EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first in an ongoing monthly series of columns (Mental Health Memo) to be authored by a variety of mental health professionals at the Human Services Center in Yankton.
Summer 2021 offers the freedom to transition back to a sense of normalcy. Many are ready to plunge in and make this a summer to remember. Pandemic precautions led us to limit social activities and gatherings. Although not all restrictions are lifted yet, this summer is a breath of fresh air.
The seemingly sudden and dramatic pandemic-related pause in normal life activities left some folks struggling to adjust and to an increase in mental health issues. Leisure time is important to both our bodies and our minds.
The Therapeutic Recreation Department at the Human Services Center in Yankton specializes in helping people learn to practice meaningful and healthy leisure skills to help cope with big life changes. These four tips can help make this summer unforgettable as the transition from pandemic conditions continues.
1. Choose Meaningful Activities
As we grow older our likes and dislikes change. Choose activities with the most meaning for this time in your lives. Summer camps are a great option to help children explore various interests because of the mixture of leisure opportunities they offer. When meaningful activities are found, make them part of a normal leisure routine.
2. Be Mindful During Activities
The practice of mindfulness simply means being present in the moment. Being mindful within an activity allows positive health benefits and deeper enjoyment, rather than simply passing time thinking about what’s next. When a person is not engaged in an activity, the benefits are limited, stress is increased, money and time can be wasted and behavioral issues can arise. Practice awareness in a few activities to gain the benefit, rather than overloading with too many activities which leads to feeling drained instead of refreshed.
3. Try Something New
Trying something new leads to confidence and positive self-esteem. Take a leap of faith this summer by trying something you have never done before. The term “bucket list” is one of the best ways to get motivated for this challenge. People of all ages can make a list of activities to try or places to see. Challenge yourself to try one new thing each week or once a month. Whatever the time frame you choose, expanding your range of leisure interests is a great way to help savor the summer.
4. Take Time To Rest
Summer camps, vacations and ice cream are fun, but rest is important too. When adults come home from vacation many feel they need another vacation just to rest. Cranky kids? Rest is needed. Eye rolling teens? Rest is needed. For our bodies to function properly, we need more than just sleep. Take time for yourself, by yourself, and practice mindful and meaningful activities that allow your body to heal.
Another word describing rest is self-care. When the body is given time to rest on a regular basis a person’s mind, body and spirit are rejuvenated and refreshed.
Practicing well-rounded leisure improves health, social relationships, fitness levels and mental health. Use this transitional summer to practice these skills instead of just jumping back into the old routine. Focus on healing this summer.
“The body heals with play, the mind heals with laughter, the spirit heals with joy” — Proverb
This month’s author, Cassandra Santiago, is the Recreational Therapy Coordinator at the Human Services Center. Santiago is a Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist (CTRS) and an American Council of Exercise (ACE) Health Coach.