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Last Updated on January 12, 2021

15 Simple Ways to Boost Your Emotional Health

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15 Simple Ways to Boost Your Emotional Health

Our emotional health can be defined in many ways, and because it is subjective and specific to each person, one simple definition doesn’t always cut it. However, we can begin to understand emotional health as it relates to our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, and how we’re able to best control these when they no longer serve us efficiently.

According to Dan Eisenberg, sports psychologist at OffshoreSportsbooks.com, nearly 18% of the US population experiences an emotional health issue.[1] Emotional health, when left unchecked, manifests in the physical body in the forms of muscle tension, fatigue, and dis-ease. When we’re facing stress, sadness, or anger, embracing habits that teach us how to cope with these emotions and the thoughts that accompany them can be powerfully effective in keeping our entire being strong, happy, and healthy.

1. Talk It Out

One of the quickest ways of releasing pent-up emotions is to talk it out, whether that’s with a friend, family member, or someone neutral, like a therapist or counselor.

Fixing the problem during these conversations is not necessarily the goal; instead, venting or releasing words that surround the problem is one healthy way of expressing how you feel. Usually, solutions arise on their own out of this release, but the sole act of giving a voice to your emotions is a good start.

2. Write It Down

If speaking to someone makes you uncomfortable, writing down your thoughts and emotions as they arise is another healthy habit. This practice of journaling helps you put your words down on paper in a way that is safe, secure, and personal.

It also gives your feelings and thoughts an outlet that you may or may not decide to share with others; but the act of providing that outlet is healthier than keeping feelings bottled up.

3. Meditate

Meditation has long been proven to help reduce stress and tension. In a 2016 study, 76% of people questioned about their meditation practice claimed that it helped their general wellness tremendously, with 60% reporting that it increased their energy, and 50% reporting that it helped their memory and focus.[2]

Sitting down in a meditation practice allows you to observe the feelings and thoughts that come up, and then detach from letting them fester into growing problems. The practice teaches you how to distance yourself from the emotional chaos we tend to find ourselves in, long enough to create space in which to simply be.

Here’s a video to guide you through meditation:

Or you can also take a look at these guides on meditation:

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4. Move Your Body

Whether this is in a yoga practice or a gym exercise routine, moving the body has tremendous ties in how that affects our emotional response, and in turn, health.

Depending on what you may be feeling or going through at the time, stepping into a mindful movement with the body can pull you out of that thinking loop, and back into a physical connection.

As long as you’re mindful and aware of the movements you’re doing, you’re giving your mind something to focus on. Likewise, you’re giving your emotional health a dose of serotonin, the feel-good chemical that contributes to feelings of wellness and general happiness.[3]

You can try this gentle somatic yoga for emotional release:

5. Go Outside

Nature has such a powerful effect on the body, mind, and soul. We spend so much time indoors, because of our jobs, families, responsibilities, and so forth, that we don’t take the time to really tap into the simple idea of being outside.

Whether you make a routine of taking a brief walk outside during your lunch break, or just stepping out to enjoy some fresh air for a few minutes on a park bench nearby, these simple habits, over time, can truly refresh and reset you for prime emotional health.

6. Try Forest Bathing

While we’re on the topic of being outside in nature, forest bathing is an incredible practice to implement. Called Shinrin in Japanese, forest bathing has made its way westward to pull people into the simple union with nature and its many benefits.[4]

Simply find a forest or nearby location where you can get away from the noise of the city – a park, wooded trail, etc. Unplug and leave your phone, camera, and any other technology in the car. As you’re walking, be all there! Listen to the sounds around you, feel your feet on the ground, and become deeply aware of the sensations around you and within you.

This practice is meant to disconnect you from constantly chasing down the future, and put you back into the present moment – the only one that truly matters.

You can learn more about forest bathing in the video below:

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7. Start a Gratitude Journal

It’s so easy to get sucked into the thought loop that we’re not doing enough, or that we have so many items to yet tick off of our to-do list before the day is done. However, this thought loop breeds a thought reality that keeps us chained to anxiety, depression, and a slew of other negative nasties.

In order to tap into all that you have done and accomplished in a single day, begin a gratitude journal. Before you go to sleep at night, write down a list of things and people for which and whom you’re grateful. Be specific and as lengthy as you’d like, and then look over the list to truly embrace all that you do have in your life.

Take a look at this article and find out how to start a gratitude journal: How a Gratitude Journal and Positive Affirmations Can Change Your Life

8. Make Time for Fun and Fun People

We work too hard, and no play really makes for unsteady and unbalanced emotional health. We’re active and social creatures who need to be around others, enjoying the many perks that life has to offer.

Make it a point to schedule fun time with friends, at least once per month. If you schedule it ahead of time and get it on everyone’s calendar, chances are that you won’t get bogged down with other priorities. After all, fun should still be a priority, even in adulthood!

