By Makenzie Pacocha, Counselor
Many of you reading this blog post have probably heard of the phrase “self-care” before. Not only is this word commonly used in the mental health and wellness field, but it’s become quite the buzz word during the COVID-19 pandemic. Some even see this word as a cue to simply sit on the couch and binge watch Netflix for the night, or maybe make a banana bread loaf (Yum!). Although those are both great ways to improve your mood, there are various other aspects of self-care that contribute to improved mental health and overall wellbeing. Taking time to ensure balance in these different aspects is important in every-day life, but even more important when dealing with the stress and anxiety that comes along with a national pandemic.
Dan Siegel, a clinical professor of Psychiatry at UCLA, recommends that individuals incorporate seven essential mental activities into their daily life in order to optimize their brain functioning and overall mental wellbeing. This is often referred to as the “Healthy Mind Platter”. The first important sector of the platter is one we are all familiar with: focus time. This is meant to be the time of day when you are focused on your life goals, whether it be work related or taking on a new challenge that is meant to lead to self-improvement. This can often be done by setting aside some quiet time to read a self-help book, or work on a project that is important to you or your career.
The next item on the platter is “play time”. Play time is when we let down our guard and allow ourselves to build new connections in the brain by exploring the world around us. That can be done by starting a new art project, or playing a new board game with your kids. Next up on the healthy mind platter is one of the most altered things in the world today…. connecting time. This is where we would normally go grab lunch with a friend. In the world’s current state, this looks a little different. Some alternate ideas could be to schedule a weekly Zoom call with a group of friends, or have a socially distanced picnic in the park.
Next , we have physical time. This time is focused on moving your body in any way that you are able to. This could consist of doing a few stretches here and there during the work day, or trying some free workout videos on YouTube.
An aspect of the platter that is often forgotten in today’s busy world is “time in”. This is giving ourselves the space to reflect internally and focus on the here and now of our thoughts and emotions. Although, it can be easy to forget to slow down and look inward… it does wonders for the mind, body, and soul. This can be done by providing yourself time to meditate, or just allow yourself to take a few minutes in the middle of the day to reflect and focus on your breathing patterns. Finally, we reach everybody’s favorite parts of the platter… down time and sleep! Down time is that time of day when you allow yourself to scroll through your phone mindlessly or put on a reality tv show that you can’t stop watching. Sleep of course, is pretty self-explanatory. Creating a routine each night before bed that you follow is a good way to prepare your body that it is time to sleep…not to stay up thinking about your “to-do” list for tomorrow.
By taking the time to check in with ourselves on a daily basis to see if all of our body’s and brain’s needs are being met, we can improve our mental health and wellbeing without having to alter our entire routine. This is especially important during a time that is difficult not only for individuals, but the greater society as a whole.
If you feel that you need additional support with your mental health and wellbeing, please reach out DAP’s 24/7 hotline: 610-565-4590 for additional resources.