Advertising

How to Protect Your Mental Health in Tough Times

Advertising
How to Protect Your Mental Health in Tough Times

If you’re not protecting your mental health right now, you’re either struggling or a superhero. Even before the coronavirus pandemic threw a wrench in things, there was plenty to stress about.

Concerns about everything from dirty dishes to climate change can affect your mental health. Just remember: You control your mental state. You may not be able to solve all of life’s challenges, but you can keep them from getting to you.

Safeguarding your mental health isn’t just about keeping your stress levels in check, either. For yourself and others, it’s critical for a healthy, productive life.

Why Protect Your Mental Health?

You protect your mental health in tough times for the same reason you wear a life preserver when you get in the water: Not only does it keep you afloat, but it ensures you’re able to help others who rely on you.

What should you do when the waters get choppy? Strap in. Maintaining your mental health in tough times helps you:

Cultivate Resilience

Resilience is the ability to get back up after you get knocked down. If you let the small things get you down, you’ll struggle to rise to life’s actual challenges. Protecting your mental health ensures you’ll be able to face whatever comes your way.

Stay Productive

When you can’t get something off your mind, it’s practically impossible to do your best work. You know what it’s like: You fidget and stress, but you still can’t seem to focus on the task at hand.

A key step in protecting your mental health is being able to let go. You can’t change everything from your desk, so stop worrying about it for the time being.

Advertising

Create Stability For Others

Who relies on you? Your spouse? Your parents or siblings? Your loved ones worry about you, just like you worry about them.

Even if you aren’t financially supporting someone, your stability affects their stability. If your mental health is a mess all the time, it’s going to be tough for them to live their best life.

Of course, knowing your mental health matters and actually protecting it are two different things. You need ways to stay strong, no matter what’s happening in your life.

How to Protect Your Mental Health

Protecting your mental health starts with a simple commitment: to separate your internal state from what’s going on around you. Here’s how to do it:

1. Talk it Out

The first and most important step to protecting your mental health? Speaking up.

Opening up to friends and family about your mental health challenges isn’t a sign of weakness. In fact, it proves you’re strong enough to show others the not-so-perfect parts of your life.

Need an easy way to start the conversation? You could say:

  • “I want to share something with you.”
  • “I’ve been thinking about…”
  • “Can we talk about…?”
  • “I’ve been struggling with…”

Any one of these will allow an easy in to a conversation you need to have.

Advertising

2. Shrink Your Screen Time

Tempting as it is right now, spending hours each day on social media isn’t good for your mental health. At best, you’ll distract yourself from what matters; at worst, you’ll internalize all the bad news and anger online.

Young people are particularly prone to this, but they’re not alone. A friend of mine got her daughter a Gabb phone, which is a safe phone for kids[1] that helps limit screen time. After I got my niece one, it made me think about how much I need to limit my own screen time.

I haven’t swapped out my smartphone, but I have put boundaries on how I use it. I limit myself to two hours of surfing per day, with a hard stop at 9 p.m. I don’t touch it again until I leave for work in the morning. Consider doing something similar to get yourself away from your screen.

3. Avoid Drugs and Alcohol

Another lesson I’ve learned about maintaining my mental health? Avoiding drugs and alcohol is key.

A few years ago, I got in the habit of pouring myself a glass of wine after a long day. It sure helped me unwind from the stresses of work, so I figured it was worth the health risks.

What nobody told me, though, is that alcohol makes anxiety worse. A few hours after having a drink, I noticed I’d get stressed out. Cutting back helped me get back to my normal self.

4. Don’t Neglect Your Diet

Have you ever heard medical experts call your gut “your second brain”? The reason is that the gastrointestinal tract has more nerve endings than anywhere in the body apart from the brain.

Every bite you take affects those gut nerves. Nutritious foods — the fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, and lean meats your mother likes to talk about — nurture it, while unhealthy ones upset it.

Advertising

Cook meals at home whenever you can, and keep an eye on your snack intake. Even if you’re eating salmon and broccoli for dinner, binging on processed snacks at night could be messing with your mental health.

5. Stay Active

Your physical and mental health are more connected than you might realize. Regular exercise can reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety as effectively, in some cases, as medication[2].

What type of exercise is best for mental health? Opt for cardio, but realize that anything is better than nothing. Whether you like to swim, run, row, or lift, get some fresh blood to your brain.