9. Practice Self-Forgiveness with EFT

Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) is a form of psychological acupressure, or also known as Tapping.[5] It has been used to alleviate physical and emotional pain, and works wonders on self-forgiveness.

We’re often too hard on ourselves. In a deadline-demand-driven society, we subconsciously load ourselves up on expectations that lead to failure, disappointment, and then suffering. EFT allows you to tap into the physical meridians where we hold this emotionally manifested pain, in order to release and forgive.

Check out this video on how to do EFT tapping therapy:

10. Set Daily Priorities

When we’re overwhelmed with work, we tend to dive deep into stress. This may result in stressful eating, poor exercise regimens, and an overall lack of motivation and energy. All of this quickly leads back to that same emotional loop of thinking we’re not good enough, not disciplined enough, etc.

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In order to keep this mental loop from spiraling out of control, setting daily priorities is key. This could mean writing down a list of things to get done throughout the day, and then dividing what is a top project for the day, and what can wait.

This type of breakdown also motivates you to keep going, since you’ll be getting the biggest task out of the way first. Don’t forget to celebrate little milestones along the way! Inbox all cleared out? Awesome! Play your favorite energizing song and take a 5-minute break before the next task.

11. Treat Yourself

We easily treat other people, but when it comes to ourselves, that tends to be a harder point to sell. Maintaining health – whether emotional, physical, or otherwise – is a lifelong journey. Who says you can’t reward yourself for all of the hard work you’re putting in?

A treat may look like a weekend getaway to a spa, or simply a nice bubble bath at home, in the peace and quiet of your own home. These rewards need not be expensive or elaborate; but do keep them a priority.

Celebrating yourself every chance you get leads to inspiration and motivation to keep on your health path.

Take a look at these 40 Self Care Techniques To Rejuvenate And Restore Yourself.

12. Travel

Most of us think of travel as something exotic and expensive, and therefore unattainable; but it doesn’t have to be so! Travel can be anything that takes you out of your current usual routine or comfort zone. Maybe taking a new route to work, or checking out that park on the other side of town one weekend that you’ve always wanted to visit – travel is everywhere!

Give yourself permission (and a treat!) to see and experience something new. Oftentimes, these types of experiences shift our perspective, and give us that much-needed connection with ourselves and the world at large.

13. Take a Class, or Learn Something New

Emotional health is all about changing up the routines we’re used to relying on for our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. The human mind is at its best when it’s being stimulated, and in what better way to do that than to learn something new.

Think about a class you’ve always been interested in, or a skill you’d like to develop. Check out your local colleges, libraries, or social media for opportunities, classes, or workshops. When we take on a new subject area to learn about, we create new neuropathways in the brain. These, in turn, not only help us refresh our creativity and problem-solving skills, but they also change our brain chemistry and allow us to better respond to life’s many changes.[6]

14. Get Enough Sleep

Ensuring that you’re getting a solid 7 to 8 hours of sleep at night is vital for your physical, emotional, and mental health. In order to be productive and energized to take on your day stems from the type of quality sleep you’re getting at night.

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Are you tossing and turning? Perhaps look at your environment and make necessary changes, like new sheets, better pillow, or arrangement of bed that you have in your room.

Do you wake up throughout the night? Keep a journal nearby and document what happens that wakes you, and what you do right after you’re up. This can help you better observe patterns of wakefulness and what you can do about it.

Remember to also put away your phones and tablets before bedtime, to give the body the necessary “down time” in preparation for sleep.

And consider building a night time routine to help put you to sleep: The Ultimate Night Routine Guide: Sleep Better and Wake Up Productive

15. Build Resilience for When Things Change

There is one constant in life, and that is that it will constantly change. As humans, we tend to attach ourselves to the control we have over life, but when it changes unexpectedly (in loss of a person or job), we have a hard time grappling with the reality of it all. Building resilience for these changes ensures that we can bounce back from anything that life throws at us.

In Buddhism, one precept sits above all that is focused on this idea of change, and that is impermanence. This doctrine teaches us that everything is temporary – loss, sadness, grief, happiness, anger, etc. Because life ebbs and flows, so does change along with it.

We’re just there to enjoy and witness the ride, and this means practicing detachment from the idea that we have any real control to begin with! This surrender truly becomes our resilience, and enables us to roll with the punches and embrace all that life has to offer, even when it’s hard.

If you want some practical tips to build resilience, take a look at this article: How to Build Resilience to Face What Life Throws at You

Final Thoughts

Emotional health is just as important as mental and physical health. It is, after all, one and the same.

How we react to the many changes in life can be very telling of how healthy we are, emotionally. Thankfully, there are a plethora of simple habits that we can implement today to help us regain footing on the journey that is our whole-self wellness.

