Heart with arrow through it during the air show CNE 2019

Community Engagement and Mental Health: Striking a Balance

I've been having a bit of a rough couple of weeks and I wanted to reflect on how I can potentially balance my mental and physical health, academics, extracurriculars, and community engagement activities moving forward. The first step is understanding how I got here in the first place, so that I can learn to not to repeat the same pattern. I think some of the main problems were that I continuously didn't listen to my body, didn't sleep enough, and oftentimes skipped breakfast to leave for class. Sometimes I forgot about eating lunch as I was focused on finishing things. I pushed myself to the brink of exhaustion each week to get things done, because I always had something else to do almost immediately after I finished the first task. However, my behaviour was/ is clearly not healthy, and although there were a few other personal factors at play, I want to try to prepare my body and mind so that the same thing doesn't happen next month.
A girl staring off into mountains in the background
Mountains always seem so calming and peaceful to me...
Here are a few steps I'm planning to follow to ensure that I'm on the right track in terms of balancing my mental health and community engagement activities (a list curated also as an obligation for myself to follow): 1. Schedule in time for physical activities, such as Yoga in the mornings This is something I've meant to do for the past while, but it's difficult to force myself out of bed two or three hours before I'm supposed to leave for class. One way I can add this to my daily routine is by fixing my sleep schedule (which is also easier said than done). I'm thinking I'll lie on my bed for a little bit around 11 pm and play some relaxing music playlists (maybe Chinese traditional music as well!) and hopefully drift off to sleep to the ambient sound of a pipa or guqin. 2. Think about three things I did well at the end of the day I've done this in the past but recently stopped as I was always so tired by the time I went to sleep. The three things can be as simple as: "Good job for going on a walk today" or even "You're going to bed five minutes earlier than yesterday." I used to find these quick lines of acknowledgement helpful and they let me fall asleep on a more positive note if the day did not go well.
Sunrise on Newcastle Island, BC
A new day, another opportunity to pick up the strands I left last night... (Taken on newcastle Island, BC)
3. Acknowledge that sometimes forcing myself isn't the right answer. Sometimes I "can" do something, but that doesn't mean I "should" My partner often tells me this, but I've always thought: "If I can do something, shouldn't I?" It's hard to acknowledge that I can't always do everything I want to do, but I recognize now it's important for the sake of my body's future health. After all, people have only finite amount of energy. If we use all of our energy writing one essay, we can't expect ourselves to be able to 100% focus on finishing another assignment. That's why, for future community engagement initiatives, I'll be mindful of when I'm feeling tired or burnt out. I simply have to know when I need to take a step back in my roles.
A picture of a panda sweet and a white and pink frosting cake
I'll give myself as many hugs as this cute panda dessert deserves 🙂
4. Give myself frequent hugs Mental hugs. Physical hugs. I know I can't always rely on someone else to be my shoulder to cry on. I'll wrap myself in my own arms and tell myself what I've done well in the past. I have to try to love myself. Learning from my mistakes is important, but they can come later, after the hug sessions. I need to be patient. Sometimes it takes more than one day to heal. Ultimately, I just feel that while community engagement is important, I also need to recognize my boundaries and take physical steps to ensure they aren't violated. I'll try this in the coming weeks: To stand up for myself within myself.

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