Don’t let your current fitness level be a barrier. When I was looking at new ways to exercise, I was looking at what a lot of busy entrepreneurs do to work out. I randomly came upon a site where Mark Cuban got a new e-bike and figured I would try one out. Within a few weeks, I was cruising for miles while listening to my favorite podcasts. It’s become one of my favorite times to learn while staying active.

6. Give Yourself a Break

Although perseverance is admirable, you have to cut yourself some slack when times get tough. Taking breaks is critical if you want to keep going for the long term.

Because I struggle to take breaks, I use the Pomodoro Method: I buckle down for 25 minutes, after which I give myself a five-minute break. There’s no right or wrong approach, but you do need a system.

How should you spend your breaks? Do something that rejuvenates you, such as:

  • Reading a book
  • Calling up a friend
  • Taking a bath or shower
  • Taking a nap
  • Going for a walk

7. Get Outdoors

Speaking of going for a walk, there’s no better way to get some headspace than to get outside. There’s just something about the smell of fresh air and the feeling of sun on your skin that melts stress.

Advertising

Pair this tactic with others in this list. For outdoor exercise, you could go for a run around the neighborhood. Leave your phone inside, or stow it in your pocket while you’re enjoying time outside.

Although the outdoors can be a great break from work, it’s also a great place to work remotely. Most managers won’t mind you knocking out proposals from a picnic table.

8. Lose Yourself in a Hobby

Sometimes, an hour in the sun isn’t enough to take your mind off what’s bothering you. In that case, try diving into your favorite hobby.

Practicing a hobby helps you get into a “flow” state, which is when you’re so focused on what you’re doing that you lose track of the world around you. That mental break can be just what you need to get some perspective.

As with exercise, what the hobby is isn’t as important as your ability to stick with it. If you don’t have much time or money to spend, good options include:

  • Drawing
  • Hiking
  • Reading
  • Dancing
  • Cooking
  • Gardening
  • Knitting
  • Writing

9. Ask for Help

In rare cases, you might not be able to protect your mental health alone. If you’re feeling outgunned, don’t hesitate to reach out to a professional. Although they mean well, your family and friends simply can’t provide the level of support a mental health expert can.

Remember, there are resources out there to help you get through tough times. Talk to your doctor, or reach out to one of the following helplines:

  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration National Helpline: 800-662-4357
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-8255
  • National Alliance on Mental Illness Helpline: 800-950-6264

The Bottom Line

Whatever you’re going through, remember: Your mental health matters. Whether you’re weathering a pandemic or just trying to organize your day, protecting your mental health is imperative in order to stay productive and happy. Make time for yourself and do what you have to in order to conquer stress.

Advertising

More Tips for Mental Strength

Featured photo credit: Eye for Ebony via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Gabb Wireless: 5 Ways to Regain Control Over Screen Time
[2] National Institutes of Health: Exercise for Mental Health

More by this author

Kimberly Zhang

Kimberly Zhang is the Chief Editor of Under30CEO and has a passion for educating the next generation of leaders to be successful.

