Advertising

Last Updated on January 12, 2021

7 Simple Ways To Improve Your Mental Wellness

Advertising
7 Simple Ways To Improve Your Mental Wellness

If your lifestyle is anything like mine, finding the time to properly take care of your mental wellness can be a real challenge. After all, time is always of the essence, and it’s usually in short supply, especially since you are a real go-getter with a passion for being the best at whatever you do, whether at work or play.

With all of those flights to catch, deadlines to meet, and loved ones in need of your full and undivided attention, there never seems to be enough time in the day to get it all done. And for most of us overachieving socially conscientious individuals, that usually means working long hard hours building our brands, vigorously networking with potential consumers, overcoming constant objections, and aggressively marketing our goods and services wherever and whenever the opportunity presents itself.

First things first. What is mental wellness all about? It essentially refers to properly taking care of your mental health, which includes your emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It helps determine how you handle stress, relate to others, and make critical decisions in life.

For the most part, it is greatly influenced by environmental life experiences and genetic predisposition. Nevertheless, although you may not be able to genetically erase a family history of depression nor substance abuse for that matter, I am confident that you do have the power to improve the environmental factors that impact your mental health by implementing a variety of practical strategies to do so.

So, let’s take a look at some real-life practical examples of strategies that everyone should be able to work into even the most time-constricted schedule.

1. Talk to Someone

That sounds simple enough, right? Unfortunately, however, not all of us feel as though we are capable of opening up about our feelings, nor do we have the time to share them constructively with another person. In fact, many people find themselves stuffing their feelings away—deep within the emotional bedrock of underlying and unresolved childhood issues.

Nevertheless, although some people have made a conscious decision to live their lives isolated from others, for the most part, human beings are generally social creatures—instinctually interacting with others, forming friendships, families, and larger communities. That’s one of the reasons why I strongly recommend working with a well-trained professional counselor if you find it difficult to open up and express your feelings and emotions with others.

Advertising

No matter how automated and technologically advanced your life has become or how off-the-emotional grid you think that you are, there is just no substitute for the psychological benefits that human contact provides. At one point or another in our lives, we all need to know that our voices are truly being heard by another living and breathing person.

Although social media enables us to connect with others anywhere in the world at lightning speed, likes, shares, and instant messaging can never take the place of an intimate human connection through face-to-face conversation. In fact, social media use has been shown to compound the effects of loneliness and depression.[1]

The right professional counselor should be able to help you work through some of your most stubborn personal obstacles by providing feedback and validation to help you maintain mental wellness. And now with multiple on-line counseling platforms available to choose from, you don’t even have to leave your home to make it to your session on time.

2. Read a Book

I know what you’re thinking: Who has the time to read a book? However, studies have shown that reading significantly reduces symptoms of both depression and anxiety.[2]

Reading is like taking your mind on an all-expenses-paid vacation to Tahiti, the Renaissance, the future, and beyond in less than an hour—all from the comfort of your own home. Reading essentially forces you to pay attention to detail, so you don’t miss any of the important plot twists in the story.

So, go ahead, carefully grab a hot cup of cocoa, find the most comfortable and quiet spot in your home, put your phone on vibrate, and read a novel by your favorite author. Although you may not be able to finish it in one sitting, schedule enough time to make it through at least a chapter or two.

More than likely, the more you read, the more engaged you will find yourself in the story, and therefore, the more you will want to continue reading to find out exactly what happens in the end.

Advertising

3. Go for a Walk

I am neither a cardiologist nor a professional fitness trainer. However, I do know that I feel great after going for a walk. It’s an uplifting and invigorating experience that’s as good for your heart as it is for your mind. Going for a walk can help improve your mental wellness.

As a matter of fact, studies show that walking helps build self-esteem by reducing rates of obesity, stress, and ultimately, symptoms of both depression and anxiety.[3] The only equipment you really need is a comfortable pair of sneakers and a bottle of water so that you can stay properly hydrated.

Once again, the only real obstacle getting in the way of being able to go for a brisk walk for most of us is having the time to actually do it. However, rather than waiting for the perfect time and place to go for a walk, I recommend that you just go for it! There are always going to be issues requiring your immediate, full, and undivided attention.

There is no time like the present to start putting your mental health first by getting some good old-fashioned cardiovascular exercise. Nevertheless, if you are unable to go outside for a walk due to inclement weather or perhaps an unexpected quarantine due to a global pandemic, I recommend mapping out a trail in or around your home with as much open space as possible. You might even want to consider investing in a sturdy treadmill depending upon your budget.

