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Summertime is the Perfect Time for Self-Care

In a world that keeps ever changing, one thing is certain: self-care is a vital aspect of our day-to-day lifestyle. Self-care is an intentional and mindful process of choosing to do something that is specifically designed for yourself that allows you to generate a sense of satisfaction. In a world that pressures us to be constantly on the move and needing to adapt to the environment all around us, this practice of taking care of oneself can be rather challenging. However, there is one time of year when the sun is at its brightest, the beauty of nature is blossoming to full bloom, the light of day is much longer, and the opportunities to indulge in a little extra self-care is at our fingertips . . . it’s Summertime! 
Being in the Sun

What is the best part of summer? Everyone has a different answer and some of those answers overlap with one another. I think the best part of summertime is being in the sun–soaking up those magnificent rays and inviting an increase of Vitamin D. Did you know that sun exposure can actually assist in your mood management? A lack of UV rays can cause a drop in serotonin levels, so it only makes sense to consider the benefit to our moods when we are receiving the light from the sun. Gather up the kids, grandkids, your dog, friend or neighbor and go out for a walk. Take a few deep breaths and enjoy the beauty of the scenery around you while you are walking. There are also many festivals, carnivals and fairs happening throughout the summer. A quick Google search can help you find what’s going on in your area. Take advantage of these local events - you might even run into some old friends or neighbors that you haven’t seen in awhile. Please remember to wear sun screen when you are spending time in the sun, though. That brings up another important aspect of self-care: skin care routines.

Skin Care

If we are going to soak up the UV rays from the sun to help our mood management and increase our vitamin D levels, we need to make sure our skin is protected from the otherwise harmful effects from the sun. Too much of any good thing can often result in some long term consequences. Please make sure you are wearing an appropriate SPF sunscreen and consider lip balms and specifically designed facial sunscreens. Skin care routines are an example of good self-care and are highly encouraged during the summer when the sun is at its brightest (research says usually between the hours of 10 am and 4 pm). And, don’t forget to cover your heads if you are going to be in the sun for an extended period of time. There’s not much worse than getting your scalp or ears sunburned.

The Beach is the Best Medicine

I can’t help but to think about the beach when I’m thinking about soaking up the sun and skin care routines. What a great way to engage in some self-care–take a vacation, get away from the house, put your feet in the sand and enjoy the smell of salt water as you appreciate the grand creation of the ocean. While you’re there, ride a wave on your boogie board, go paddle boarding, jump the waves of the ocean, get buried in the sand, build a sand castle and just have FUN! Having fun is an amazing mood booster and a great way to make memories and get satisfaction from laughter. Did you know that smiling takes less muscle movement than frowning and laughing increases our serotonin and dopamine levels which boosts our moods.   

Gardening

Maybe you really are not much for traveling away from home and the beach just isn’t your thing. That’s okay because you can still receive the benefits of soaking up the sunshine from home. What if you started a vegetable garden or a flowerbed? Raised garden beds have gained popularity in recent years and are a great alternative for people with small yards. Have you ever watched something grow and experienced the satisfaction of seeing, tasting, or smelling the fruits of your labor? Gardening is a great self-care activity, whether it’s vegetables or flowers, just knowing that you have contributed to the life force of nature can increase your self-esteem, boost your mood, and encourage a more positive outlook in general. Did you know there is a bacterium in soil that triggers the release of serotonin which assists in a better mood and decreased anxiety?

Indoor Activities

Not every summer day is sunny and even when it is, sometimes the heat can be exhausting. If you are not an outside person, you can still derive some great self-care mood boosting benefits from staying indoors. One of my favorite indoor activities is rearranging my furniture and hanging different pictures and wall art. There is self-care in creating a new environmental look and adapting to the new surrounding. Isn’t that what the world tends to ask of us anyway? The ever changing, pressuring us to move along and adapt world around us. Why not start in our own environment and learn the benefit of navigating such things. 

Puzzles and board games are not just for winter. Pull out a favorite game you haven’t played in awhile and enjoy the laughter with your family and friends. If you are artistic, a rainy summer day is the perfect time to dust off those art supplies and create a masterpiece. Building confidence and being creative are excellent perimeters for sustaining self-care in our day-to-day lives. There are also mood boosting indoor places to visit such as trampoline parks, escape rooms, and arcades. 

So this summer, please consider how to take advantage of the longevity of the days or the warmth of the sun to gain perspective on the opportunities of this life and the necessity of taking care of yourself. Self-care is a fundamental pillar to maintaining our mental health, sustaining a healthy mood balance, taking care of our physical bodies, and growing in areas of spiritual awareness. 

Rena Arnold, LCSW-C, is a licensed clinical social worker providing therapy for children, adolescents, families, and adults at Brook Lane’s North Village outpatient office in Hagerstown. She works with clients with a variety of mental health issues to teach positive coping skills, improved communication and behavior modification. Rena has a master’s degree in social work from The University of Maryland Baltimore Campus and holds a specialization in working with children and families. She has worked in the field of mental health for over 20 years with a range of experience including therapeutic foster care, school based therapy, and out-patient mental health services.