Short on Time? 4 Time Hacks to Get Your Schedule Under Control Manifestation is a hot topic in this ever-growing personal-development-conscious world and culture we live in. Some people see manifestation as a woo woo, hyper-spiritual practice that focuses on bringing into your life that you energetically align with. Others view manifestation as a result of hard work and extreme action. Manifestation = the fruits of your labor. Still, many fall somewhere in between. Regardless of where you are on the spectrum, there are a few practical, actionable steps you can take in order to manifest anything you want. Keep on reading to learn how to do that. 5 Steps on How to Manifest Anything You Want Seek Clarity The first step in the manifestation process is seeking clarity. Whether you see it as a spiritual or actionable process, the core concept remains the same: you bring what you desire into your life. If you’re not clear on that, then how can you expect to manifest it? That would be like taking a road trip, hoping to end up in a specific destination, but refusing to define where it is. It doesn’t seem to make a whole lot of sense, does it? Well, if you’re hoping to manifest a specific outcome but don’t know what it is, how will you ever know if you’ve manifested it? By seeking clarity, you gain direction. You take the guesswork out of wondering if you have manifested your desire and provide a clear target. Furthermore, it allows you to eliminate distractions and focus your attention on the desired outcome. Your reticular activating system (RAS), a part of your brain that acts as a filter, will start to hone in on the information that is relevant to your goal and discard the information that is not. By being crystal clear on what you’d like to manifest, you’re letting your brain run in the background while you’re consciously putting in the work. Align With Your Goal It’s all good and well to sit down and create a list of the things you’d like to manifest. However, if you’re not aligned with the steps required to make it happen, your list essentially becomes a wishlist. If you truly want to understand how to manifest anything you want, you have to understand alignment. Alignment means ensuring that your morals, values, ethics, and energy are in line with your desired results. For example, if you would like to manifest a million dollars but think that money is the root of all evil, you are not in alignment with what you’d like to manifest. Similarly, let’s say that you want to have a better, healthier body. If you are not mentally and emotionally prepared to put in the amount of work and effort required to achieve your desired outcome, you won’t realize it. So, in order to manifest something in your life, you have to make sure that you are in alignment with your goals first. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself disappointed, lacking the motivation, or self-sabotaging in your pursuit. Hold the Belief One of the biggest mistakes I see when people are trying to manifest something in their lives is not holding a belief. Would they love to realize a dream? Absolutely! But do they actually believe that they can? Uh, no! That’s the problem. When you seek manifestation in life, you must believe that it is actually possible to happen. Now, to be clear, I am not saying that you should only attempt to manifest things that you are 100% certain you can do. Manifestation, just like goal achievement, is a process of growth. You should become a more evolved version of yourself in order to manifest what you desire. There should be a certain level of uncomfortability that exists when deciding on what you’d like to manifest. But you can still be confident in yourself to show up and do the necessary work to see your goals occur while also feeling a bit overwhelmed by its grandness. If you cannot believe in your abilities, you are setting yourself up for disappointment. Keep Your Vibration High and Clear Resistance So much of the process of manifestation — and goal setting, for that matter — is about your mindset and perseverance. Notice what I said there: “the process of manifestation.” Many people forget that manifestation is a process, and a time-consuming one at that. In this society we live in, a lot of people fall victim to believing that things should come easily or instantly. However, because manifestation requires growth and development, it definitely doesn't come easy or happen instantaneously. It can take time and effort to manifest your greatest desires, so it is essential to keep your vibration high. Below are a few tips to guarantee the latter: Optimize your environment for the mood and emotions you want to feel; Eliminate or distance yourself from people who lower your vibration or put you in a negative state; Meditate; Exercise; Make time for activities that bring you joy and happiness; and Get plenty of sleep. By doing some or all these things, you’ll find it so much easier to maintain a high vibration. Moreover, resistance can either be internal or external. The tips above are crucial in getting rid of resistance that block you from moving forward or cause you to quit, namely limiting stories, physical exhaustion, negative people, etc. But regardless of where it is coming from, you need to break through the resistance in order to manifest your greatest desires. Track Your Progress and Celebrate Another good way to keep your vibration high and persevere throughout the manifestation process is by tracking and celebrating your progress. Often, we get laser-focused on the result and adopt an all-or-nothing mentality when we’re pursuing a goal or attempting to manifest something in our lives. The problem with that is the fact that you won’t know if you’re making progress and may get discouraged if you do otherwise. After all, manifestation may take some time. Think about any racing video game, for instance. As far as I can remember, every game I ever played didn’t just put you on the track and tell you to complete a certain number of laps. No, there were checkpoints along the way. These little markers allowed you to know that you were on pace to achieving your goal of finishing the race. Each time you made it to another checkpoint, you knew you were still in the race. It works the same way in real life. While you’re holding the belief that you will follow through and manifest you desires, you can also help yourself mentally, emotionally, and spiritually by setting up some checkpoints in the process. These checkpoints will remind you that you are still on track to manifesting what you want. And once you hit every checkpoint, make sure you celebrate! As high achievers, we often celebrate one milestone by immediately moving on to the next. This is dangerous because you slowly turn off the dopamine response in your brain that’s signaled when you achieve your goals if you don’t celebrate. When this happens, you fall into that vicious cycle of enough never being enough. So, be sure to celebrate hitting those checkpoints once you establish them. Conclusion To review, the first step in the manifestation process is being clear on what you want to manifest. This will give you peace of mind and allow your RAS to work for you. After gaining clarity, check in with yourself to make sure that you are actually in alignment with what you’d like to manifest. If you’re not, seeing it take place in real life will feel like an uphill battle. The next step is to hold belief. In order to manifest something in your life, you have to believe that you can do it. Be honest with yourself and ask whether you truly believe you can manifest what you are talking about. Keep your vibration high and clear resistance, too — that’s the next step in understanding how to manifest what you want in your life. Manifestation is a process that can take time and effort. If you don’t protect your vibration and clear resistance along the way, it’ll be a tough ask of yourself. Lastly, in order to manifest anything you want, track your progress by setting up checkpoints and then celebrate it afterwards. That is how you can manifest anything you want. How to Manifest Anything You Want and Achieve Your Dreams How to Start a Side Hustle While Keeping Your Full-Time Job 30 Good Morning Motivation Quotes To Kickstart Your Day Brain Training: 12 Fast, Fun Mental Workouts

Trending in Mental Wellness

1 How To Do Focused Meditation Any Time 2 Does Anxiety Make You Tired And Why? 3 Does Depression Make You Tired And How? 4 Overwhelmed at Work? 17 Ways to Manage Work Anxiety 5 Why Am I Depressed If My Life Is Fine?

