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Last Updated on January 12, 2021

7 Simple Ways To Improve Your Mental Wellness

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

Reference

More by this author

Evan Jarschauer

Professional Mental Health Interventionist & Licensed Psychotherapist

How to Practice Mindful Meditation for Anxiety (Step-by-Step Guide) 7 Simple Ways To Improve Your Mental Wellness Feeling Anxious For No Reason? 6 Ways To Cope With

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Last Updated on January 21, 2021

5 Powerful Self-Care Ideas for When Life Is Stressful

5 Powerful Self-Care Ideas for When Life Is Stressful

Stress affects everyone, invariably in different ways. Regardless of how stress shows up in your life, when it does, it takes over, making it difficult to stay in the present moment or show gratitude for what and who we have in our life. In the eye of the stress storm, everything is tossed around into oblivion, and self-care ideas go out the window.

However, this is the moment when self-care is the most important. When you notice that you’re struggling with stress, anxiety, or powerful emotions, it’s time to get back to a sense of balance by showing yourself love and compassion.

How Does Stress Show Up?

On a physical scale, stress tends to be behind many of our typical ailments, such as headaches, insomnia, muscle tension, or body aches and pain.[1] When we’re in stressful situations, our body activates our fight-or-flight response through the stress hormone, cortisol.

According to the American Institute of Stress, when the body is in this mode due to stress, “the body’s sympathetic nervous system is activated due to the sudden release of hormones. The sympathetic nervous system stimulates the adrenal glands, triggering the release of catecholamines, which include adrenaline and noradrenaline. This results in an increase in heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing rate.”[2]

While our fight-or-flight response is extremely helpful when we’re in situations that risk our survival, not every situation is that dire. However, the body doesn’t know how to differentiate between such scenarios.

Rather, we become accustomed to seeing every stressful situation as life-threatening, and we become locked into this fight-or-flight response automatically. This causes us to burn out because our body is constantly fighting or fleeing from threats that are not causing us any real harm.

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On a mental and emotional scale, stress affects your thoughts, feelings, and ultimately your behavior. Everything is interconnected. When stress takes a toll on our bodies, this has a domino effect on how we process our thoughts and feelings. Therefore, it is not uncommon to see correlations between depression and anxiety when it comes to dealing with stress.

Self-Care Ideas to Combat Stress

Below are five self-care ideas for combating stress in your life. Consider implementing them into your daily routine for the best results.

1. Start a Brain Dump Writing Exercise

When you’re overwhelmed with thoughts, it can become very difficult to stay present and focused. This could affect you at work, in school, or in your relationships. It’s as if your mind were filled to the brim with thoughts that are constantly competing for your attention. If left unattended, this can affect your performance or your state of being, so it’s important to turn to self-care ideas in these moments.

One exercise to get this under control is called a brain dump, and it’s exactly what it sounds like. Start by getting comfortable with a pen and paper or your favorite journal. Without any special formatting or introduction, just start writing any and all thoughts that come up.

Consider your paper a blank canvas onto which you’re going to spill every thought, no matter how small or unimportant. This can look like a laundry list, a jumble of words, or a paragraph.

Don’t focus on how it looks or how well it’s organized. The idea is to give your thoughts an exit. Once they’re on paper, they’re no longer swimming in your head for attention.

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Once you have them written down, leave them as they are. We have a tendency to want to fix our thoughts. Instead, allow them to simply exist as they are—they’re not right or wrong. Consider coming back to this exercise daily or whenever you feel like you have a lot on your mind.

2. Sweat It out

There is nothing more therapeutic than moving the physical body when it feels the weight of stress. Energetically, we carry our day in our body, mostly in our neck, shoulders, and hips. If we’ve had a particularly difficult day, that energy is going to feel tense and unsettling. This is why it’s so important to move and really break a sweat!

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America[3]:

“Scientists have found that regular participation in aerobic exercise has been shown to decrease overall levels of tension, elevate and stabilize mood, improve sleep, and improve self-esteem.”

Find what exercise regimen works for you, and commit to it for a few days per week for your mental and physical health. Scientists have also found that even 10-15 minutes of aerobic exercise can have a tremendous effect on your body. Go for a run, take a spin class or a power yoga class, or dance the stress away in Zumba. Whatever gets your heart rate up and breaks a sweat is one of the perfect self-care ideas to keep the stress away.

3. Seek the Care of a Therapist

Sometimes writing out our thoughts and feelings doesn’t seem quite enough. This is common and to be expected. After all, we are complex human beings who want to understand and process our emotions on a deeper level. This is why spending time in a regular therapy session is so beneficial!

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In the presence of a professional, we can open up about what stressful situations we’re going through. We don’t have to keep our emotions bottled up, and we know that our honesty will be protected and safeguarded.

Additionally, when we’re feeling stressed, we often want to simply vent and get things off of our chest. Having someone on the receiving end who will simply listen and hold space is a truly healing gift. We can often leave the session feeling more empowered, seen, and offloaded of the stress we brought in.

Lastly, we may be able to receive guidance from our therapist on a particular situation we’re struggling with. Having someone else’s perspective on something we’re too emotionally close to can be just the right solution and a great addition to our self-care routine.

Here are more self-care ideas from a therapist: Self Care Tips During Difficult Times (A Therapist’s Advice)

4. Interrupt Your Day

When it comes to self-care ideas, this may seem like a derailing technique, but give it a shot! Interrupting your day means introducing something entirely new or random into a routine that is very monotonous or typical.

If your work or school day is the same sequence of events every single day, bringing in an interruption can be quite conducive to your productivity and creativity. This can look like pausing in the middle of the day for a yoga stretch at your desk or in your office. It could be playing your favorite playlist in-between meetings or taking a walk outside for lunch. Not only does this stir up new energy for your day, but it can also help you de-stress

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As I said above, when we’re too close to a situation or conflict, we have a harder time breaking away. We’re so emotionally and mentally invested that we don’t see how that proximity is affecting our health. So, interrupt yourself when you’re feeling stress coming on, and do something fun, random, and refreshing to feel good.

5. Get Some Energy Work Done

Energy work is anything that is being done to improve the circulation and energetic flow of the body. This could be a massage, a Reiki session, chiropractic adjustment, or acupuncture[4].

Moving the body helps move the energy that is blocked or stuck. This is why exercise is so important. However, sometimes we need a session where that work is done for us by a licensed professional.

In such treatments, we have the luxury to relax and receive the benefits of the treatment, making it a beautiful way to squeeze in self-care!

You can find even more stress management techniques in the following video:

Final Thoughts

Stress is, unfortunately, a common part of every life. It affects everyone, but to what extent it affects you is personal. One thing is for sure, and that is that stress has a tremendous effect on our physical, mental, and emotional state.

This is why regular exercise is so important, as well as mental stimulation and emotional release. These self-care ideas won’t necessarily guard you from ever feeling stressed again, but they will certainly help you manage it better and offer amazing health benefits along the way.

More Self-Care Ideas

Featured photo credit: Alisa Anton via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Mayo Clinic: Stress Management
[2] The American Institute of Stress: How the Fight or Flight Response Works
[3] Anxiety and Depression Association of America: Physical Activity Reduces Stress
[4] Medical Acupuncture: Does Acupuncture Reduce Stress Over Time? A Clinical Heart Rate Variability Study in Hypertensive Patients

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