I tried a self-care challenge for my anxiety. Here’s #HowItFelt
‘Doing something for myself is actually bringing me joy’
Is the pandemic weighing on you? You aren’t alone. In 2020, the Kids Help Phone received twice as many calls and texts as it did in 2019, and a recent study from Sick Kids hospital showed that 70 per cent of Canadian kids experienced a deterioration of their mental health during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. This week, CBC Kids News is rolling out five stories from kids and teens who tried something new to improve their mental health and shared #HowItFelt. Here’s one of those stories.
Throughout the pandemic, 15-year-old Farah Elgaweesh has had a lot more to worry about than usual.
“I have to babysit my younger sisters, so there’s been more responsibilities I’ve had to do that I wasn’t used to, so that’s adding to the stress.”
That, on top of an already huge load of schoolwork, has led to some mental health struggles for the Edmonton teen over the last year.
“Higher stress levels have made me, like, more depressed and not being interested in communicating with people because I’ve just got used to staying alone.”
CBC Kids News asked Farah to try out a self-care routine for one week to see how she’d feel afterward.
Check out this video to see #HowItFelt for her.
What is self-care?
Dr. Shimi Kang, a psychiatrist and clinical associate professor at the University of British Columbia, said self-care is “actually pretty simple.”
Dr. Shimi Kang says self-care is simple, but can fall off the radar when teens are overscheduled and overworked. (Image credit: Dr. Shimi Kang/Twitter)
Self-care is all about doing things for yourself each day that develop healthy pathways in the brain, said Kang, who is the former medical director for child and youth mental health for Vancouver.
Self-care can be an important factor in good mental health, she said.
But because young people are constantly overworked, Kang said, they often forget to take care of themselves.
“We’re seeing burnout, stress and anxiety for overscheduled kids and students who don’t know how to take care of themselves.”
Part of the problem, Kang said, is that “we’ve made sleep deprivation a symbol of ambition and being busy a symbol of importance.”
So how do you take care of yourself?
The 5 pillars of self-care
According to Kang, there are five things you can aim for each day to improve your well-being. They are:
1. Sleep and ‘downtime’
- Get 9-12 hours of sleep each night.
- Avoid blue light from digital screens for at least two hours before going to bed.
- Practise gratitude daily to reflect and unwind (e.g., write in a gratitude journal).
- Aim for at least 20 minutes of exercise each day, five days a week.
- Get active outside where you can access vitamin D from the sun.
- Spend time in nature.
- Aim for a well-balanced diet including omega-3 fatty acids (fish oils, walnuts, supplements).
- Reduce your processed sugar intake.
- Drink plenty of water each day. Your urine should be light yellow.
4. Mental stimulation or ‘play’
- Do some form of play at least once a day (hobbies, extracurriculars, sports etc.).
- Try new and different things, which builds pathways in the brain to help us adapt.
5. Positive socialization
- Have healthy conversations, relationships and interactions each day without being on your phone.
- Avoid gossip and bullying behaviour (negative socialization).
- Talk about passions, hobbies, interests and contributions (positive socialization).
More from the #HowItFelt series
- I tried calling a Kids Help Phone counsellor. Here’s #HowItFelt
- I started learning my Indigenous language to help my anxiety. Here’s #HowItFelt
- I tried disconnecting from devices for 1 week. Here’s #HowItFelt
- I made ‘talk with friends’ a daily to-do. Here’s #HowItFelt
Looking for more stories
Do you have a story you want to share about mental health and overcoming adversity? CBC Kids News wants to hear from you. Click here to submit a story for the next installment of our #HowItFelt series.
TOP IMAGE CREDIT: Philip Street/CBC