Ben Franklin may have believed only death and taxes were certainties, but in today’s world we can add one more item: stress. Keeping yourself mentally healthy and balanced will reduced stress in even the most anxious times. This in turn will promote your overall physical and emotional well-being.
Here are 8 suggestions for how to keep yourself at your mental best no matter what is going on around you:
1. Gratitude attitude
It’s easy to fall into a negativity trap. To combat this, find things you are grateful for. These don’t have to be huge. Hearing birdsong after a cold, silent winter; the premier of the show you have been waiting for; a safe place to live.
Once you start actively looking for and listing things you appreciate, you will start feeling better about life in general.
2. Being here, now
A cousin to gratitude is mindfulness. We are blessed with brains that process thousands of bits of information at once, but sometimes that means we miss fully experiencing the immediate moment.
Focus on everything happening at this second, and don’t race ahead or behind in your thoughts. If you’re talking with someone, look closely at them, and listen attentively without thinking mostly of your response.
Stop rushing and look at the scenes around you, soaking in the details. You will feel more connected to the people closest to you and to life in general. Feelings of isolation will begin to fade.
3. Plan and anticipate
Remember the excitement you had as a kid when you were waiting for something special to happen? The anticipation was half the fun. Give yourself something to look forward to. It doesn’t have to be a trip around the world. But plan an outing that is something you really want to do, and then make sure you do it no matter what.
4. Bod basics
Feeling physically tired or sick can leaving you understandably depressed. Take good care of your body to avoid both of these problems. Fit regular exercise into your week. The endorphins (the ‘feel good’ hormones) it releases will boost your mood along with your overall health.
Eat wisely, too. Have you ever had way too much junk food around the holidays? After a few days you can feel your body slowly to a sluggish crawl. There’s no need to ban treats, but think moderation.
Many people in northern climates suffer from a lack of Vitamin D because there is less sun. Vitamin D helps keep your mood upbeat and stable. Make sure you are getting enough, either through dietary supplements or 20 minutes a day under a natural sunlight lamp.
5. Personal pampering
Take time for you, because you are worth it. A long, hot bath with bubbles or Epsom salts, a little dark chocolate, a luxuriously long sleep on a Saturday morning…think of small ways you can work your own brand of rest and relaxation into your everyday life.
6. Don’t overstuff
This isn’t about overeating (although you should avoid that too!). This is about stuffing your feelings. If you ignore them, they don’t go away. They hide and come back later, and usually in unhappy ways. Depression, anxiety, physical ailments like headaches or stomachaches.
Process your emotions. Journaling is a great outlet. Or write a letter to someone who needs to hear something you have to say (but DON’T send it until you leave it for a few days and reread it!).
Talk to someone you can trust and who will give you good, calm feedback. Even if there isn’t a lot you can do about whatever is troubling you, getting it out will keep it from festering in your head and heart.
7. Look outward
Doing something nice for someone else makes you feel good, too. Send a thank you note, even to someone from your distant past. Help a friend or neighbor, or volunteer. Giving back helps stave off depression and some of the self-absorption that comes with it.
8. Take control
Gain some time and reduce some situational stress with a little advance planning. Get your clothes set for the week ahead of time to avoid morning hassles. Plan your meals and do as much prep ahead as you can to make evenings easier.
Little changes that make everyday life run more smoothly keep will help everything else go better, too.
Keeping yourself mentally healthy is a matter of deliberate choices and careful follow-through. By adopting a few different habits, you may find your mood more upbeat and your brain a little clearer.