by Patricia Roles, MSW

It is important to work at balancing your life with work, pleasure, exercise, healthful eating, and sufficient rest and relaxation. Life is very stressful with changes and continual bombardment of information that bring all the worries of the world in to our homes daily.

Be Kind to Yourself: Appreciating yourself is so important. If you don’t value yourself, others won’t either. Take some time each day for yourself, even if it is just a few minutes to get centered.

Value Your Own Needs: If you don’t value your own needs, who else will? It is important to recognize that you have needs and that they are important. Then you need to be able to express them to others in order to feel satisfied in life. Otherwise, you just hold in your needs and expect that others will guess what they are.

Recognize Your Feelings: Listening to and trusting your feelings is an important way to understand yourself. First you need to learn to identify what you are feeling. Feelings are complex and when you feel upset it is usually a complex cluster of many feelings such as frustration, anger, sadness, helplessness, powerlessness or sadness. Expressing those feelings is the next step that is an important communication skill. Otherwise, you may hope others will read your mind but they’ll likely guess incorrectly. Don’t be afraid to let yourself cry if you feel sad. Tears are your body’s natural way of letting go physically and emotionally and promote a feeling of relief.

Set Goals for Yourself: Reaching for goals recognizes that you are important to yourself. Your personal accomplishments help to build your self-esteem and identity, and pride in yourself.This doesn’t mean that you have to set major goals. A goal might be to find some time for yourself each day.

Keep Hope Alive: Hope is your building block for the future. Think about ways that you find hope in life through your past experiences, encouragement from others or perhaps faith in a higher power. Valuing your dreams is way of keeping hope alive. If you don’t have dreams, then you can’t reach for them.

Enjoy Leisure Activities: Play is not just play. It is relaxation and experiencing the joy life has to offer. It is not wasted time. It makes life worth living. Think about how you can introduce more play and adventure into your life.

Exercise Regularly: Exercise is part of keeping your body healthy and strong. A healthy body helps to promote a healthy brain and healthy mind. This is part of self-care.

Journaling: Writing down your ideas, thoughts or feelings can be a productive outlet for expression of feelings, identifying issues and problem solving. Writing assists critical thinking because as you put it on paper it makes it tangible. You can also make art journals without words, just pictures. Title them and date them and write any feelings or thoughts down that connect with the meaning the picture has for you. Then you can look at the ideas or feelings, make sense of them and work toward solutions or alternatives.It is also a great way to express yourself and get those feelings out on the page in pictures or words.

Creativity: Creativity is inherent in all human beings, but you may be disconnected from your creative process. Creativity isn’t just an ability to make art that looks real or play a musical instrument. It is that creative thinking that allows us to think of a variety of ideas and solutions to problems; it is the enjoyment of music; it is the ability to appreciate poetry; it is enjoyment of design and colour; it is creating a garden or decorating your home. Strengthening your creative side is a way to increase pleasure in your life as well as strengthening your openness to new ideas and solutions to problems.

Giving to Others: Thinking outside of yourself and your own needs is a rewarding way to enrich your life and feel proud about who you are. It can also help you to appreciate what you have in your life when you see other’s struggles. Connecting with others and helping others can help your soul. If you aren’t feeling connected or feeling value in life experiment with volunteering your time to help others in some small way.

Keep Humor Alive: Laughter is healing and releasing. It helps you keep in touch with your core of who you are. Seek out laughter and finding humor in tough situations can help you maintain a perspective.

Find Support: It is important to reach out to others for support. This can be family, friends, colleagues or professionals. Everyone needs to feel heard and understood with respect, companionship and compassion.

Get Adequate Sleep: It is really important to get adequate rest and relaxation which includes good attention to sleep hygiene. Children and teens need even more sleep than adults and with busy lifestyles can easily be sleep deprived. This affects concentration and mood. Here are some tips for ensuring you get enough restful sleep:

1. Avoid caffeine and nicotine 4-6 hours before bed as they are stimulants.

2. Avoid alcohol 4-6 hours before bed as it fragments sleep.

3. Use your bed for sleeping and not for other activities such as TV watching.

4. Establish a regular pattern of time to sleep and time to wake.

5. If you can’t fall asleep in about 30 minutes, then try doing something boring and not stimulating.

6. Avoid exercise 4 hours before bed as this is an arousal activity. Exercise earlier in the day helps to promote a restful sleep.

7. Keep the daylight out of your room when sleeping and use earplugs if necessary to keep the noise level down.

8. Have a hot bath to increase your body temperature and then decrease your body temperature with a cool bedroom and blankets to keep warm. A hot room can interfere with sleep as can a drafty room.

9. Don’t go to bed with an empty stomach or after a large meal. Eat a light evening snack to promote good sleep.

10. Don’t take naps and sleep only when you’re sleepy.

Increase Endorphins: Endorphins are chemicals in the brain that help us feel good and help our ability to manage stress, pain, depression or anxiety. Activities such as exercise, laughter, deep breathing as in yoga, relaxation or meditatiion, or even thinking happy thoughts, can increase your body’s natural endorphins. So you have some control over your physical and mental health as there is a power min-body connection. Your body and mind are yours to look after and nurture not just in times of stress but throughout your life-time.