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on November 8, 2021

How To Do Focused Meditation Any Time

Advertising
How To Do Focused Meditation Any Time

Do you often feel stressed for most of your day? Maybe you always feel a burden that you just can’t get rid of? Focused meditation might be your answer.

In this article, I’ll explore what focused meditation is, how it differs in the pool of many styles of meditation, and how to implement and start this practice today. Likewise, I’ll highlight the benefits of a focused meditation practice for your overall health.

What Is Focused Meditation?

Meditation is the practice of becoming self-aware through breath and attention to connect the mind, body, and spirit.[1] Meditation as a whole can change the structure and function of our brain. That being said, focused meditation or a guided meditation for focus is by far the best one. Meditation for focus and concentration can come in different forms. Experienced meditators use the following:

  • Mindfulness – this meditation involves us to be focusing on your breath and observing thoughts. This allows us to focus on our feelings without becoming too absorbed in them.
  • Concentrative – a meditation that gets us to focus on a particular point; be it a word, breath, object, or a point in the space you’re meditating. This is meant for us to pay attention to that point and prevent our minds from getting distracted.
  • Moving – this meditation involves gets us to focus on slow and repetitive movements similar to yoga or tai chi. The goal is again to be focusing on your breath while relaxing your body and mind with the movements.

Focused meditation, also known as concentrative meditation, is the practice of meditating and bringing your attention to one single object. This object can be something practical and tangible, such as a mandala painting or a candle flame. It can also be something abstract, such as a phrase (also known as mantra) or a sound (such as Om).[2][3]

Whatever you settle your attention on becomes the focal point. None of these object examples are better than others—they are simply choices depending on what you’re looking to get out of your practice. For example, practitioners will choose candle gazing to interpret the images the flame makes in the shadows while others will choose a mantra because that particular phrase or word empowers or heals them.

How Does It Differ From Other Meditation Styles?

All meditation styles and practices overlap and build on each other. Their basic foundation is the same: to bring the practitioner insight and introspection.

Advertising

There is no right or wrong way to meditate, however, the various types of meditation can enhance particular qualities. Based on your personality and needs, one type of meditation may be more useful to you than the other. The 9 types of meditation are:

  • Mindfulness meditation
  • Spiritual meditation
  • Focused meditation
  • Movement meditation
  • Mantra meditation
  • Transcendental meditation
  • Progressive relaxation
  • Loving kindness meditation
  • Visualization meditation

Focused meditation, specifically, is the practice of focusing on one single object for the duration of the practice. How this differs from other meditation styles is that it gives the practitioner something tangible to do: focus. It’s almost like giving your mind an action to perform—listen to this sound, repeat these words, watch this flame, etc. This is also one of the reasons why this particular meditation style is great for beginners!

One of the biggest challenges in any meditation practice is that the mind gets carried away and we lose ourselves to random thoughts. This “obstacle” is actually a style of meditation in and of itself called Vipassana.[4] However, in focused meditation, we give the mind something to do so that it’s not simply left to its own devices. This type of meditation is beneficial for beginners and for practitioners who prefer some structure and guidance to their meditations.

The Benefits of Focused Meditation

In this style of meditation, what you’re really doing is exercising your mental muscles. Your brain is highly affected by dedicated and concentrated meditation practice.

Scientists have performed countless studies on focused meditation and have found that active meditators have more gray matter volume in their brain and, therefore, offsetting the cognitive decline that comes with aging. So, not only does practicing focused meditation help you learn how to focus better on certain tasks, but it also improves similar functions, such as memory. [5]

Likewise, it helps in reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety, which our society is currently crippled with.[6] By settling your attention on an object, you are essentially building your ability to observe your thoughts and sensations from a place of objectivity. This allows you to detach from negative self-talk that is often the breeding ground for depression and other mental illnesses.

