Vegetables I know, I knowgreen vegetables suck. However, look at it this

way, Popeye was on a serious binge of green vegetables (specifically spinach), and look at the outcome! Green vegetables such as spinach, kale and broccoli contain minerals that play a role in the immune system and the brain. It can decrease the levels depression, anxiety, and fatigue.

5. Yogurt Thats right! Who said to increase your mood, you couldnt have a sweet treat? Yogurt has active cultures called probiotics that contain healthy bacteria, which has been shown to reduce anxiety and stress levels. But keep in mind, too much can lead to an off-balance and cause unhealthy bacteria.

So Add a Salad to the Mix!

Taking a holistic approach to mental health can be beneficial to your overall well-being. Will salad cure depression and anxiety? Probably not. However, adding a healthy diet into your mental health care routine can be helpful. Caring for your body physically is a huge piece of a healthy self-care regimen, and the better your body feels the better you feel! So, next time youre debating between the donut or the apple go for the apple and pat yourself on the back for caring for your body well.

Written by Emmanuel L. Rock, Intern

Finding the Right Counselor for You

Making the decision to enter counseling can be difficult, and if you have never sought counseling services before you may be feeling lost about where to begin and how to find the counselor that will best meet your needs. Counselors are people just like anyone else, and they each have their individual strengths and weaknesses.

Whatever your reason is for seeking counseling, there are a few guidelines that will help you select one that will be a good fit for you.

1. Give Yourself 2-3 Weeks

Because the majority of people seek counseling out of a crisis or strong sense of urgency, taking time to find a counselor is usually not acceptable. The problem with this is that making a decision based on urgency can lead to less than desirable results. Set a goal for yourself, and allow yourself time to research your options and check in with multiple counselors. The first counselor that you call or meet with may not be the best fit for you, and that is okay. Give yourself permission to shop around a little until you find the right counselor.

2. Ask a Pastor, Friend, or Healthcare Professional for a Referral

Finding a good fit is going to be easier when you can get a trusted source to make a referral. Counseling is built on trust, and it’s helpful to know if a friend has had a good experience with someone.

3. One Size Does Not Fit All

Counselors have different ideas and theories that sometimes don’t work with certain people. Because of this, ask the counselor questions, such as:

-  How long have you been practicing?

-  What do you specialize in?

-  Have you been in counseling before?

-  What are your beliefs about Marriage, Separation, Divorce?

-  Have you worked with (insert issue here) before?

-  Do you offer a free consultation?

-  What is your approach to counseling (methodology, goals, etc)?

-  What role does God/Religion/Spirituality play in your counseling?

Once you've found a counselor that meets your needs and have begun counseling, here are a couple of guidelines to help both you and the counselor in the process.

1. No secrets.

If you meet with your counselor one-on-one, which is normal for family of origin issues, divulge everything you believe to be hindering where you want to be in your life. Your counselor might challenge you to dig deep into issues that you haven't dealt with in a long time. These conversations are difficult, but they are an important part of the healing process.

2. Tell the truth.

If you’re uncomfortable with setting, choice of words, etc, speak up and tell the truth. Your counselor needs your feedback to understand what therapeutic tools work best for your individual needs. If you feel something isn't a good fit for you, speak up. Your counselor is there to facilitate your growth and healing process. He or she is there to help.

3. Trust the Process.

Give the process at least 4 sessions before deciding about leaving/ending counseling. Don’t give up for good just because you had a poor experience with a counselor.

4. Keep your head up.

Your situation will probably get worse before it gets better. Don’t be discouraged. Your counselor does not have a magic pill, nor does any other counselor. Staying with the process is key in making significant life and relationship changes. The process of therapy can be compared to the process of physical healing. Sometimes it is necessary to clean out an infected wound before it can be bandaged and begin to heal. The same is true with mental and emotional wounds. We sometimes have to clean out the wounds before true healing can begin. This process is painful, but is ultimately necessary to get you where you want to be.

If you need help navigating the process of finding a counselor or have any questions about the therapeutic process please contact us at 256-283-2321.

Behind the Mask of Perfection

It seems that the summer is finally starting to wind down. The kids are back in school, college football is back in season, the weather is starting to cool (ever so slightly), and the Halloween decorations and costumes have started to appear in stores. Halloween has always struck me as an interesting holiday, because it is the one day a year that everyone is allowed to pretend to be someone (or something) else. For a day you can put on a mask or costume and the outside world no longer sees you for who you really are.

Unfortunately, many people don’t only wear masks on Halloween. Countless people feel the need to put on a “mask” anytime they’re around others for fear of people seeing the imperfections in who they really are. Society has taught us that to be imperfect is to be inadequate or not good enough. To reveal your struggles might feel like admitting defeat and opening yourself up to ridicule. So, it can be easier to hide who you really are in order to protect yourself from the possibility of shame, judgment, or criticism. However, the constant struggle to maintain these “masks” for the world can also prove to be exhausting and painful.

Society says that to be anything other than perfect is to be inadequate, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Learning to embrace your imperfections can provide you with courage to be who you really are, compassion for others, and a connection to God’s purpose for your life. Learning to embrace yourself, imperfections and all, can be a powerful step in unlocking love, laughter, empathy, and joy in your life. At Safe Haven Counseling, help is available as you learn how to shed your mask and begin to live your life authentically. Visit safehavencounseling.squarespace.com or call 256.283.2321.

Source: Brown, B. (2007). I thought it was just me (But it isn’t). New York, NY: Penguin Group (USA) Inc.