Self-care and online resources | Mount Allison

Taking care of your mental health should be an important part of your daily routine.

The resources below can help guide and support you. If you need further information or to book a wellness planning session with the mental health/harm reduction educator, contact the Wellness Centre at wellness@mta.ca.

 

Steps you can take to take care of your mental health

Information adapted from: https://cmhanb.ca/documents/mental-health-for-life/

Build confidence
Identify your abilities and weaknesses together, accept them, build on your abilities, and do the best with what you have.

Eat right, keep fit
A balanced diet, exercise, and rest can help you to reduce stress and enjoy life.

Make time for family and friends
Important relationships need to be nurtured. Don’t take these bonds for granted. Relationships often change in the beginning of university due to new distances and dynamics. This can sometimes be difficult, but change is part of life and is in some ways a positive thing.

Give and accept support
Positive friends and healthy family relationships show their strength during difficult times.

Create a meaningful budget
Financial concerns can cause stress. Looking at your situation and creating a plan can help. Learning to prioritize spending can be a difficult learning curve, but is an important part of budgeting and planning.

Volunteer
Being involved in community gives a special sense of purpose and satisfaction.

Manage stress
We all have stress in our lives, but learning how to deal with it when it threatens to overwhelm us helps to maintain our mental health.

Find strength in numbers
Sharing a problem with others who have had similar experiences may help you find a solution and will make you feel less isolated.

Identify and deal with moods
We all need to find safe and constructive ways to express our feelings of anger, sadness, joy, and fear.

Learn to be at peace with yourself
Get to know who you are, what makes you really happy, and learn to balance what you can and cannot change about yourself. 

 

Self-care techniques 

  • Eating regularly and nutritiously
  • Staying hydrated
  • Getting adequate sleep
  • Positive self-talk
  • Taking time to exercise or be active
  • Meditation and mindfulness
  • Relaxation techniques (breathing techniques, progressive relaxation)
  • Having a support system
  • Taking time to enjoy life
  • Having healthy, supportive relationships
  • Maintaining life balance
  • Managing time effectively

 

Grounding techniques

After a trauma, it is normal to experience flashbacks, anxiety, and other uncomfortable symptoms. Grounding techniques can be performed without experiencing trauma and help control these symptoms by turning attention away from thoughts, memories, or worries, and refocusing on the present moment.

Try these grounding techniques

5-4-3-2-1 technique

Using the 5-4-3-2-1 technique, you will purposefully take in the details of your surroundings using each of your senses. Strive to notice small details that your mind would usually tune out, such as distant sounds or the texture of an ordinary object.

  • What are five things you can see? Look for small details such as a pattern on the ceiling, the way light reflects off a surface, or an object you never noticed.
  • What are four things you can feel? Notice the sensation of clothing on your body, the sun on your skin, or the feeling of the chair you are sitting in. Pick up an object and examine its weight, texture, and other physical qualities.
  • What are three things you can hear? Pay special attention to the sounds your mind has tuned out, such as a ticking clock, distant traffic, or trees blowing in the wind.
  • What are two things you can smell? Try to notice smells in the air around you, like an air freshener or freshly mowed grass. You may also look around for something that has a scent, such as a flower or an unlit candle.
  • What is one thing you can taste? Carry gum, candy, or small snacks for this.

 

Categories

Choose at least three of the categories below and name as many items as you can in each one. Spend a few minutes on each category to come up with as many items as possible. 

For a variation on this activity, try naming items in a category alphabetically. For example, for the fruits and vegetables category, say “apple, banana, carrot,” and so on.

Movies
Countries
Books
Sports teams

Cereals
Colours
Cars
Animals

Fruits and vegetables
Cities
TV shows
Famous people

 

Body awareness

The body awareness technique will bring you into the here-and-now by directing your focus to sensations in the body. Pay special attention to the physical sensations created by each step.

