CUMBERLAND — A new texting service developed by University of Maryland Extension Family & Consumer Sciences intern Rebecca Ajiboye delivers advice to remind caregivers and health service workers to give themselves the same level of care they provide for others.

Ajiboye created the new health and wellness service through 211 Maryland, a nonprofit organization partnering with state agencies to provide mental health resources to Marylanders.

The free service offers reminders with self-care tips for caregivers, especially as many are isolated from their own families while attending to others during the pandemic.

“They’re the ones who are spending a lot of their time and energy taking care of other people, so we wanted this texting platform to be a reminder to them to take care of themselves,” said Ajiboye, senior family science major in the School of Public Health.

The service is available for anyone who needs reminders to engage in self-care practices and healthy routines.

To access the service, text MDWellness to 898-211.

“There are three categories of messages — mindfulness, nutrition and messages about seeking social support or getting support from social contacts,” said Ajiboye, who is the creator of the 60 different messages participants will receive periodically throughout the week.

Each message provides comprehensive information to help people create new healthy habits in their daily routines.

“There’s a disconnect between what people know they need to do and actually doing it, so if you just get a little nudge, it might be all you need to engage in that healthier behavior,” said Alex Chan, UME mental and behavioral health specialist and supervising faculty for Ajiboye’s project. “Developing all of the messages was really the way to give people the idea that they should value those things for themselves.”

The service is not limited to Maryland and can be accessed from anywhere. Messages are not specific to people in caregiving positions; they are applicable to anyone who needs a reminder to practice self-care, including teachers and parents. “If your needs are not met, it’s very hard for you to put yourself into others because you’re not whole yourself,” said Ajiboye. “If you’re not whole, how can you invest yourself into someone else’s care?”

The three different subject areas are a basic but holistic approach to starting self-care routines. One message provides this tip: “Rumination or obsessive thinking can be dangerous to your mental health. Being mindful of your surroundings can remove you from your head and allow you to focus on what is going on outside of you. Take a moment to notice what the sky looks like, or perhaps the color of objects around you.”

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