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7 Simple Ways To Improve Your Mental Wellness

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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

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Published on January 18, 2022

How to Stop Being Anxious And Regain Your Calm

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How to Stop Being Anxious And Regain Your Calm

Are you sick and tired of wasting your mental and emotional energy worrying about (and replaying) events in your mind? Even sabotaging yourself, your performance, and your relationships, at times? Constantly playing the “what if” game in your mind?

Let’s be honest, feeling anxious is miserable and unequivocally sucks the enjoyment out of life. It does this because it is impossible to be in the present moment when you are constantly worried about the future or past events. Here’s the deal—it doesn’t have to be that way. Let’s talk about some tips on how to stop being anxious and get your calm back.

The Difference Between Feeling Anxious and Having Anxiety

Feeling anxious is just part of the human experience and is a normal stress response. When the stress is removed, the anxiety usually goes away, too. With an anxiety disorder, the stressful trigger is removed but the anxiety can still be present.[1]

There are multiple anxiety disorders with varying characteristics. If you are concerned that you may have one of them, it is best to be evaluated by your doctor, especially since anxiety is very common. According to research, up to 33% of all Americans will experience an anxiety disorder at some point during their lifetime.[2]

What Can You Do to Manage Feeling Anxious?

The good news is there’s a lot that you can do to stop being anxious. Science is learning more and more every day about ways we can manage feeling anxious.

I am a strong believer in being proactive and preventative. If you have a lot of stress in your life or are prone to feeling anxious, I always recommend establishing a foundation of good daily habits. That way, when something happens to poke the anxiety bear, you are already in a position to handle things.

Twenty tips may be overwhelming for some people but remember: you are not expected to incorporate every tip on this list. Look at it as a menu of potential helpful options. You can pick and choose whatever you want and leave the rest.

Here are 20 tips on how to stop being anxious:

1. Eat the Right Food

It might come as a surprise to some, but certain foods can make anxiety worse, such as sugary foods, processed foods, alcohol, caffeine, and artificial sweeteners.[3]

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Here are some foods you can try instead that can help reduce anxiety: Brazil nuts, fatty fish, eggs, pumpkin seeds, dark chocolate, Turmeric, Chamomile, yogurt, and green tea.[4]

2. Stay Hydrated

One simple tip to help you stop being anxious is by staying hydrated. Even being mildly dehydrated has been shown to worsen anxiety.[5] So, drink up! Water, that is.

3. Work Some Mindfulness Into Your Day

This one shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. Meditation and diaphragmatic breathing (breathing into your belly and engaging your abdominals upon exhale) are what usually come to mind, but there are some other fast and easy exercises that can help calm you down almost immediately.

One of my favorites is called Five Things, and it’s based upon our five senses (sight, smell, taste, hearing, touch). It can be done in any order.

For example, you might start by picking five things you can see. As you list each item, it’s important to take in the detail of each one. Next, you pick four things you can feel, noting each item with the same attention to detail. Work your way down to one item accompanying your last sense.

4. Get Some Exercise

Completing 30 minutes of exercise three to five days a week may significantly improve symptoms of anxiety. Even as little as 10 minutes has a positive impact.[6]

In one study, exercise was shown to be as effective as medication in the treatment of symptoms of anxiety, with higher intensity exercise more effective than lower intensity exercise.[7]

5. Sit With It/Observe It

Dr. Judson Brewer recently penned a book (and an app) entitled Unwinding Anxiety: New Science Shows How to Break the Cycles of Worry and Fear to Heal Your Mind in which he discusses turning toward our emotions as a way to process them rather than distracting ourselves or bottling things up (turning away).

He encourages people to be an observer of the emotional response in their bodies, almost as if conducting a research project in great detail and noting the exact location of physical sensations (stomach, right or left side, front or back) with as much detail as possible.

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6. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is an approach that utilizes the cyclical connection between our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors as a means to control unwanted (anxious) thoughts.

One exercise to stop ruminating thoughts includes picturing a stop sign in great detail, instructing yourself to “stop,” and then changing the narrative to something positive, encouraging, or even more realistic or likely.