  • Take five long, deep breaths through your nose, and exhale through puckered lips.
  • Place both feet flat on the floor. Wiggle your toes. Curl and uncurl your toes several times. Spend a moment noticing the sensations in your feet.
  • Stomp your feet on the ground several times. Pay attention to the sensations in your feet and legs as you make contact with the ground.
  • Clench your hands into fists, then release the tension. Repeat this 10 times.
  • Press your palms together. Press them harder and hold this pose for 15 seconds. Pay attention to the feeling of tension in your hands and arms.
  • Rub your palms together briskly. Notice the sound and the feeling of warmth.
  • Reach your hands over your head like you’re trying to reach the sky. Stretch like this for five seconds. Bring your arms down and let them relax at your sides.
  • Take five more deep breaths and notice the feeling of calm in your body.

Mental exercises

Use mental exercises to take your mind off uncomfortable thoughts and feelings. They are discreet and easy to use at nearly any time or place. Experiment to see which work best for you.

  • Name all the objects you see.
  • Describe the steps in performing an activity you know how to do well. For example, how to shoot a basketball, prepare your favorite meal, or tie a knot.
  • Count backwards from 100 by 7.
  • Pick up an object and describe it in detail. Describe its color, texture, size, weight, scent, and any other qualities you notice.
  • Spell your full name and the names of three other people, backwards.
  • Name all your family members, their ages, and one of their favorite activities.
  • Read something backwards, letter-by-letter. Practice for at least a few minutes.
  • Think of an object and “draw” it in your mind, or in the air with your finger. Try drawing your home, a vehicle, or an animal

Relaxed breathing

When we are anxious or threatened, our breathing speeds up in order to get our body ready for danger. Relaxed breathing (sometimes called abdominal or diaphragmatic breathing) signals the body that it is safe to relax. Relaxed breathing is slower and deeper than normal breathing and it happens lower in the body (the belly rather than the chest).

How to do relaxed breathing

  • To practice make sure you are sitting or lying comfortably.
  • Close your eyes if you are comfortable doing so.
  • Try to breathe through your nose rather than your mouth.
  • Deliberately slow your breathing down. Breathe in to a count of four, pause for a moment, then breathe out to a count of four.
  • Make sure that your breaths are smooth, steady, and continuous — not jerky.
  • Pay particular attention to your out-breath — make sure it is smooth and steady.

Am I doing it right? What should I be paying attention to?

  • Relaxed breathing should be low down in the abdomen (belly) and not high in the chest. You can check this by putting one hand on your stomach and one on your chest.
  • Try to keep the top hand still, your breathing should only move the bottom hand.
  • Focus your attention on your breath — some people find it helpful to count in their head to begin with. (”In ... two ... three ... four ... pause ... Out ... two ... three ... four ... pause ...”)

How long and how often?

  • Try breathing in a relaxed way for at least a few minutes at a time — it might take a few minutes for you to notice an effect. If you are comfortable, aim for five to ten minutes.
  • Try to practice regularly — perhaps three times a day.

Variations and troubleshooting

  • Find a slow breathing rhythm that is comfortable for you. Counting to four isn’t an absolute rule. Try three or five. The important thing is that the breathing is slow and steady.
  • Some people find the sensation of relaxing to be unusual or uncomfortable at first, but this normally passes with practice. Do persist and keep practising.

 

Online resources

These websites, apps, and other resources are intended for information purposes only. Mount Allison University does not endorse and is not affiliated with any of the following resources.

General resources

Mental health organizations

Resources by category

 

Apps

Calm — A mental fitness app designed to help you build the strength to face life’s ups and downs

Mindshift — Uses scientifically-proven strategies based on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) to help you learn to relax and be mindful, develop more effective ways of thinking, and use active steps to take charge of your anxiety

Breethe — A meditation app that promotes inner wellness for anxiety, stress, sleep, and more

HeadSpace — Learn a mindful approach — explore guided exercises, videos, and more to help you get healthier and happier

Wellmind — FREE — For dealing with stress, anxiety, and depression; with relaxation games, advice, and podcasts

Youper — FREE — Talk, track, meditate — created by clinical experts and aims to help you understand yourself, improve behavior, and relationships

Self-Help Anxiety Management — FREE — Create an anxiety toolkit. SAM is an app to help you understand and manage anxiety

Clear Fear — FREE — Anxiety management and support network creator to help you when anxiety hits.

 

 

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