4. Listen to Music

A few hundred years ago, the English playwright William Congreve wrote, “music has the power to enchant even the roughest of people.” No matter what genre of music you’re into, whether it’s by Metallica, Moby, Post Malone, Mozart, or Thelonious Monk, most of us would agree that music affects our mood and both our productivity and creativity.

Studies have shown that listening to music helps people relax, reflect, and even recover from both mental illness and substance abuse.[4]

If you happen to think that BTS is dynamite, Harry Styles is golden, or you just have the desire to listen to some classic U2 on a beautiful day, listening to your favorite song can actually improve your mood tremendously. So, if you’re really ready for some sound healing, I suggest that you close the windows, pull down the shades, crank up the volume, and just sing right along to your favorite song whether you know all the words or not.

Advertising

5. Eat Right

I have to admit that I love to eat pasta, pancakes, and pizza. However, I also know that too much of a good thing—especially foods high in fat, sodium, preservatives, carbohydrates, and calories—can be very bad for you. Studies have shown that eating a well-balanced diet can improve your mental health. Researchers believe that there is a direct connection between what you eat, and how you feel about yourself.[5]

Diets rich in vitamins, protein, fiber, and antioxidants have been clinically proven to improve your overall health, thereby reducing symptoms of mental illness associated with chronic medical conditions, such as depression and anxiety.

The idea is to eat foods that can strengthen your immune system, regulate digestion, and at the same time, elevate your mood while calming your nerves. Try to eat as healthy as possible to maintain mental wellness.

6. Keep a Journal

Although you may never sign a multi-million dollar book deal or write a best-selling novel, your life story is awesome because it’s yours! No one can document your thoughts and express your feelings better than you.

Keeping a journal helps you maintain a more accurate record of significant chapters in your life making it easier to process your feelings about those events when the time is right. But perhaps the most significant benefit that journaling provides is that it helps you declutter lingering thoughts in your mind, effectively freeing up precious headspace.

How many times have you had so many things going on in your mind that you didn’t even know where to get started? Journaling your thoughts makes it easier to prioritize them in the headspace.

7. Sleep Well

Can you remember the last time you slept for a full 8 hours? Sleep is an essential part of maintaining the body’s equilibrium. It helps us essentially re-energize our physical, emotional, and cognitive batteries. When I don’t get enough sleep at night, I am usually cranky, lethargic, and significantly less productive the following day.

Advertising

Perhaps you have experienced the same thing? Research has shown that both sleep deprivation and disturbed patterns of sleep can lead to a whole host of mental health issues, such as anxiety, depression, and even psychotic episodes with delusions and hallucinations.[6]

One of the easiest ways to improve the quality of your sleep is to try to stay as active as possible during the day and then wind things down in the evening. I don’t know about you, but it’s super hard for me to fall asleep with a mind full of unresolved tasks.

Consider practicing mindful meditation before going to bed so that you can release all of your stress by actively strengthening your spiritual energies. Although you can speak with your physician about prescription sleep aids, you may want to explore more holistic natural remedies first, such as camomile tea and melatonin supplements.

Finally, try to stay as far away from caffeine, nicotine, sugar, and over-stimulating activities, such as video games at night if possible. Having a good night’s sleep is essential to maintaining mental wellness.

Final Thoughts

No matter where you are from or what you do for a living, I know everyone would agree that having a clear mind is an essential part of being able to make decisive and prudent decisions. Similar to servicing your vehicle to keep it running at peak performance, you should take the time to periodically tune up your mind with some simple strategies to improve your mental wellness.

More Articles About Mental Wellness

Featured photo credit: Haley Phelps via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Evan Jarschauer

Professional Mental Health Interventionist & Licensed Psychotherapist

How To Cope With Traumatic Events And Stress How to Quit Drinking for a Healthier Body and Mind 5 Ways Alcohol Affects Your Energy Levels How To Recognize the Most Common Types of Mental Illness 5 Ways Meditation Improves Your Daily Focus and Concentration

Trending in Mental Wellness

1 Does Anxiety Make You Tired And Why? 2 Does Depression Make You Tired And How? 3 Overwhelmed at Work? 17 Ways to Manage Work Anxiety 4 Why Am I Depressed If My Life Is Fine? 5 How To Cope With Traumatic Events And Stress

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising

Published on October 15, 2021

Does Anxiety Make You Tired And Why?

Advertising
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).

Advertising

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)

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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.

Advertising

More Tips on Coping With Anxiety

Featured photo credit: Joice Kelly via unsplash.com

Reference

Read Next