Another CBT exercise involves challenging negative thought patterns and beliefs for validity by asking yourself:

  • Is there evidence for my thought or am I making assumptions?
  • What’s the worst that could happen? Is this likely?
  • What’s the best that could happen?
  • What’s most likely to happen?
  • Will this matter in a week, a year, or five years from now?

7. Realize What You Can and Can’t Control

Take action where you can. Many of us spend time worrying and feeling anxious over things we can’t control.

Figure out what you can do and take action from there. Studies show that taking action reduces anxiety.[8]

8. Gratitude

Reminding ourselves of the good things in our lives not only brings positivity to us but also reduces anxiety. This is because it is neurologically impossible for our brain to focus on negative and positive information at the same time.[9]

9. Volunteer or Do Something for Someone Else

Helping others feels good. It also reduces stress, boosts our immune system, and can help us live longer.[10]

10. Journal in the 3rd Person

The practice of journaling has long been known as a valuable tool to help us manage our emotions, and it can also help us stop being anxious and regain our calm.

Making a point to name the emotions you are experiencing (“name it to tame it”) is a principle Dr. Dan Siegel discovered that heightens the value of journaling. More recently, Dr. Kross, in his book, Chatter: The Voice in Our Head, Why It Matters, and How to Harness It, noted that journaling in the 3rd person (as if narrating your life) creates further value by creating some distance between you and the emotion you are experiencing, thus allowing you to breathe easier and gain perspective.

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11. Go Out Into Nature

Spending time in nature has been shown to improve attention, lower stress, improve mood, reduce the risk of psychiatric disorders, and even cause upticks in empathy and cooperation.[11]

12. Spend Time With Animals

Dogs are not only your best friend, but it turns out they are good for your mental and emotional health, too. The fact that cats just allow you to live with them as their servant doesn’t detract from the positive impact they also have on our emotional well-being.

Spending time cuddling with your pet on the couch can decrease levels of cortisol (a stress-related hormone) and lower blood pressure. Other studies have also found that animals can reduce loneliness, increase feelings of social support, and boost your mood.[12]

13. Get Good Sleep

Getting good sleep can be difficult when we feel anxious, but being tired can worsen the issue. Try sticking to a consistent bedtime, make your bedroom dark, the temperature cool, and limit screen time before going to sleep.

14. Limit Alcohol and Caffeine

Alcohol changes the level of neurotransmitters in our brain. This can lead to a heightened sense of anxiety. Caffeine is a stimulant, specifically stimulating our fight or flight response, which is already more sensitive for those struggling with anxiety. Use both in moderation.

15. Show Yourself Compassion and Encouragement

What would you say to your best friend? Many times we make things worse by shaming or berating ourselves for feeling anxious because we fear it makes us appear weak or vulnerable. This makes the problem worse.

What would your best friend say to you? Stop beating yourself up and be your own best friend.

16. Spend Time With Friends

Healthy friendships make us feel included, improve self-confidence and self-esteem, and thus, help reduce anxiety.[13]

17. Create Balance in Your Life

Set healthy boundaries and priorities, and don’t be afraid to enforce them. Nobody else can do this for you. Value yourself. You are worth it.

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18. Have a Plan

Another tip to help you stop being anxious is to have a plan. Knowing what you will do takes away a lot of the “what if” thoughts in your mind. Being certain about some things and managing your expectations can help give you peace of mind.

19. Remind Yourself of a Past Event

You can also try to remind yourself of a past event in your life that you were anxious about but still ended up okay. Have confidence that you will make it through this situation, too.

20. Have Some Structure or Routine in Your Day

Knowing what to expect can significantly reduce anxiety and the fear that can accompany uncertainty.[14] Give yourself as much structure as you need. You’ll thank yourself for it.

Final Thoughts

It can be difficult to manage feelings of being anxious. Take charge and pick a few of these to try out. Be consistent, and see how you feel.

You can always discard what doesn’t work for you, and pick something else to try. Confide in a friend that you are implementing some new strategies, and get some support.

Always tell your doctor your concerns, and don’t hesitate to get help if you are having difficulty managing things on your own. Good luck!

More Tips for Calming Your Mind

Featured photo credit: Ben White via unsplash.com

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