Spring Cleaning: Mind Edition

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It’s spring and your “New Year, New You” resolutions from January may have long gone by the wayside, but that doesn’t mean you have to give up on self-improvement. Spring cleaning isn’t just for the closet –  it’s also a great time to declutter the mind! Here are a few tips for taking care of your mind, and entering the new season with a renewed vigour.

1. Evaluate and Reset Your Goals

Sit down and make a quick list of all the goals you set for yourself recently. You may have formally written them down and planned them out, or they may be informal ones you set for yourself. Everything from “get through my coursework” to “go to the gym 4 times a week” to “have a job lined up for the summer”. Once you’ve written the goals down, figure out which of them you have achieved, which of them you are on your way to achieving and which ones you may have to either abandon or re-tool. Even if you’re behind on some of your goals, take a moment to congratulate yourself for what you have done. A goal half-finished is still progress, and sometimes just making it through day-by-day is an accomplishment in itself.

Spring is a good time to reorganize your mental expectations of yourself and a good time to think about what you want to achieve for the future. It’s ok to start simple, like “read 2 books over summer break.” Once you have your tangible goals written down, and your plan for how you are going to achieve them, you should hopefully feel ready to move into your next season with confidence.

2. Be Mindful

The practice of mindfulness has been shown to help relieve mental distress. It has long been associated with practices, such as yoga and meditation. The scientific definition of mindfulness, according to Pyschology Today, is “the self-regulation of attention with an attitude of curiosity, openness and acceptance.” Which in simple terms can mean being in the present moment and taking stock of your current moment.

To start, try this simple breathing exercise:

Wherever you are, take a comfortable seat or lie down.

Then, close your eyes and take a deep breath through your nose.

Exhale through your mouth.

Pay close attention to the breath as it comes in, and goes out. Ask yourself, “how does the air feel coming into your body?”

Repeat at least 3 times

How do you feel? Just taking 15 minutes out of your day for a relaxing breathing exercise may have a profound effect on your mind and body. There are many breathing exercises available on the internet, and there might even be mindfulness meditation classes organized on your school’s campus. If you can adopt the practice of mindfulness into your life during less stressful times of the year, i.e. start-of-term or exams. Then you may reflexively learn to practice them during the rougher times.

If you want to learn more about mindfulness https://www.mindful.org/ is a great place to start.

3. Talk To Someone

One of the best ways to deal with mental stress is by talking about it with someone you trust. We are social animals, living in a culture of sharing, and yet we sometimes neglect to engage in open and honest conversations about how we are feeling. If you have a close friend or family member that you can chat with about what’s on your mind, that can relieve a lot of your own personal burdens. Plus, you may find that you’re not the only one who needs a mind decluttering, creating a support network within your community can be a rewarding way to take care of yourself and to connect with those around you.

If a peer or family support network doesn’t seem suitable, then there are always others outside of your immediate network who can help. Sometimes what we’re dealing with requires an outside perspective and may even need a more professional approach. Most universities and colleges have on-site medical and counselling services. If you have been struggling with any issues related to mood, sleep or anxiety it is important to make an appointment with a person or organization you trust. It can be anything from a trusted TA or instructor to a counsellor or doctor at your school’s health and wellness centre.

Remember, it can sometimes take a few visits or appointments with different people and types of professionals before you find someone you truly can open up to. Trust the process and don’t be afraid to vocalize your preferences or concerns.

If you are struggling with your mental wellness or just want to learn more here are just a few Canada-wide resources:

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About the author

India McAlister is a recent graduate of Sheridan College’s Journalism - New Media postgraduate program and received her Honours Bachelor’s of Arts in History from the University of Toronto. She currently lives and Toronto where she works in television production and also freelances as a writer, editor and social media coordinator. She is passionate about the arts, gender equity, and the Toronto Maple Leafs.