Self-Care for the Mind and Body
By Erica Marriaga, MSW, LCSW
With the colder weather and longer days peeking through, along with sports, extracurricular activities, homework, and busy schedules, it is not surprising that you feel more tired and drained. After all, being a teenager is not easy with changing hormones, relationships, and increased responsibilities. Although you hear stories (maybe even lectures) from your parents about “how things were in my day,” you are living in 2020, and you have your own thoughts and ideas about navigating through this time.
Now might be a great time to think about how you are in control of yourself, emotions, and well-being, laying the groundwork to take care of your mind and body.
Emotions impact our bodies just as our bodies impact our emotions
This is kind of like the debate whether or not the chicken came before the egg. To be able to take care of our bodies physically, we must also take care of our minds.
Think about the last time you were “hangry,” the mix of feeling angry as a result of being hungry. Did you notice you might have been easily annoyed, yelled at family members, and might have even felt weak? If you answered yes, can you relate to the Snickers commercial below?
This is a direct result of not taking care of the body, making it harder to control emotions. You see, “an out of balance body increases vulnerability to negative emotions,” meaning that if sleep and appetite are compromised, there is a strong possibility you might notice becoming more easily annoyed (Linehan, 2015).
Remember to Take Care of Yourself with “PLEASE”
PL:TREAT PHYSICAL ILLNESS
E: BALANCE EATING
A: AVOID MOOD-ALTERING SUBSTANCES
S: BALANCE SLEEP
E: GET EXERCISE
What is the PLEASE Skill?
TREAT PHYSICAL ILLNESS
Are you not physically feeling well? Do you have a cough, sore throat, cold? Did you go to the doctor? If your doctor prescribed you antibiotics, are you taking them? Are you taking other prescribed medications such as vitamins or medications from a psychiatrist?
You might have answered “No” to some of these questions. You may think you’re being strong by leaving illness untreated, but often it wears us down and makes it harder to go through life. I struggle with this, and often I ask myself “Will it help you to feel better, both for your body and mind?” I know that when I am sick and I allow myself to rest or go to the doctor, I am more relaxed and I recover quicker.
Do you notice that there are some days when you are eating too much and some days you are eating too little? Are there certain foods that you cannot eat, and if you do, make you feel worse? Do you have a schedule of times that you eat?
You might have answered “No” to some of these questions. Ask yourself, “Will it help me feel better?” Personally, when I eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner around the same time each day, I have more energy.
AVOID MOOD-ALTERING SUBSTANCES
I know, I know, this topic is coming up and no one wants to talk about it! So really quickly, here are the facts:
- Alcohol, caffeine, sugar, nicotine, and illicit substances all have properties that can become addictive
- Some of them are also illegal if you are under 18
- Moderation is key!
There is a reason why we consider it MOOD-ALTERING. These things have the potential to increase or decrease emotions experienced, making it more difficult to make healthy decisions. Though these substances may make us feel good temporarily, they often lead to a crash. So be sure to moderate your use of those legal substances, and stay away from the illegal substances.
Studies have found that if people do not get a sufficient amount of sleep each night, there is not a way to recover from or “catch up” on the missed sleep. 7-9 hours of sleep is recommended each night, and often teenagers require more.
Ask yourself, “How many hours of sleep do I get on average? Am I getting to bed at the same time every night and waking up the same time every morning?”
You might have answered “No” to some of these questions. What does this mean for you? Perhaps you need to keep track of your sleep habits in a journal. Perhaps you might need to set a bedtime alarm to make sure you are going to bed on time. I know, personally, if I get at least 6 hours of sleep, I am noticeably more awake in the morning.
Did you know that “aerobic exercise, done consistently, is an antidepressant” (Linehan, 2015)? Exercise does not have to include going to the gym. You can participate in sports, walk, bike, or do yoga. There are many options so exercise does not have to be a “chore.”
There are also many phone apps that you can download to ensure you are getting an adequate amount of aerobic exercise.
Reach Out to a Counselor to Help with Self-Care
As always, if you find yourself struggling in these areas, do not hesitate to reach out for help. A licensed therapist or counselor can help empower you to be your best self!
Erica Marriaga is a proud fur-mama of her one-eyed rescue dog, Toby. She loves to spend time with her husband and bond with her family, nieces, and nephews. Erica is passionate and enthusiastic about her role as a therapist.
EWC has locations in Manalapan and Shrewsbury, NJ, and accepts a variety of insurances.
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