Your self-care matters: Tips for improving health and wellness of new Canadians

Published June 1, 2022.

Estimated reading time: 2.5 minutes

In summary:
  • Self-care is any action you take that allows you to care for yourself.
  • Some newcomers prioritize their families care over their own and may perceive self-care as selfish.
  • Self-care can take many forms ranging from getting sufficient sleep and eating right to being mindful of your mental health.

Self-care can be a misunderstood word.

Some people perceive it as only being necessary for those with mental health challenges while others see it as a selfish, indulgent or lavish waste of time. You may picture self-care as a hot stone massage or lighting scented candles but it’s much simpler than that. It’s a critically-necessary aspect of your wellness and can help you thrive in both your personal and professional life.

Self-care is any activity that allows you to take care of yourself. It isn’t necessarily something that makes you feel good. It can be any investment of time and energy to improve your well-being or your life.

Some recent immigrants and refugees struggle with the notion of self-care. One Scandinavian study on diverse newcomers found self-care wasn’t valued or it was ignored all together as immigrants prioritized supporting their children or families over themselves.

This may stem from a lack of understanding of self-care and its benefits. It is a powerful tool to boost your energy, improve productivity, recognize your needs and strengthen your mental or physical health. It can even help you better support your family and reach your career goals, as your overall well-being improves.

Windmill connected with Marcus Zacharia, a multicultural health navigator at Ottawa Newcomer Health Centre (ONHC) and, Alan Yim, an immigrant mental health worker at Centre for Immigrants and Community Services (CICS Canada) with locations across the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). We sought their advice on tips to support newcomers in achieving greater self-care.

MarcusZacharia Alan_Yim at CICS

From left, Marcus Zacharia of Ottawa Newcomer Health Centre (ONHC) and Alan Yim of Centre for Immigrants and Community Services (CICS Canada) located in Toronto.

Focus on the daily trifecta

Eat, sleep and exercise should be at the top of every self-care to do list. These are the pillars of self-care. You have to ensure you’re getting enough sleep, fueling your body with the nutrients it needs and engaging in some physical activity, even if it’s just a brisk daily walk. Focusing on improving self-care in these areas can be challenging for busy newcomers. They are trying to stay afloat financially, care for their families, earn their accreditation or land their first job in Canada. It’s important to consider how this kind of self-care can help you do all of those things that much better. 

Be mindful of your mental health

Newcomers don’t always know where to look for mental health supports or may not necessarily recognize how effective self-care can help support mental wellness. You can find mental health resources through settlement organizations or local chapters of the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA). Family doctors can provide mental health support. It’s also important to ensure you’re mindful of how a lack of sleep, exercise, work-related burnout, high-level of stress or an imbalanced diet may affect your mental health.

During times of mental stress or difficulty, Yim suggests, an exercise known as “dropping anchor” that involves acknowledging thoughts and feelings, body stretching and mindfulness.

New Canadians face unique mental health challenges and the Windmill blog has a post that offers tips, resources and mental health supports that can help. Find the post, here.

Keep a gratitude journal


At ONHC, community members recently shared self-care tips on social media which included maintaining a gratitude journal to help improve self-esteem, increase feelings of happiness and positivity and foster hope for the future. A guiding question in a gratitude journal is: What are you grateful for today? Daily, identifying three things you are grateful for, can be a beneficial self-care exercise.

Find more self-care tips, tools and resources below:

Categorized in: A Newcomer's Journey, Newcomer Health and Wellness,