A mental health and addictions working group in Inuvik is raising awareness about National Self Care Day, which is July 24.
To this end, the group, consisting of Rachel Schooley, Crystal Navratil and Susan Keats, ran an information booth at Northmart June 20 to distribute information, food and advice.
“A lot of people think self care is just getting a pedicure,” said Schooley. “But it’s also about getting a good night’s sleep and good nutrition.”
An important first step in self care is monitoring for signs of stress. These can be observed through changes in the body, one’s actions, emotions and thinking. Changes in the body can include muscle tension, head and stomach aches, difficulty sleeping, dramatic changes in appetite and fatigue.
Changes in actions that can be observed includes withdrawing from others, increased substance abuse and smoking, a short temper, fidgeting or non-stop talking. Emotionally, high stress can lead to feelings of loneliness, depression, ongoing worries and confusion, anger and irritability or just a sense of sadness, hopelessness or even suicidal thoughts.
Trouble concentrating, a loss of self-confidence, lapses in memory, a sudden onset of negative attitudes or self talk or poor judgment are all signs of changes in thinking to watch for.
As no one can be in full control of all aspects of one’s life that can create stress, such as family issues like divorce, it’s important to focus on things one can control. Getting exercise, completing a craft or assignment can give a sense of accomplishment that can help relieve stress.
“It’s all about balance,” said Keats as she handed out granola bars, noting self care also involves avoiding toxic people who might drag someone down or encourage them to do harmful activities.
Things to avoid include procrastinating from self care, either through TV or video games, but also binge-shopping or overuse of substances like too much sugar, caffeine or even medication.
Above all, taking care of physical needs like healthy diet and a good night’s sleep is paramount. Giving oneself permission to say no can also help avoid getting into stressful situations.
Also part of the display was a medicine wheel, a traditional form of mysticism found around the world. The Medicine Wheel uses the four seasons to describe the cycle of life, with the concept of both a world and person in continual renewal and regeneration as a helpful tool to both confront stress and govern decision making.