More Tips for Strengthening Emotional Health

Featured photo credit: Rebecca Harris via unsplash.com

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Reference

More by this author

Aleksandra Slijepcevic

Accredited and Certified Vinyasa Yoga Teacher writing for Health & Fitness

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Published on October 15, 2021

Does Anxiety Make You Tired And Why?

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Does Anxiety Make You Tired And Why?

When you think of anxiety, several scenarios may come to mind: the endless tossing and turning of a restless night, dread over potential future events, pandemic-related overwhelm, or full-blown panic attacks. Even if you’re not diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, you’ve likely experienced anxiety symptoms at some point in your life. In these situations, you might feel a queasiness in your stomach, racing heartbeat, excessive sweating, chest tightness, some tension in your jaw/neck/shoulders, or worrisome thoughts as you prepare for the worst possible scenario. But does anxiety also make you tired?

After experiencing these symptoms, you may indeed feel fatigued. The sensation could fall anywhere on the exhaustion spectrum, from feeling like you just ran a marathon and need to sleep for two days, to just a little worn down and wanting a quick nap to recover.

Below are 7 ways anxiety zaps your energy and how to restore it.

1. Stress Hormone Overload

Anxiety can make you tired via overloading your body with stress hormones. The “fight or flight” response is a key connection between anxiety and fatigue. In fact, this process is made up of three stages: Alarm, Resistance, and Exhaustion. Anxiety triggers our body systems to go into high alert. This is a natural, involuntary reaction that developed in the human brain for survival.

When humans lived with the real, imminent threat of being attacked by a predator, it made sense for our bodies to spring into action without much preparatory thought. Such dangers are rare in modern times, but our brains continue to respond in the same way they did thousands of years ago.

The hormones and chemicals that flood our bodies to prepare us for safety can both affect and be affected by several body systems, and this interaction itself contributes to exhaustion. Adrenaline and cortisol are the two most notable hormones to address here. First, adrenaline is sent out, tensing the muscles and increasing heart rate and blood pressure in preparation to run. Later in the stress response, cortisol is released, enhancing the brain’s use of glucose. This is one of our main fuel sources, so it’s no wonder this contributes to fatigue (see #2).

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You can regulate baseline levels of these stress hormones by regularly practicing yoga, breathwork, meditation, and/or engaging in aerobic exercise.[1] It’s easier to lean into these routines for relief during stress when you’ve already mastered using them during times when you feel calm.

2. Elevated Blood Sugar Levels

Fatigue is one of the most common symptoms of hyperglycemia (high blood sugar), which is shown to be associated with anxiety in diabetic patients.[2] Many people who experience hyperglycemia report feeling tired all the time regardless of their quantity or quality of sleep, nutrition, or exercise.

Although this connection has shown more prevalent and prolonged effects in diabetics, it also occurs with nondiabetics exposed to psychiatric stress.[3] In fact, for all people, the natural stress response elevates blood pressure and heart rate as well as cortisol levels, all of which increase blood sugar levels.[4] This means that anxiety causes a double-hit of exhaustion related to blood sugar fluctuations.

Instead of reaching for comfort foods like chocolate during times of stress, take a calming walk around the block. Gentle movement alone is a great stress reliever that incidentally also helps to regulate blood sugars.[5]

3. Negative Mindset

Anxiety can also make you tired because of repetitive negative thinking (RNT), which is a common symptom of anxiety. RNT involves continuous thoughts via rumination (dwelling on sad or dark thoughts focused on the past) and worry (angst regarding the future). Some researchers argue that having a longtime habit of RNT can harm the brain’s capacity to think, reason, and form memories.[6] While the brain is busy using its energy stores to fuel negative thought patterns, the energy available for these other more productive endeavors is thereby reduced.

Negative thoughts can also disrupt or prevent healthy sleep patterns, keeping our minds racing at night and effectively wreaking havoc on daytime energy. (See #7)

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Reduce these patterns by reframing your feelings over anxious thoughts. Instead of staying stuck on “what if,” focus on what you can do in the here and now. What activity can you engage in for five minutes (or more) that brings you joy? What are you grateful for, no matter what’s going on around you?

4. Digestive Issues

It’s common for people to experience both intestinal and mental issues simultaneously. This suggests a strong connection between the central nervous system and the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, which is known as the gut-brain axis.[7] Simply put, what happens in our digestive tract (and as a result of what we eat) affects the brain and vice versa.

The gut microbiota is a complex population of GI tract microorganisms. When its balance is altered, the body can develop conditions that affect the gut-brain-endocrine relationship. The endocrine system produces and manages adrenaline, for starters. And the gut bacteria’s production of feel-good hormones (serotonin and dopamine—see #5) ties into this relationship as well.

GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) receptors are also found in gut bacteria. GABA is a natural brain relaxant that makes us feel good by helping the body to unwind after a stress-induced neurotransmitter release (e.g., cortisol and adrenaline). When GABA activity is low, it leads to anxiety, depression, insomnia, and mood disorders. These are just a few of the manifestations that demonstrate how gut bacteria influences behavior. All of these contribute to feeling both physically and mentally tired.

You can minimize the symptoms of depression and anxiety by keeping your gut microbiota balanced with probiotic-rich fermented foods. Yogurt with live cultures, sauerkraut, kombucha, kefir, kimchi, miso soup, and tempeh are great foods to include in your diet.[8]

5. Depression

Anxiety and depression often go hand in hand. Research continues to indicate a complex relationship between depression and decreased serotonin—a key neurotransmitter for regulating mood and feelings of wellbeing and happiness. Anxiety is also a direct symptom of serotonin deficiency. Serotonin helps with healthy sleep, mood, and digestion.

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Serotonin is produced in the gut, almost exclusively, at an estimated 90 percent. However, a small quantity is also produced in the hypothalamus, an area of the brain that is pivotal for transmitting energy balance signals. This small cone-shaped structure receives and relays signals transmitted via the vagus nerve from the gastrointestinal tract. It has a central role in mediating stress responses, regulating sleep, and establishing circadian rhythms. It senses and responds to a myriad of circulating hormones and nutrients, directly affecting our mood and energy.[9]

Dopamine is another mood-boosting neurochemical that is depleted in depression. It creates feelings of alertness and wakefulness and, when the body is operating normally, is released in higher amounts in the morning (allowing for daytime energy) and lower at night (preparing for healthy sleep). Stress is one factor that can deplete dopamine, thereby leading to depression, sleep disorders, and fatigue.

Studies show that dopamine levels in the brain can be elevated by increasing dietary intake of tyrosine and phenylalanine.[10] Both of these amino acids are naturally found in protein-rich foods like turkey, beef, eggs, dairy, soy, peas, lentils, and beans.

6. Breathing Problems

Breathlessness and anxiety are closely linked, and this is one of the ways anxiety can make you feel tired. Anxiety can lead to shallow breathing, which can cause shortness of breath while feeling breathless can exacerbate anxiety.[11] It’s a vicious cycle that often leads people to take rapid and shallow breaths, breathing into their upper chest and shoulders.

This type of breathing minimizes oxygen intake and usability. Despite comprising only two percent of the body, our brains consume 20 percent of the body’s oxygen supply. Oxygen is fuel for both mental and physical tasks. When breathing patterns compromise healthy oxygen levels, this can cause considerable fatigue.[12]

End the anxiety-fatigue cycle with focused breathing exercises. It’s important to practice this regularly while you’re not experiencing anxiety or stress, as this will help you to be prepared should a moment of breathless anxiety hit unexpectedly.

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There are several different styles of breathing exercises. There’s an easy one to try, called “Resonant Breathing.” Simply breathe in slowly through your nose as you count to five, then exhale for a count of five. Repeat this for a few minutes. It’s helpful to bring your awareness to any tension, deliberately relaxing your neck, shoulders, and jaw in particular.

7. Sleep Issues

Most of the elements we’ve already discussed inherently tie into sleep issues, which is often the reason why anxiety can make you feel tired. But it’s important to note that this is not always a directly linear cause-and-effect process. Much of it is cyclic. If we don’t get enough quality sleep, we increase our risk of excessive cortisol production, elevated blood pressure and blood sugar levels, depressed mood and mindset disorders, and dysregulation of appetite/craving hormones that affect our digestive health.

Sleep is obviously the number one antidote to feeling tired as a result of anxiety. But at the same time, many of these elements—including anxiety itself—lead to less-than-restorative sleep. We can improve our energy levels by addressing each element discussed here, as well as taking a proactive approach to our sleep health.

One simple habit to help recalibrate your circadian rhythm for healthy sleep patterns is to get outside in the morning. Sunlight exposure in the early hours of the day regulates melatonin production, helping us to feel sleepy at night.

You Don’t Have to Live Your Life Anxious and Exhausted

Times of extreme stress, like driving in heavy traffic or nerve-wracking situations like public speaking, can easily induce an anxiety response. Even “normal” everyday stressors, like feeling overwhelmed with work and home responsibilities, can build up to anxious feelings over time.

Our bodies’ response to stress and anxiety affects many of its functions in complex ways. When we unravel the interconnections of these processes, we can see how each part plays an intrinsic role in contributing to fatigue. By addressing each element individually, we can make simple lifestyle changes that resolve anxiety and diminish the ways it makes us tired as a result.

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More Tips on Coping With Anxiety

Featured photo credit: Joice Kelly via unsplash.com

Reference

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