Advertising

From a guided meditation for focus to practicing it yourself, daily meditation for focus comes with several benefits:

  • It’ll reduce stress
  • Help you to control anxiety
  • Enhance your self-awareness
  • Improve attention span
  • Helps you to focus on the present moment
  • Increase your creativity and imagination
  • And boost your patience and tolerance for things.

How to Practice Focused Meditation

Here are six tips to help you practice focused meditation. Based on your availability and interest, these tips may change and evolve. That’s the point: to create a structured practice that caters to your needs.

1. Find a Comfortable Seat

As with any meditation practice, comfort is truly key. The physical body responds to meditation practice by alerting you to whether it is comfortable and supported or stressed out and in pain. This is best observed in practitioners who tend to slouch and lose the tall, supported spine that is essential to meditation practice.

A simple rule in meditative sitting is to ensure that your hips are higher than your knees. Therefore, choosing to sit in a chair instead of on the floor may be a smart decision or perhaps propping yourself up on a cushion. For meditation techniques overall, it does not matter how you sit. All that matters is that you are supported and comfortable sitting for some time.

2. Choose Your Object of Focus

Every meditation training session is going to be different because no single day is the same for any one person. Therefore, experienced meditators know that choosing an object is more about listening to what you need at this time versus following any doctrine or “rule.”

If you’re not sure and have a hard time deciding, make focusing on your breath and pay attention to the inhale and exhale is a good option. Then, assign each inhale and exhale a number, and once you reach 10, start over. This is one of the simpler methods of keeping your mind occupied—by giving it a task. This also trains your mind, and over time and with practice, your mind will easily focus on an object without too much effort.

Advertising

3. Set Your Desired Time or “Go With the Flow”

If you have a structured routine and would like to stick to your schedule, by all means, set a gentle timer for how long you’d like your meditation to be. This is also your opportunity to throw out the notion that any meditation has to be a certain length of time to be correct—it does not.

Likewise, if you have the time, you can also listen to your body and come out of your meditation when you feel it’s right to do so. This is often a beautiful practice of listening and tuning in.

4. Relax Your Body as You Focus on Your Meditation

Typically, when we are focusing on something, we tend to tighten our body. Observe this next time that you’re concentrating on something: your jaw will tighten and your shoulders will squeeze up towards your ears.

As you sink into your meditation, keep this in mind and check in with your body every once in a while. Let your shoulders sink down your back and release any tension through your jaw and face. Lastly, relax your brow and let your eyes be heavy in their sockets. Then, return to your object of meditation. Observe if your meditation changes at all by relaxing your physical body.

5. Return to Your Breath and Object When You Get Distracted

Notice that I didn’t say “if you get distracted.” That’s because you definitely will drift off with random thoughts or get pulled away from your object of focus. In meditation, distractions are almost guaranteed. Therefore, it’s your opportunity to practice detaching yourself from feeling guilty or inadequate to continue.

Over time and with practice, you will find it easier to stay with your object of focus. In the meantime, however, notice when you get distracted. Pause and take a big breath in and out. Check in with your physical body and relax. Once you’re ready again, return to your object of focus. Meditation is simply one long cycle of wandering and coming back to yourself.

Advertising

6. Journal Your Experiences

When your meditation practice has ended, another powerful practice is to jot down any experiences that you felt. There may have been insights and “downloads” that you acquired during your session that you may want to record.

Likewise, you could write about any challenges that you faced. These are great lessons that will continue to show up for you, and it’s nice to keep a journal of them to see how they evolve and progress over time (and they will). Lastly, you can write about what works and what doesn’t, as far as picking your objects of meditation go. This way, you can learn what you most associate with and feel comfortable with.

While these steps are simple, it’s easier said than done. Whether you’re starting out with a guided meditation for focus, loving kindness meditation, or transcendental meditation, anticipating failure the first time you try these things is healthy. Furthermore, congratulate yourself for even making slight progress like noticing and returning to the present moment and noticing the sensations you experienced.

Final Thoughts

If practicing meditation causes you to feel distracted and unsupported, give focused meditation a go! With the help of an object to bring your attention to, it structures your meditation time and offers guidance and support.

Dedicating yourself to this style of meditation will help increase your memory, reduce stress and anxiety, and promote better cognitive function. Even though any style of meditation is a powerful way of taking care of your mental health, focused meditation gives your mind a tangible task with which to grow and strengthen.

More About Focused Meditation

Featured photo credit: Lua Valentia via unsplash.com

Advertising

Reference

Read Next