Life is known for throwing curveballs into the mix at our most settled and unsuspecting moments. Each person has their own unique method for tackling these unexpected scenarios. Finding what works for you is important because the way in which you respond to a curveball will determine your recovery time and can better equip you later on to handle future unexpected moments.
How well a person handles a curveball can also impact their mental health, which may ultimately filter into every other aspect of their daily life. It is important to keep one’s mind in the best shape possible in order to maintain good mental health. This requires checking in on oneself to assess how one is coping and allowing for self-care when necessary.
Self-care comes in various forms – for some it may take the form of a relaxing spa day while for others it may include hiking up one’s favourite trail. Each person needs an activity that enables them to slow down and embrace a different perspective. According to Karen Dempsey, in her article titled “Five Self- Care Tips To Support Your Mental Health”, published in Awareness Centre Online, and Mental Health America’s article titled “Taking Good Care of Yourself”, common self-care tips include: taking time to relax, making healthier choices, practising good hygiene, socialising, expressing oneself, lowering one’s expectations to be realistic, and worrying less about what other people think.
“Self-care is not just about relaxation. The overall benefit of self-care is that it can assist in building up resistance against the challenges and stresses of daily life.”
Finding activities that can incorporate these aforementioned tips can be a challenging process, but it is a necessary journey that every person should take. Dedicating time each week to try new activities is both therapeutic and fun. When trying out a new activity, choose to invite a friend or two to join in on the journey; socialising is one of the key aspects of self-care. According to Very Well Mind, mental self-care focuses on “the way you think and the things that are filling your mind”.
Mental self-care includes activities that keep one’s mind sharp, and healthy. Examples of these activities include: learning more about topics of curiosity and fascination, reading inspiring and motivational books, and practising self-compassion and acceptance to help develop a healthier inner dialogue.
The Student Counselling Unit (SCU) at the University of Pretoria has introduced tools to aid students in practising self-care to maintain good mental health.
If students are not comfortable with arranging an in-person session with SCU psychologists, the SCU website has various self-help materials (including PDF documents and podcasts) for students to review. These materials cover various topics including: “promote your mental health”, “build psychological resilience”, and many more. In addition, Dr Eskell-Blokland, the Head of the SCU Department, took the time to explain a new venture at the SCU, namely the SCU-B – an artificial intelligence (AI) chatbot designed to provide students with information, tools, and skills to manage their mental wellbeing within the university context. Since the venture is relatively new, the services it provides may be limited, however it is continuously developing as more students make use of it.
Self-care is not just about relaxation. The overall benefit of self-care is that it can assist in building up resistance against the challenges and stresses of daily life. Self-care makes coping with the unexpected curveballs easier. It is important to remember that maintaining one’s mental health is a life-long journey that requires commitment, patience, and the continuous practice of self-care as one goes through life.
Illustration: Sanele Zulu