Celebrating International Self-Care Day

By University Advancement and Communications Posted: July 23, 2021 5:00 a.m.

Start off slow and dedicate a few minutes to practicing mindfulness each day.
Start off slow and dedicate a few minutes to practicing mindfulness each day. Photo: stock

Saturday, July 24 is International Self-Care Day, a day to practice self-care and to recognize the importance of self-care to the health of Canadians and to the health care system. Consumer Health Products Canada has identified seven pillars of self-care: health literacy, self-awareness, physical activity, healthy eating, risk avoidance, good hygiene, and optimal use of products and services. 

Dr. Shadi Beshai, an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology, has done extensive research on how mindfulness and meditation, part of the self-awareness pillar of self-care, can help people who have symptoms of depression and anxiety. He says that mindfulness is learning to pay attention on purpose to what’s happening in the present moment, with an attitude of acceptance. 

Dr. Shadi Beshai is an Associate Professor
in the Department of Psychology
Photo: U of R Photography

“There have been countless studies on the power to direct attention in this purposeful and accepting manner,” says Beshai. “People who practice mindfulness meditation over periods of time report less symptoms of depression and anxiety. They also report that their ability to bounce back after an adverse event has improved.” 

If a person is wanting to incorporate mindfulness into their everyday lives, Dr. Beshai recommends starting off slow, and dedicating a few minutes each day. 

“You can start off by sitting up straight, with dignified posture and your feet on the ground, and direct your attention to your breaths going in and out,” says Beshai. “If you find that your mind begins to wander, focus on bringing your attention back to your breath. As time goes on, you will begin to be less distracted by your thoughts.” 

If you begin to look at your mental health in the same way that you look at your physical health, scheduling in 10 minutes per day to practice mindfulness will become more routine. Dr. Beshai notes that the more you practice mindfulness, you will become better equipped to manage your reaction to negative situations. 

Throughout the pandemic, Stacey Bliss, PhD, sessional instructor in the Faculty of Media, Art, and Performance, invited faculty, staff, and students to join her over Zoom on Tuesday evenings for a 30-minute, guided meditation practice. During the 30-minute session, Bliss led attendees to meditate on their breath, improvised soundscapes (such as bowls or gongs), and silence. Bliss says that a meditative community is helpful in building and strengthening a personal practice of meditation. In addition, it helps to rest, repair, and rejuvenate your system. 

While the Tuesday night group is taking a break during the summer, Bliss plans to resume the Tuesday evening meditation sessions on Tuesday, September 7. The sessions will continue to be free for U of R students, and will be by donation for everyone else. Watch your U of R email for further information about the Fall 2021 sessions! 

Maureen Klenk is a Nurse Practitioner and the Associate Dean of Student Wellness with the Faculty of Nursing, and she stresses two of the most important aspects of healthy eating – proper hydration and getting the nutrients your body requires. 

“When you have enough water in your body, your kidneys function correctly and the water moves the waste products out of your blood stream,” says Klenk. “In addition, a well-hydrated brain will draw the needed minerals and vitamins into the brain for it to function properly, which a poorly hydrated brain will not be able to.” 

Once you are well hydrated, your body also requires nourishment. This includes macro nutrients such as protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fat in appropriate portions. Healthy servings of the micro nutrients are needed for energy production, immune function, blood clotting as well as growth and bone health. 

“I am often asked ‘should I take a multi-vitamin to stay healthy?’” says Klenk. “Yes, you can, however it is much better to eat a healthy, well-balanced diet to get your daily vitamins and minerals. The food you eat carries the best form of vitamins and minerals that the body can most absorb and use the most easily.” 

Klenk also offered some simple, cost-effective tips on how to incorporate plenty of water and healthy eating habits into your everyday routine: 

  • Drink water, and lots of it! Yes, it does have to be water with no chemical additives such as MiO (a liquid water enhancer). Coffee, tea, soft drinks, energy drinks, or vitamin-type drinks cannot be substituted for water unless specifically stated by your health care practitioner. A healthy human body should have at least eight to ten glasses of water a day (and that is on top of coffee, tea, etc.).
  • Before you have that cup of coffee – drink a cup of water first, then have your coffee. Before you go into your exam – drink water instead of an energy drink or at least ensure you have a glass of water as well as the energy drink.
  • Get in the habit of carrying a refillable water bottle everywhere you go, so that you always have a cup of water handy. A good rule of thumb to know when you have drank enough water in a day is if your urine is pale yellow or clear in color.
  • Avoid the sugary snacks! Learn to read food labels and read the carbohydrate levels on all foods. Stay away from snacks that include high amounts of sugars (a form of carbohydrate). New research is indicating that a “sugar high” may be shorter than we originally thought. If you are heading into a three-hour exam and you have only had high-sugar snacks (such as sugary coffee drinks) before going in, you will have a very real energy letdown before that exam is over.
  • A high-fiber, high-protein snack such as a handful of nuts, a cheese stick and an apple, or carrots and hummus will sustain your energy levels for longer. These snacks are also very easy to pack up and carry with you for your day! Top off that high-fiber, high-protein snack with an 8 ounce glass of water and you will be good to go for the next three to four hours. It’s simple, easy, and inexpensive! (In fact, less expensive than that latte you may have been thinking about).

The University has committed to creating a healthy campus community and learning environment in its 2020-25 strategic plan All Our Relations, or kahkiyaw kiwȃhkomȃkȃninawak in Cree. Well-being and Belonging is one of the five areas of focus in the plan, with three interconnected objectives within it: Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion; Healthy Living; and Mental Health Literacy and Research. 


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